By Shel Perkins
391 pages, softcover, $29.99, published by New Riders, www.newriders.com
When designing business cards and flyers just isn’t enough, designers can turn to a guide to help them find a career and make smart decisions along the way. Shel Perkins, a nineteen-year veteran of design firms in the U.S. and U.K., reminds the young designer that long-term success requires talent plus business skills.
Like a confident and perceptive mentor, his low-key, nimble writing style is a cradle-to-grave approach, starting with completing an education and ending with retirement. He faults the shortage of business information in most design schools and the lack of sharing between competitive design firms as ultimately holding the entire profession back. According to Perkins, that waste of time and resources leads most designers, who can’t afford professional advice, to learn by mistakes, continually “reinventing the wheel.”
Perkins’s book design enhances his relaxed style with its single column text and airy page layout. He creates a painless navigation through a range of strategies and issues, such as the job hunt, salaries, marketing, contracts, ethics and taxes. Like Perkins’s orderly process, the book has no clutter, the rare diagram and just enough information to define and guide a problem, and then support it with Web sites and professional organizations.
The first chapter of design options divides a visual art career into basic categories, showing how each is marketed and paid. With vital decisions simplified, Perkins describes the employment process and prepares the designer for classic interview questions, the inevitable nervousness, body language and appropriate dress. Still, there are larger issues to discuss, such as how the wrong job can redirect a designer’s entire career.
Perkins’s insight encourages the designer to see the big picture while experiencing the different phases of a dynamic industry. As design firms fail each year due to problems with business rather than with creative work, these secrets are aimed at reducing that loss of talent to the design profession. —Ruth Hagopian