I was taking the train home from work the other day, and ended up sitting next to someone working on their laptop using photoshop. Of course, I couldn’t help myself and had to ask what they were working on. This is where I learned they were a student studying art direction, and she was struggling with a concept. She’s either the luckiest student or the most unlucky, given my love of design, teaching, and mentoring, where I was quick to offer up some suggestions and of course unsolicited feedback. What I noticed was that while the concept was strong, she was limiting her thinking to a small space. The amount of time she spent staying within the confines of the small space she was giving herself to work with just didn’t seem to work with the idea. I told her to get off the computer and sketch. To not limit her thinking by the tools the software had. And this is where things turned: she told me her design instructor said they didn’t have time to sketch. That they needed to go right to execution. And yes, I told her I was going to give her some advice: don’t listen to that. Always start with sketches. Research. Ideation. You’ll limit the creative thinking but just jumping in. Was it my place to say something: absolutely. What kind of mentor would I be if I let her struggle. No one wants to be an art director because of the software we use. Teaching students programs are not teaching. It’s a disservice to learning what it means to think. To lead a creative life. To innovate. It’s the difference between being a problem solver or a pixel pusher.