I had one instructor in my second year, the graphic designer Paul Bacon. He gave me a D. But when I dropped out of school, I went to his office and said that I’d like to apprentice. I didn’t even know what it meant, but I wanted to apprentice with him. He looked at me and put his pen down and told me that no one had ever asked him that before. Then he agreed to let me do it. I learned a huge lesson at that moment: You have got to ask. I got that apprenticeship because no one else had ever asked. So I started hanging out in Paul’s studio, looking over his shoulder. I’d get there in the morning and sweep; I didn’t really have any jobs. And then I’d hang out. When a desk became available, I tried to do some “real” design. Three months after I dropped out of SVA, I had put together a portfolio with three fake book jackets. I started showing my portfolio, and I got hired right off the bat. I’ve been working ever since.
I knew a guy in town, Pierre Bernard. I knew of his reputation, so I searched him out and arranged to meet him. He is an amazing French designer from Grapus, a design collective that broke up in 1989. He spent an afternoon with me, which was unheard of, since I was a nobody. As I was showing him my work—a greeting card I was doing at the time for a publisher—I bragged that I had an amazing client who gave me complete creative freedom. He looked at my work and said, “Sometimes complete creative freedom is not a good thing.” That was excellent. I don’t really want complete creative freedom. A lot of people look at my work and think I must have complete freedom, but that’s not what I do.