Jane of all trades

Why be only one thing, when you can be several?

I’m her. I’m Jane of all trades. I’m good at sketching AND writing. I’m a tech geek AND a sucker for analogue stuff. I like junk food, but mostly I eat healthily. I have beauty AND brains. (At least my boyfriends says so.) Heck, I’m a bit of a Schizo, and I just realised it. What’s so wrong about that?

What’s wrong about that is, that people like to pigeon hole people. They have a deep need to put you in a box and label it something fathomable. But they can’t label me. Because I am Jane of all trades, I’m a potato, I go with everything, I like ALL things creative, I have trouble picking just one thing – I have dipped my toe into most creative industries, and the water feels nice and warm in all fields.

After graduating from ad school Westerdals in Oslo in 2010, I was ready to embark on a career in advertising, with an art director degree in the bag, and a product design BA in my suitcase from the UK back in 2004. It’s just that advertising wasn’t advertising any more, already in 2010. It wasn’t poster ads, TV commercials or even banner ads. It was product development, campaign sites and 360 degrees. Now, it’s even more. It’s pull, not push, it’s predictive advertising, content marketing/SEO and the consumer in the centre of power. So, as a creative in the advertising industry, I don’t think it it sufficient to be “just” an art director. You need an understanding of the whole picture, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing if you know how to write texts for social media or blogs even if your degree was within the visual field. I don’t think it hurts if you have UX experience even if your business card says ‘copywriter’. We need more Janes of all trades, I think.

Packaging design, advertising, art direction, product development, concept development, gaming, UX design, copywriting… It’s easier to point out what I HAVE NOT done than what I have done. Working in creative advertising you will get insight into a vast range of disciplines. Because you’re working with so many goddamn talented people. You meet award winning graphic designers, Einstein-like UX people, brainy, polish developers and insanely organised project managers. And you suck in all of their wisdom and expertise. You gotta. Cause if you don’t, you lose out, and you don’t wanna do that.

But not just disciplines. You learn about all kinds of industries. During my work experience I gained insight into the soft drink business, fuel and retail, snacks, car industry, children and pregnancy (it’s hard to try to get a feel of how mother thinks when you’re not a mother yourself)… and the list goes on. These are often areas that I initially personally have no interest in – but learning about foreign industries is highly useful.

We need the Janes and the Joes to be versatile in an even greater extent. In addition to being masters of several trades, they should be able to do their work in short time frames whenever required. I’m no recruiter, but surely the dream employee must be the girl who can turn around quickly and doesn’t need a whole week to come up with an idea? The kind of person who can sketch out an idea on a napkin in a café. And then some more. And then pick out the best one and follow it through. That’s the person I would hire if I was hiring. But that’s just me.

I think people who have worked in smaller agencies and start-ups have the traits of the Janes and Joes. Because in those environments, one often has to fill more than one role. It’s expensive to hire one person to fill each area of expertise. You need to be able to do a little bit of everything sometimes. Sometimes, the one UX-designer we have, is ill, or hasn’t been hired yet, so why don’t you go ahead and try sketching out that wireframe? Or maybe you need to deal with that client directly today, yourself, because our one is out seeing another client.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we all should become wishy-washy Janes and Joes of all trades, we definitely need experts. But to me, it kinda helps if I know what HTML5 is, when I want to get my idea across to a developer. Can we realise my idea if we use HTML5? Or do we need to modify the idea? Is it going to take 120 years to make this, or is it doable in a reasonable time frame, say, before your toddler turns 18? Yes? Great!

So, stay true to your field of expertise, but try crossing over to other disciplines sometimes. It can’t hurt, can it?

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2 Comments

  1. Bic
    Permalink

    My mum was an art teacher, my dad an engineer
    At home I made kites, model aeroplanes and practiced lino-cuts and tie-dying
    At school I loved art lessons
    But I also loved metalwork and technical drawing
    I trained as a fine artist. Painting was my thing. Huge canvases and acrylic and charcoal
    I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design
    I made my first money designing company letterheads and exhibition stands
    But my first job was working in a product design studio
    I leaned about packaging and branding before the word branding was in use
    I set up my first company and learned about the economics of running a design business
    We became successful
    I spent eight years learning that specialism and expertise only gets you so far
    I left to change my career and try something new
    I ran a model-making and set-building department for a well known production company
    I made a three minute animated film
    I art directed a feature film that never made it into production
    I joined a well established Graphics branding company to set up an innovation and product design offer
    I learned to myself that multi-disciplinary agencies are the way of the future
    We combined research and insights, product design, innovation, graphic design, branding and enthusiasm to deliver exciting solutions
    I left and set up another company to deliver even better results
    We grew from small to big. (Nina met us and worked with us when we were small)
    I learned in ten years that it’s all about the brand and the consumer experience.
    I left again to learn something new and am currently happy looking at an infinite horizon of unknown and excitement
    You can’t think about holistic solutions to brand challenges without thinking about every way to do this
    The design and advertising boundaries are blurring
    The conventional media and channels for promoting and selling products are changing and evolving
    Everything is in flux and the old ways are not applicable anymore
    But you still need to do this…
    You need to empathise with the consumer
    You need to have insights into their hopes, needs and dreams
    You need to be creative
    You need to have BIG IDEAS
    You need to understand product design and manufacture
    You need to be an engineer
    You need to understand the supply chain and retail issues
    You need to be a graphic designer
    You need to be a tecno-geek
    You need to be a stylist
    You need to be a strategist, a planner and a manager
    You need to be a diplomat, a persuader and a seller of ideas
    You need to be everything and more and it helps when the individuals in an organisation can cross disciplines and thinks outside their box.

    So….

    maybe I agree with Nina on her topic and wish her well in finding an outlet for her talents.

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    Reply
  2. heidi
    Permalink

    Så bra du skriver, Nina!
    Gleder meg til neste innlegg;-)

    heidi

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