I met Rita Lima eight years ago when we both enrolled for the first time in University.
With time we became very close friends, and nowadays we rely on each other’s opinions and advice.
Rita realized she wants to be a designer without studying design, and she did it.
I decided to interview her so she could share her vision on what it takes to have a career in design and be a self-made designer.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in Design?
I entered University aiming to be a journalist, so I chose a Bachelor Degree in Communication Science. What I didn’t know was that, with that University course, I won the lottery. By the end of my second semester, a particular course unit had won my heart: visual communication design. Not only because of its subject, but also for its Professor (many of my peers didn’t like her, but the love in which she spoke about design appealed to me).
Also, I have always been in contact with the field of design/communication since I was very young. My father instilled in me a passion for technology and computers, and one of my family’s business is printing. These influences made me who I am today.
What kind of designer are you? And why did you choose to work in that field of design?
When I think about what I want to do for the rest of my life, Design is there, right in the middle of it. But I can’t quite describe myself or know which type of designer I am.
I would say that I’m a passionate communicator that aims to convey messages in the most aesthetically pleasing and effective way. That’s what I like most about being a Communication Specialist.
But I don’t like to fit designers into boxes because that doesn’t make sense to me.
With a bit of luck and work ethic, a designer is a multidisciplinary professional that takes on many roles.
Do you find it harder to develop a career as a self-made designer?
It’s hard when nobody recognizes you as one. That’s why I always second guess myself into affirming assertively that I am a designer.
What I am is a communicator that prefers to use design, instead of relying solely on one medium.
Nowadays, it seems that anyone calls themselves a designer. They watch a few courses online, learn their way around the software, and that’s it. Being a designer is more than that – it’s pouring a bit of yourself in everything that you do.
Being a self-made designer has more challenges than one expects, it’s a rough path of self-affirmation, and also a way for you to build yourself up. It’s a never-ending feat, but I think it might be one of the most rewarding ones.
Do you believe that formally studying Design can have a significant impact on your career in the future?
Definitely. Having a bachelor in Communication means nothing in this field.
In practical terms, experience, know-how, and a good portfolio should suffice. But even if I train hard, master the tools and the craft, I’m not able to prove it, because I don’t have a sheet of paper stating it.
In any field of work, you’re not defined by grades, but by the quality of your work, and who you are as a professional. Sadly, in Portugal, that’s not the norm. And a diploma is a hundred times more valuable than experience.
What do you do to stay updated and learn new skills?
I’m not gonna lie, with the hecticness that is my life, I get a bit lost.
I’m not a trendsetter, nor a trend-follower. So I believe that what is proven to work, will always work.
I update my knowledge by exploring new tools, reading books and articles online, and also a very good design blog called Melted (laughs).
If you could work with any design company or any designer in the world, who would it be, and why?
Ever since I was little, and due to my brother having to use Apple computers for school, the Apple world has been a part of my life. There was an Apple computer in my house 20 years ago, when nobody cared about a piece of fruit on a computer.
So when the first iMac came along, I was fascinated by a computer that could be any color, and especially pink! (I’m one of those girls). I couldn’t get enough of that computer! It was original, it was quirky, it had a personality.
When iPhone 4 (the most beautiful to date IMO) came out, I saw a video featuring its designer speaking about it with such passion, I was mesmerized. That man is Sir Jonathan Ive, the designer of the first iMac. He has a different way of speaking about his designs because he designs with his heart. Everyone can tell he loves what he does, not just his field of work, but mostly the products he helps create.
He had such a big impact on me back then, that even today hearing him speak sparks something inside me. Something that says “this is who I want to become, someone who takes such pride in their work that they inspire others to pursue the same”.
I would love to work with him. And if that’s not possible, we could always just enjoy a nice cup of tea and have a good conversation.
Do you have any advice for someone who might be looking to pursue a career in Design, and doesn’t know where to start?
You are capable of being a Designer. You don’t need to study a formal course of design because it comes from within, even if everybody else is telling you otherwise.
If you find that you want to pursue a degree in Design, there’s nothing wrong about it either!
But if you are one of the many that only finds his passion later on, don’t worry. You are as fit and worthy as everyone else. You just need to try a little harder to prove yourself. But you know what? It’s so worth it.
If you want to see another perspective on what it’s like to have a career in design, check out Carolina Reis’ interview as well.