As I venture out on this new journey, I hope to garner more of the Golden Puzzle Pieces I wrote about in an earlier post so that I might see the path more clearly. I am continually searching for clues as to what would be the best direction to head next and why. This is where a compass might come in handy. Why not use my past successes as my guide?
Looking back on what has worked for me, the one common thread is that I didn't always do what was expected. Instead, I broke the rules. Now before you dismiss this blog altogether, let me be clear: I'm not talking about the BIG rules. I pay my taxes, stop at red lights, yield to pedestrians, etc. I'm talking about challenging conventional thinking.
The other day I heard someone tell my six-year-old that coloring inside the lines was considered good coloring (insert sad face here). While I agree that children should understand why the lines are there and eventually have the ability to stay within them, I would hate for my child to think that her coloring is not "good" if she then chooses to color beyond those lines. I would also hate for a young child just learning to color to become discouraged and put down their crayons because they are not able to stay within the lines. Hence the title of this post: Color Outside the Lines.
Looking back at my design career in particular, I recall being so concerned about getting pigeon-holed as a certain type of designer. People would always advise me to choose wisely, because "once a shoe designer always a shoe designer" (or toy designer or any other type of designer for that matter). Well-meaning mentors warned that it would be virtually impossible to cross over to another specialty without taking a big step back. Most people suggested working for a big consulting house rather than taking on a (typically more specialized) corporate gig .
No matter how hard I tried to wrap my head around working on the consultancy side of things, my heart wasn't in the right place. I ultimately went with what felt right instead of what I was "supposed" to do, and began working for a shoe company. Sixteen years later, I'm here to tell you I have been anything but pigeon-holed. I've been a shoe designer for New Balance, a toy designer for Fisher-Price, a packaging designer for Kimberly-Clark, an accessories designer for Trek Bikes, and a furniture designer for Delta Children's Products. I also started my own consultancy, adding even more categories to that list of "specialties".
Instead of following the career track that stayed right inside the lines, I focused on acquiring and honing a wide variety of design skills--creating what I like to call my design toolbox--while meandering across multiple paths. By "breaking the rules" throughout my career, I have given myself countless opportunities to beef up my toolbox, and I continue to add to it to this day. I truly believe that, with the right tools, you can create anything.
I could come up with myriad examples of coloring outside the lines, from my days of playing sports to my personal life, but I won't delve into those today. The point is that they all circle back to the same message: Don't let conventional thinking lead you. So rather than spend my time researching the best day to post this blog, I'm going to choose the day and time that work for me and allow me to stay consistent. As I pore over color pallets and font choices for my new products, I'm not going to be swayed by what is popular or traditional. I'm going to go with my gut--after all, it's lead me to where I am today.
I'm going to leave you with this one question: If you are always coloring inside the lines that someone else created, how will you ever know what might be possible right outside those lines?
Peace + Play, -erica