10 tips for making it in the design industry

Canadian designer James White, aka Signalnoise, reveals 10 lessons he's learned in his career so far at Reasons to be Creative 2014.

If there's one theme to have emerged so far from this year's Reasons To Be Creative conference in Brighton, it's that staying true to your design values and creative vision takes patience and determination – whether you're setting up a new studio, like From Form ('3 pro tips for starting your own studio'); realigning your design practice, like James Victore ('Five ways to revolutionise your design work'); or just finding your way, like Tom Muller ('How to design the spaces in-between').

Yesterday, Canadian designer and artist James White – aka Signalnoise – weighed in on the theme with his unique story of how creating personal projects in the evenings and weekends led to a full-time career making projects he loves.

He's had failures: White took a year out of client work to break into the movie poster scene ("I love designing movie posters!"). After 12 months without a salary he threw in the towel and returned to client work.

Signalnoise's poster for the Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Canadian tour

But he's also had huge success: his Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Canadian Tour poster – a personal project – was picked up by film juggernaut Kevin Smith, who commissioned White for a second poster for his Plus One Live II event in London; he's worked with his favourite band and counts the likes of Nike, MTV, Google, WIRED and VH1 amongst his clients.

As White explained on stage at Brighton's three-day design and technology conference Reasons To Be Creative 2014, it's about the journey – not the destination. Here are 10 tips for making it that he's picked up along the way…

Signalnoise and Reasons to be Creative founder John Davey on stage

01. Practice, practice, practice

"Reverse engineering through mimicry is a great way to learn. Then build something of your own."

02. Try new things

"Get out your comfort zone. You never know where it's going to lead."

03. Be fearless

"We don't have time to worry about that one asshole on the internet. Put yourself out there."

04. Everyone makes it up as they go

"I don't know what the next month or year is going to hold. Keep doing the stuff you love to do. Do the things you truly want to do."

05. Make the most of everything

"If you're given an opportunity, push it as far as you can."

Slide from Signalnoise's popular StarKade series

06. Don't be a dick


07. Support your buddies

"You have to support your buddies. One of mine is here – I want to give a shout to Naomi Atkinson – she's here at Reasons, go check out her pop-up store."

08. Personal passion should never be replaced by monetary goals…

"Never forget the reason you got into this in the first place. We all have our own path."

09. …but keep one eye on the bottom line

"Dreams are worth chasing, but sometimes you need to know when to pull the plug.'

10. Self-investment is crucial

"Invest in yourself. The stuff you do in your own time – people will take notice of it."

Don’t Get Technical With Me - a print from Signalnoise's upcoming Celscapes art show

Head over to the Signalnoise website to check out more of James White's work and find out how investing in personal projects has led to a fullfilling creative career for the Canadian designer and artist.

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Julia Sagar is a commissioning editor and writer for Creative Bloq, Computer Arts, net, 3D World and IFX magazines. Tweet her @JuliaSagar