The importance of mentors and learning from the legends of the past

I love this video by Hartmut Esslinger a real design legend, who did phenomenal work throughout his career. He is the founder of Frog Design one of the best multi discpilinary design studios in the world. I know him best from the work he did for Apple in it’s early years and his impact on Steve Jobs and Apples overall design vision. His book Keep it Simple chronicles the beautiful work that he did during this period. He was truly ahead of his time.

Being a designer is a continuous journey of learning and discovery. I state this often but I am indebted to the mentors I've had throughout my career. The people that I've had the privilege to work with and learn from. Everything from the nuances of design to business and life itself. Become a sponge because someone is sharing with you knowledge that is distilled from a lifetimes worth of experience. So make the most of this opportunity to learn and grow. Because it will serve as rocket fuel for your career growth, development as a designer and overall human being. 

Mentors can also push you to become better. Sometimes all you need is a little nudge in the right direction, other times its a big kick in the ass to knock you into deep end. Gordon Ramsaying that shit upWhere you will either sink or swim. But at the end of it all regardless of the outcome you will inevitably learn some valuable lessons. What worked and what didn't. Did you completely freak out when you were asked to join a client presentation? Or did you stress out so much that you did heaps of preparation the day before and totally nailed it? Mentors help guide and aid you in these situations. By leading by example or by supporting you and putting you through these situations. They are catalysts to push you to become better and open up opportunities.

Mentors also set a benchmark and show you the potential of what’s possible. They are the beacon that shows you where you can take your career and allow you to dream. Do you want to own your own agency one day by building it from almost nothing? Here’s someone who has done it.  Do you want to become a Creative Director and earn some rapper sized money? Here’s someone who has done it.  Or do you want to come in to work, have some fun and try to do the best work possible? Here's someone who has done it. Find the people who have done what you want to do and learn from them.

If you can’t find a mentor in your area or workplace, look to the masters of the past and learn from them. Go through their books, videos, articles and their phenomenal body of work. Inside is always an insightful and motivating experience. Almost a lifetimes worth of experience distilled into little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration for you and the next generation. For a brief moment you get to step into their minds and explore the genius of their work. Fine combing the details that despite the difference in design disciplines to your own, there are certain universal truths that can be applied to your own work. The works of Dieter Rams, Massimo Vignelli and Hartmut Esslinger all resonate with me in that way. I also like to look outside of the design field as well. From people like Seth Godin on how to market and build businesses that mean something, make a difference and having the balls to stand out. To the works of Alan Watts and so on. 

In the end it is about learning, listening and absorbing from the best, and also from the people that you respect. Taking their wisdom and the opportunities presented to you and putting things into action.  The most growth I ever experienced was from learning from the masters of the past and the mentors that I have been honoured to have met throughout my career. Thank you to Tony Prysten and Jim Antonopolous who gave me a chance at the start of my career, nearly 10 years ago. That first step was the biggest one. To Phong Ho, Andrew Nguyen and Joel Thorsen thank you for being amazing workmates and friends who I bounced a lot of ideas off of and learnt a ton from in the process. You guys are fucking legends. 

Keep learning and keep discovering.