This past Wednesday we had the opportunity of sitting with Alex Mera, the lead designer at Zappos, via zoom. His passion and energy for design were evident from the start of his talk. There were a couple of moments when he described himself and his work as “chaotic”, which is something I resonate with. Alex opened up to the class about his struggles as a young person finding his way in the professional world. He shared with us his struggles with mental health and addiction very early in his career. This vulnerability and insight provided some level of comfort to me. He addressed it in a way that sent the message that everyone’s path is different, and through adversities that we face are not setbacks but opportunities for us to grow. Being 20 years old and getting close-ish to graduating with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration, I often place a lot of pressure on myself to create this perfect portfolio, with an established aesthetic. The part of his talk that resonated with me the most was the importance of measuring success on your own terms. Living as a creative is so hard because oftentimes an artist’s work is an extension of yourself, so measuring one’s success separately from self-worth is a very hard thing to do. He reiterated often and in different ways that you cannot take feedback personally and that detaching yourself from your work is a vital lesson to learn. Alex’s experience of ups and downs and knowing where he is now in his career helped me put things into perspective. It reminded me that I have plenty of time to get where I want to be in my career. He also emphasized making time for passion projects and creating work just for yourself. This is something I struggle with during semesters because I get so caught up in work and school, I use my time off catching up or outside with friends, and while these are things that I enjoy, the whole reason I decided to study graphic design was that I am an artist and I wanted to work in a field where I can be creative and make an impact. Using graphic design to amplify your passions is a great way to elevate your work. At the end of the day Wednesday, I decided to start on a new project just for myself. This talk was really helpful to hear at this point in the semester because I feel like I’ve lost confidence in myself as a designer because I put an insane amount of pressure on myself in my classes and my internship. However, learning about the experience of someone with such a successful career like Alex Mera, is forcing me to change my mindset and how I view not only my work but myself.
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