"Do more of what makes you happy."
After making the grave mistake of enrolling in a calculus class, Rebecca Dierolf realized her mistake. "I should've stuck with art."
Luckily, she rectified that. Read on to learn why she's glad she pivoted her career, the brands that inspire her, and how she learned that one closed door in your career doesn't mean the end -- in fact, it could signal a better beginning.
DesignRush: What inspired you to become a designer?
Rebecca Dierolf: Well, it's a bit of a long story. I've always been good art: Fine art, crafting, sewing... basically anything that required creativity and artistic talent. I studied fine art for the majority of my childhood but ultimately decided to attend college for nursing, following my mother's footsteps.
It didn't take very long in my calculus class for me to realize that I should've stuck with art.
I wanted to utilize my creativity but also be pragmatic about my future and the job market. Enter: graphic design. I saw a Facebook friend (now my roommate!) post a class project from an art direction class and immediately knew that's what I wanted to do. The next week, I changed my major and never looked back. I've never been happier -- I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.
DR: Take us through your creative process.
RD: I always think it's amazing when people are able to break down their creative process into distinct categories, numbers, and steps. My creative process resembles that of a tumbleweed of thought, vomited out onto paper which is then eventually transferred to the computer. I'm strictly a Type A personality, but my creative process is anything but organized. I always tell people: "I can't explain how or why or when, but it just happens, and it's worked so far..."
DR: What are some designs or projects of yours that you are particularly proud of?
RD: Funnily enough, my favorite projects aren't included in my portfolio, nor are they official projects from work or school. My best work was done when I was looking for full-time jobs out of college. I turned my resume into an interactive trifold brochure that was professionally printed. I also decided to make my business cards into coasters – what better way to stick in someone's mind than to have your name staring at them from their desk all day?! From all of the lovely work I have in my portfolio, my interview collateral always stole the show.
DR: Where do you find inspiration in your day-to-day life?
RD: My family, my friends, Philadelphia, Pinterest... if you're looking hard enough, you can find inspiration anywhere.
DR: What items do you always keep your desk?
RD: My desk is über tidy. I can't concentrate on anything when my desk is messy or out of whack, which means keeping as little on it as possible. This usually includes my coffee mug (for my never-ending stream of caffeine), some of my favorite communication arts magazines, a mini desk fan for when the office becomes a sauna, a picture of my kitty, and some silk peonies to brighten it all up.
DR: What designers or brands speak to you?
RD: Almost any designer will say that Apple is their favorite, but for good reason. Their branding is impeccable, their designs are flawless. Everyone aspires to one day be on the level of Apple designers.
Beyond that, one of my favorite campaigns of all time is Poland's Allegro "English" ad, which depicts an old Polish man learning English in anticipation of meeting his American grandson for the first time. Those are the kinds of ads that make me proud to be a part of the industry.
DR: You have the day off. What can we find you doing?
RD: Baking or cooking, crafting, spending time outside, or watching "Parks and Recreation" if it's rainy. (Leslie Knope is my spirit animal!!)
DR: Is there anything that helps you beat designer’s block?
RD: Completely removing myself. I'll go for a walk, or go get a cup of coffee or watch a movie. I often overthink myself out of thinking, and I just need to turn my brain off to get it going again.
DR: What mantra motivates you in your work?
RD: "Do more of what makes you happy."
I have this quote on my desk and look at it every day. I design because it makes me happy – but it's easy to get caught up in the black hole of the 9-5 working class mentality. Keep doing what you do because it makes you happy, and leave the second you truly aren't... because life is far too short to be anything but.
DR: Any final thoughts, comments, or words of wisdom you’d like to share with someone in the industry?
RD: For anyone just starting out: Don't settle for the first thing to come along, and don't get upset if it doesn't work out.
I decided to stick with an internship/freelance gig for far too long right out of college, only to have spent almost a year there until realizing I had no future at the company. I was devastated. However, if it hadn't been for my time there, I would never have landed my first "real" job at an incredible agency that I love. It's okay if the first thing doesn't work out -- it doesn't mean nothing will, and it took me a really long time to figure that out.
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