The earlier you identify what you want to do in life, the easier it is to direct yourself and your work towards that area. I always tell myself that if you're not a bit stressed or unsure of how to approach something, then it's probably too easy and you're doing it wrong.
I always used to see design and illustration as two separate things that couldn't be merged together. While at university my peers were producing projects that were heavily design-based. As a result, I always felt like my work wasn't valid and would ignore my illustrative instincts. Despite my efforts, illustration would always bleed through into my work and by third year I admitted to myself that I wanted my work to embrace illustration, alongside design.
Instead of separating the work, I started experimenting with how I could blend the two in my spare time. It made the experience more enjoyable, and by embracing this practice – instead of ignoring it – I quickly discovered my style. The projects started to have more life and were stronger in what they were trying to convey, and my illustration skills improved exponentially.
To make the most of your time at university, don't be afraid of trying new things and producing the work you like, instead of what you think other people will like. Trust me, you will enjoy your time more, gain deeper insights and work far better this way. But remember to always be humble and remain open to new ways of working.
Xanthe Simmans is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, previously an in-house graphic designer at Google.