Feature Friday: Dustin Leer

While many designers take the route of agency or in-house life, some choose the adventure of freelance. Dustin previously gave the agency world a go, working for Sofos Media, designing and developing interactive learning materials, before taking the freelance route. He’s currently a freelance designer and front end developer based in Lancaster, working mainly in the realm of WordPress. Outside of the freelance grind, Dustin is a regular attendee of many AIGA Central PA events and area meetups. 

Dustin Leer

How long have you been in the field?
Professionally I’ve been a designer since 2003, so I’ve been in the game around 12 years now. Though I was always changing things in my room and was always drawing so you could say I’ve been doing this all my life almost, figuring out solutions to problems.

Where did you go to school? What for?
I went to school at Bradley Academy of the Visual Arts, which is currently the Art Institute of York. I originally went for multi-media design and moved into graphic design. I also attended Lancaster Bible College and got a Bachelors in Youth Ministry and Bible. I learned HTML and CSS in 2010 at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design in a Continuing Education class. I also learn and try to keep current with the web with Treehouse in my free time.

What important milestones do you credit to getting to where you are now?
I would say self learning would be the best milestone that I can attribute to where I am now. I have a continually thirst for learning something new, but I’m super impatient sometimes and fail terribly. Though my current favorite saying is from Eloise Ristad,
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
It always encourages me to fail and fail greatly so that I may learn from my failures and make success out of them.

What made you get involved with AIGA? Why should someone be a member?
Honestly it was Tim McKenna. I met Tim at the Harrisburg WordPress Users Group that meets in Enola, PA at Cure International, and he encouraged me to join. I thought it would be a good way to connect with fellow designers in the area and have an ear to the ground about potential jobs or freelance opportunities as I had lost my job prior to joining. I think someone should join only if they are looking to put back into the community and not just take, whether that be heading up a meetup, getting involved with events, becoming a committee member or joining the board; just be willing to give something back.

What advice do you have for young, practicing designers?
Don’t do it! LOL, just kidding. For young designers I would say don’t stop learning, keep challenging yourself to learn something new, whether it’s part of your field or not. Doing different things and diversifying yourself can really open up your mind to new and creative avenues that you may have never explored otherwise. Also don’t always be stuck behind your computer or phone, do something where you can either interact with the world around or people around. Break outside of tech and do something else once and a while.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Taking something that is just an idea and making it applicable to people/users. Making something that is static and creating an interactive element is just something that I find very rewarding.

What advice do you have for someone getting into the freelance grind?
Best advice is don’t jump into it thinking it’s easy or that you’ll make tons of money. Both those things can be true sometimes, but generally aren’t. I would make sure you have a steady full time gig and then slowly move into the freelance world and as you gain clients, slowly move out of your full time job if possible. It’s not always the right fit for everyone, it can be highly rewarding and frustrating at the same time.

Anything else you’d like us to know?
I honestly never saw myself doing design until I went to design school and I actually thought I would end up working on movies like Toy Story or Monsters Inc at Pixar. In fact that was my dream and I had no idea what “design” was when I started at Bradley in 2001. So I guess in closing I’d eventually like to make my own animated movie/cartoon or something else that would involve some level of production maybe even a podcast. Also I do Olympic weight lifting which is kind of a weird thing for a designer to do I feel.

By Bri Piccari
Published December 4, 2015
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