Ambulance: Graphic DesignI used to work as an Emergency Medical Technician in Rochester, NY when I was in college. As a graphic design student, people asked what being an EMT had to do with design. At the time, I just shrugged and said that I liked doing it.

When we would arrive on the scene, calls were usually not what they seemed to be. We would sometimes get called for a broken arm, and it would be a sprained ankle — which is why EMTs are taught to determine the “Mechanism of Injury.” If the sprained ankle occurred from falling down a flight of stairs, then we assumed there may be other injuries that we couldn’t see. The challenge was to piece together the whole big picture — first from the patient, then from the bystanders, and then from any other clues such as medicines or other things lying around.

Sometimes, people would leave out key details because they didn’t think they were important. Or sometimes they were afraid they did something wrong, and didn’t want to admit to it. So it was our job to try and understand the whole situation, and the perspectives of the people involved, in order to determine the best course of action.

Most of the patients we took to the hospital didn’t have money or family, and had all sorts of other issues. I had partners who would yell at the drunks and ignore the old people from the nursing homes. I figured I only had about an hour with each patient, so I’d make the best of it. I used to challenge myself with the really angry ones, to see if I could get them to smile before we got to the hospital. I would talk, ask questions, and treat each patient as if they were a relative of mine. They were, after all, someone’s relative. Besides, if I treated each patient with respect and patience, it became much easier to get the information I needed to help them, and the whole experience became much more enjoyable.

So In retrospect, my work as an EMT actually helped a lot to prepare me for when I would eventually own my own graphic design studio. I still assess each new situation, gather facts, make a plan of action and then my team of designers and I go to work. I do miss the flashing lights though.