Q&A: Brian Flynn

Brian Flynn is living proof that adulthood can still include toy collecting, drawing cool pictures and listening to loud music. The founder of San Francisco’s Hybrid Design, Brian’s work is cleverly contemporary, while also nodding to the perfect fifties modernism. Brian draws upon his experience to offer advice to design students at the crest of their careers.

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What do you wish you would have known as a student that you understand as a professional?

No one cares what school you went to, or if the work is for a real client, school or yourself. It only matters if the work is good or bad. Show me your best work, the work that you wish that you were doing, not what you think I should see. If you had to make crappy projects in school to make your professors happy, then by all means, make new projects to replace those. The portfolio is not sacred, it is supposed to be a direct reflection of you as a designer, and not a mixed bag or half-baked ideas you don’t believe in.

If you could change design education in any way, what one thing would you change or new rule would you institute?

Most schools seem to approach portfolios as checklists to accomplish. ‘Here is one book cover, one annual report, two magazines, one packaging concept, one poster and three logos. Congratulations, you graduate.’ Every student’s portfolio looks the same, and they think they have to show all of it, as they have had that concept beaten into their head…You begin to wonder if it is the influence of the teacher. Does the student know the difference between good and bad? The schools should have a better understanding of their individual students, and help them tailor their books to their strengths as designers, not a lowest common denominator that works for the group.”

What do you perceive is the primary difference between the design world that your design heroes inhabited and the one you work in today?

Now you can have a studio in your garage, finishing work for clients around the world, and have 20 projects under your belt in a year after graduating from school. The barrier of opportunity has been almost completely eliminated; so young, hungry designers can go straight to actively working without having to toil in the dungeon of an ad agency for years before getting their first shot.

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The above excerpt is a sneak peek into our Design Annual 2009, which is available in our store today. Order one while they are still in stock.

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