I have 2 distinct memories from my college years that impacted me and shaped me into who I am (whether I'm a success or failure case is still in question, but that's not important right now...lol)
First memory took place in a New York taxi cab. I was selected as one of the 55 Most Promising Minority Students by American Advertising Federation in 2006. They invited me to New York, introduced me to the other amazing 54 students, and showed me all the cool agencies in the Big Apple. They even let me stay at The New York Athletic Club for a night. It was a very humbling experience, and I felt like my American dream was getting somewhere.
On the last day of my trip, they invited me to a luncheon where I received a shiny little trophy. After the luncheon, I was in a cab with a professor on the way to the airport. That's when she said the following unforgettable words – "Your portfolio is not that great."
What a great timing to tell me that I sucked.
I was on cloud nine after an amazing 3-day trip in New York. I was ready to get back to school, kick ass, and get an awesome job at an awesome agency like Don Draper in Mad Men, with a Korean accent of course. Then she drops the bomb on me out of the blue. I knew that she wasn't very fond of me or my work. I knew my work wasn't the best in school because I had some talented classmates that could kick my ass all day 'till the cows come home. But what she said really caught me off guard. Since she was of the director of the department that paid for the trip, I guess she had the right to say whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, and however she wanted...
The next day, I decided to go to TGI Fridays and get drunk (I never really drank before, so I didn't know where else to go). I used my Capital One credit card with a $500 limit to buy myself a full rack of baby back ribs and a few rounds of big ass frozen blue martinis (it tasted like Slurpee). Then I decided to go watch a movie at the theater next door. Only thing available at the time was Nanny McPhee... so I got myself a ticket and walked in... and scared a few kids around me.
...then I decided to go on with my life.
The second memory is a much more ordinary one that took place on the 2nd floor of Meadows School of Art at SMU. At the time, I was on a campaign team to compete in a national advertising competition, and I was tasked to design the campaign book. I was pretty proud of myself for putting together a 20-page long document in a short period of time, and I thought it was darn pretty.
I decided to show it to Professor Ford who was in charge of our campaign team, thinking that I was gonna get nothing but a praise. That's when he said a word that I will probably remember as long as I design something for the rest of my life. He said it was – "horsey."
My English wasn't that great (it still isn't, but whatevs), so I never heard of that word before. I asked him what that meant. He explained that the title/logo on the cover was unnecessarily too big and didn't fit the rest of the clean design I had throughout the book. Then he proceeded to take the mouse, made the title 1/5 of the original size, moved it to a corner, and left the rest of the cover empty.
And that was the start of me becoming a minimalist.
There was no fancy trip to New York, luxurious hotel, expensive lunch, or shiny trophy, but just a simple and honest explanation to why my work was "horsey." He also taught me that minimalistic design doesn't necessarily mean clean design. It could be a blank canvas, beautiful paintings in Sistine Chapel, or even some stupid graffiti on the side of a highway – it's about creating a design that serves a purpose with the least amount of elements.
I don't think Professor Ford ever really got the credit he deserved at SMU. His title wasn't even "professor" but "instructor," which was stupid. He remained as an adjunct faculty member without much recognition or promotion by the school until the day I graduated. But the students loved him though, and I can definitely speak for one of them. :)
Oh, and here is one of my portfolio pieces that he liked: