Virtual Mentors

I love reading interviews with designers and artists.  They're a fun insight into how people think, and I often end up feeling good about something I have in common with the other person. One thing that comes up frequently in these interviews is that the designer or artist didn't have any specific mentors, but wished they did. I came across this article on design self-education, with some great advice on finding virtual mentors:

"Choose a couple of designers, developers, marketers, etc and follow them a little more closely than you follow everyone else. Listen to what they say and more importantly what they do. Study the portfolios of your favorite designers. Dig through the code of your favorite developers. Watch how your favorite marketers promote themselves.Actions speak louder than words so pay close attention to what your mentors do over time. If you can make connections with these people and get their ear so much the better. However you don’t have to make the connection as long as you continue to observe what they do."

I think one of the more intriguing aspects of this idea is that it’s also a self-discovery process. By curating a list of the people you admire specifically, you come to understand what’s important to you, what is your unique point-of-view. I want to spend some more time (in an ongoing way) thinking about this. In the meantime, I went through some of the inspiration I’ve saved recently and pulled out a few virtual mentors and noted what I admire.

Jessica Hische Her work is gorgeous, but anytime I hear her speak, I’m left struck by HOW HARD this woman works. It’s quite inspiring when you realize there is no magical talent fairy that going to sprinkle you with awesome dust one day. You just show up, get to work, and practice until your skills catch up with your vision.

Chris Risdon There’s something about the topics he chooses and the way he describes his process that really appeals to me. I might have a secret Service Designer inside of me, and I find his work in Experience Mapping, and talks on Persuasive Design inspire to get out there and try new stuff.

Rachel Hinman Mobile is cool, sure. But after attending a workshop lead by Rachel on mobile design, my biggest takeaway and inspiration was the process she used to solve customer problems. I love her simple, visual storyboards that make customer problems speak loud and simply.

Alexa Andrzejewski Alexa used her skills as a User Experience Designer to launch a successful, design-driven startup. (Foodspotting.) It reminds me that a designer’s passion for making stuff doesn’t have to stop with mockups.

These are the folks that come to mind now, but I know that there are heaps more. I hope to do this again soon, and I’d love to hear who others consider to be their virtual mentors.

Some favorite interview sites: