When I first enrolled in college I wanted to be an illustrator. I didn’t know much of anything about graphic design or “design” in general. I just knew that I liked drawing and art. College classes can have a way of helping you know what you want to do because they’re a bit more intense than high school classes, at least if the professors are any good. Facing challenges helps you to know whether you love something or are only mildly interested. In my case, the classes I took as a first-year fine arts student showed me that I didn’t just like art, I loved it and was passionately obsessed with it, and in particular I was infatuated with design, although I still didn’t truly know what it was at that time.
One of my professors was Leon Parson. He’s the type of guy who could be famous, and in certain circles he is, but you probably haven’t heard of him. That’s because he chose a long time ago to be an art professor at a little-known religious college in Rexburg, Idaho, because he felt that was where he was supposed to be. I’m glad he chose to be there, because he taught the first college art course I took, and he said something in one of the classes that I’ve never forgotten. He told us that if we ever wanted to excel in the world of art, we had better start competing against the top professionals while we were still in school, otherwise we’d always be chasing someone who would always be ahead of us.
After my first year of college I decided to become a business major, and then I graduated with what is essentially a techno-MBA, a master’s of information systems management. Although I had wanted to be an artist my entire life, I only took two art classes in college, and not a single design class. It wasn’t because I thought competing against the professional was too daunting, or because I realized I didn’t like art that much. It was because, like Leon, I did what I felt was right for me, and for some reason I didn’t understand at the time, I felt I should go into business.
But what does this have to do with Dave Werner? I don’t know Dave. I just stumbled onto his portfolio a few minutes ago. I read his resume and noticed that he just barely graduated from school. I clicked through some of the sections of his website and watched some of the video footage. The reason I give you some background on myself is to explain that when I say Dave is a good designer, I want you to understand where I’m coming from. For the past 12 years I have been looking at student designers and comparing them to the best designers I know of. And I can quickly tell which designers are doing what Leon told my class to do, and which are chasing the leaders.
Dave has amazed me because not only is he competing very well with the best designers out there, but he hasn’t limited himself to one area. He excels in many areas from illustration to branding to packaging to web design. He is able to explain the creative process quickly and succinctly so that anyone can understand, and that takes talent. Anyone can explain something given an hour to do it, but explaining complex ideas about usability factors affecting a banking website in a minute or two so that anyone can understand requires something more than average.
For any design student reading this who wants to achieve great things in the world of design, Dave is the kind of graduate you want to be. But don’t emulate him, exceed him, because by the chance you catch up to where he is, it will be where he was.