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What Abbey Learned After a Summer of Mentoring with AIGA Design Loop

By Caitlin Devereaux

BrandExtract Senior Designer Abbey Mora partnered with Houston’s up-and-coming creative talent as a mentor in AIGA’s Design Loop 2014 program. The four-month mentorship program pairs experienced designers with a college student or recent graduate from a design-related field.

Young woman discussing book Photo courtesy of John Luu, Copyright 2014 AIGA Houston.

Abbey was selected along with just a handful of other designers to participate as a mentor this year. She had applied to Design Loop while looking for ways to expand her leadership experience and connect in a smaller group context with AIGA Houston, the local chapter of the nation’s largest professional association for design.

Associate Director of Mentorship at AIGA Houston, Heather Cobb, explains why she thinks the program is significant:

“For emerging designers, the transition from college into their career can be smoother. For mentors, it’s an opportunity to hone management skills and stay close to up and coming design thinking. For employers, there can be less time spent training. It’s a small investment with loads of impact for the Houston design community.”

Developing the Mentor Relationship

Abbey began her career when she joined BrandExtract seven years ago. She has grown significantly as a designer and leader since her own graduation, but still understands and remembers the importance of mentorship as an emerging design professional.

“I remember entering the workforce, and I know what it’s like to start a new job and get connected. I want to pass along the knowledge I have gained so far in my career,” says Abbey. “My mentee, Jennifer, has just begun her own career. I’ve been guiding her on how to talk about her work in a professional way as well as lending a different perspective and approach to projects.”

Beyond the Design Loop official program events, Abbey and her mentee, Jennifer Wong, meet bi-weekly. Sometimes the duo grabs coffee and discusses any questions she has about her new job or reviews her personal portfolio. Other times they attend special design events for inspiration, such as a Hand Lettering Houston Meetup.

New Possibilities and Perspectives

Jennifer reveals that she has gained a new perspective on her career through the program. She says Abbey has helped lift some of the limits she had originally perceived about designing for clients.

“I feel less restricted. I’ve stopped thinking about my worth as a designer based on if people immediately choose my design. I see value in putting out creative ideas that explore possibilities and make the clients think,” reflects Jennifer.

In return, Abbey has been refreshed by Jennifer’s approach to the industry as a recent design graduate. Jennifer’s instinct to immediately view problems from a digitally focused perspective matches the trend Abbey has observed among young design professionals.

The Future of Design Loop

Heather anticipates the AIGA Design Loop program will continue to thrive in future years. Founded in 2013, the program still has opportunities to evolve. “There are application and program fees that we would like to see go away with the help of sponsorship, and maybe offer continuing education scholarships,” Heather says. “My personal hope is that the program remains small and effective, so participants and AIGA Houston’s board can learn and grow with the community surrounding them.”