Stepping Stones - Hayden Aube

Stepping Stones – Hayden Aube

As part of our ongoing series “Stepping Stones” we ask young designers who have recently transitioned from student to professional for advice about this period of our career. This week we asked Hayden Aube.

Hayden Aube is a Freelance Designer & Illustrator living in London, UK. Having graduated from Seneca College’s Graphic Design program in 2013, Hayden now specializes in illustration and identity design. Hayden is a Provisional RGD and sits on the Seneca Alumni Council for Communication, Art and Design.

From a fresh out of college design newbie to an established freelance designer living in England, a lot can happen in two years. I’ve held 5 contract positions, delivered 5 freelance projects and to match those, traveled to 5 new countries. And it wasn’t until now, writing this article, that I got to look back and ask myself “What got me here?” There are things that are out of my hands — the chance encounters with soon to be clients, the opening up of positions perfect for my abilities, the stumbling across of my work online — that I am forever grateful for. But there is a lot that is in my control. So here, distilled for you, is what I believe got me here today.
     From the moment I finished my program at Seneca College I was on the hunt for reassurance. I had no job, no money and a whole lot of doubts about what I just did with the past 3 years of my life. It’s only natural that I was eager to find a full-time job in design. ANY job in design. And I did. And after that, another. In fact, I was starting to get quite comfortable with the way things were going. The last thing I wanted to do was disrupt that. So what did I do? I moved to England. Where I had never been, knew no one and would by no means, be comfortable. Why? Because it had always been a dream of mine to travel the world. And while I told myself I would when I was ready, I knew I was never going to be. And really, if I wanted to see my dreams fulfilled, I was going to have to take a risk. And it has sure paid off.
     Now how does this relate to being a designer? There have been many, many projects that I didn’t fully know how they were going to turn out, what they were or even how to do them. In fact, my first design position came about when I told a sign shop I could automate their process for creating barcodes. I had no idea how. But I explored some options, learnt a bit of programming and turned a several hour procedure into a several second one.
     A piece of advice I hear time and time again about being a successful designer is knowing the right people. And while I wholeheartedly agree with this, for me, just ‘knowing’ them didn’t make the difference. I go to a lot of industry events; meet-ups, conferences, talks, etc. And for the first while, I was on a mission. How many people can I meet? How many business cards can I hand out? Things like that. And while I was able to meet many fantastic contacts, these strictly “I’m in it for the work” relationships never really yielded anything. But once I stopped making it about getting the job, I relaxed, enjoyed myself and started making genuine friendships. And it’s from these that the work came. Now, I just keep myself involved in plenty of hobbies — parkour, gaming, bouldering, sketching, etc. — and when I meet people, we have tons in common and when the work is there, it just kind of finds me. In fact, both contracts I have held here In London came out of joining a social events group for fellow travellers. So my advice? Go out, do things you like and make real, genuine connections with people.
     While there are a lot of things that influence where I’m at as a designer, nothing has more of an impact than working on myself. From the moment I completed my program in Graphic Design I got to work — and I didn’t have a job. I drew every day, tried out new software, went through tutorials, read books on design and worked on my own projects. In fact, my personal challenge to design 100 logos in 100 days actually yielded some real-life design work. That was just a bonus! And even today, as I seek out my next contract or project, I keep working. And what I’ve found out is if I continue to make the kind of work that I like and put it online, that’s what shows up.
     While all this has made a difference, working on myself outside of a designer has been just as important. I take courses on personal development, communication, improv, even animal behaviour. I’ve hosted networking events, taken yoga, learnt programming languages, dabbled in music theory and try to read as wide of a variety of books as I can. Because as I learnt from DesignThinkers speaker Bruce Nussbaum in his book Creative Intelligence, my value as a designer comes not just from what I know about design, but what I know outside it too.
     The step from student to professional is by no means small. It was not for me and in many ways a step I’m still taking. But by working on myself as a designer (among other things), getting out and meeting wonderful new people and pushing myself to do things that absolutely frightens me, I’m 2 years in and absolutely ecstatic about it. And hey, this is what works for me. The best part of our industry is that you can create the job that works for you — whether that’s working in-house, in your house or in another part of the world.