Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

The temperature — it’s getting hot March 24, 2008

I’ve had my ear to the ground recently and have heard many graphic designers express frustration with the current state of our industry.

One thing I read today, in particular, was a blog by a graphic/web designer whose job is headed south and posted an entry venting feelings of under-appreciation and lack of talent from her superiors.

The truth is, this is all part of the life of a designer. There is always going to be under-appreciation for artists… history shows Pope Julius gave Michaelangelo crap the whole time he was working on his (PJ’s) tomb and other projects. As well, there is always someone either in the next cubicle or a big agency to compete with – and the competing designer might not be as talented or as educated – but might have a bigger budget — meanwhile, artists and designers can’t get bogged down in that melodrama – the thing to do, I have found, is to trudge on… because that next great design idea that can be brought to fruition is just around the next sketch book page. Also, like Michaelangelo and Pope Julius, there’s always going to be a person an artist/designer will have to take crap from because that individual signs the check — (these people often think of themselves as a born designer, and the graphic designer is merely a conduit/computer jockey there to click the mouse to make a vision come true.)*

It’s not just graphic designers expressing disdain for these occupational hazards — I have a friend; he’s a super-talented landscape architect in a major American city. He and I shared a laugh on the phone not long ago. He was venting to me about how he’s overworked and his designs are undervalued by his client. My friend described said client as “he thinks just because he watches HGTV that he automatically has the skills to design a landscape plan” — I laughed. I shouldn’t have. But I backed it up with “Well, thank God nobody wants to do a reality show with graphic designers because the public would be bored stiff and it would be canceled after one episode, if it ever made it to air!” — he laughed then, because he knows it’s the truth.

There is a mystique about graphic designers — that we’re all making money hand over fist while sitting in our bathrobes sipping martinis while tangled up in our iPod wires. That’s not reality. The tech bubble burst a few years ago. And… well… I don’t like martinis. The majority of designers I know are the ones that shop from the thrift store or sale rack exclusively, drive cars that are at least five years old, and don’t have cable tv. The one thing we do splurge on is technology – because that’s a write off.

My truth is, and I can only speak for myself, that I got into design for one reason and one reason only. I love art. I love design. I love creating something from nothing. And the bottom line in this business is, if that love is not at the core of a graphic designer’s heart, then he/she won’t be in this business for the long haul. Because there is a lot of bad that goes with the good… but when the good rolls around, it’s a very satisfying experience. I call it “creative crack” — it’s like a drug that I want more of. So, basically, I guess you can say I’m chasing a high… and most designers I know would agree, that’s the reason we are playing this game.

*And I will admit some superiors do have design talent, but it’s frustrating to be treated like an idiot when we designers have spent years in design/art school – and get zero respect for the time spent.


2 Responses to “The temperature — it’s getting hot”

  1. (evil)amy Says:

    AMEN right back at you, sister. Especially that part about being a computer jockey who drives an old car (2003 PT Cruiser, in my case) and shops at the thrift store. I have cable, but only cause I’m kinda stealing it. Hey, Comcast’s guy took the filter off of the cable, so technically it’s their fault that I can watch Rock of Love. Some days, Rock of Love is the only thing that gets ya through 😉

  2. missbethd Says:

    Whoa! can you send your cable guy to my house?

    And Rock of Love, I watched 5 minutes and felt my IQ drop! Couldn’t do it.

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