Ask the Pros: What's the most valuable thing you've learned? Part 2

Ask the Pros: What's the most valuable thing you've learned? Part 2 Our Ask the Pros series is here to answer your most pressing questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication art and photo departments. Got a question you want answered? Email it to us at and we'll put it to our experts. A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work. 

Following up on our recent photo editors post, today we have an awesome group of art directors and designers giving you their take on what skills and lessons they've learned so far in their careers ... 

What's the most valuable experience you took from your other jobs/experiences into your current position or that you've gotten from where you are now?

PRO: Gail Bichler - Art Director, The New York Times Magazine
The most valuable experience that I took into my current position was working for a small design studio right after graduating from school. Functioning in this type of setting necessitated wearing many hats. From designing, to answering the phones, to figuring out IT problems, to handling clients and budgets, to understanding production techniques, and even to sending out FedEx packages, I learned how to conduct myself professionally in the close quarters of an office environment. Being integrally involved with all different aspects of the business gave me a more complete sense of the design process as a whole and a great base to move forward from.

PRO: Chai Lim - Studio Manager, Pacific+ (Australian based client publishing)
The ability to compromise. It's absolutely essential to know when to give ground in design, when the client or your boss is right (not always), and when to take the bollocking that the Sales Director is throwing your way. It's also incredibly valuable in knowing how to create the 'right' design by compromising your design to emphasize the message to result in something beautiful. Design is one thing, but we're also in the business of making money (to live, if anything else) for ourselves and clients.

PRO: Matthew Axe - Design Director, Martha Stewart Living
The experience of working within other fantastic and successful teams -- great magazines are all about the strength of the group.

PRO: Justin Patrick Long - Assistant Art Director, Men's Health Magazine 
I started out working for city publications with small art departments. Usually it was just the Art Director and myself putting the entire magazine together. This gave me a lot of experience doing many different things. I was designing front-of-book sections, back-of-book, features, and the occasional cover. I learned how to hire illustrators and photographers, I set up photo shoots, and got experience directing an intern. With a small staff and limited resources you're really forced to get creative. It can be a lot of work, but in the end you'll get to do a little bit of everything and gain a greater understanding of all aspects of publication design. City magazines also cover a full range of topics, so you're never bored with the content. 

PRO: Emily Furlani - Art Director, Parents
I would say having been a part of a few redesigns and/or re-branding efforts has been really valuable. It encourages the mind to look at something you are very used to, and figuring out a new way to communicate. It helps train the brain to think "what else can this be?" or "how can it be better?" 

PRO: Rich Morgan - Deputy Art Director, Money magazine
I freelanced at many magazines for a few years before taking my current full-time position. This gave me a good, diverse grounding, and allowed me to work with numerous creative directors on many different titles. Every single booking taught me something new (some good, some bad) which has been invaluable in my current position. Freelancing is a great way to make contacts, develop a diverse portfolio plus experience a variety of working methods and environments.

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for all their great advice! 
Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question.
- What's the most valuable thing you've learned? Part 1
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