Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

In Which I Discuss The Conversations with Two Designer Friends About The Economy June 5, 2009

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Maybe it’s the rain – maybe, whatever – of course it is. But more so I think it’s got a lot to do with the economy. I’ve had several conversations with friends this week. Mini-therapy phone sessions as I call them, and although it’s good to have a support system of wonderful friends that understand the way one feels, sometimes I feel like a broken record.

I talked to a local designer friend yesterday. We’re trying to do better about getting into the same room together – to cook, to laugh, to just be. We shared a meal about three weeks ago at her house, which was lovely, and we’re planning on a social outing next week.

Anyway, in the past few times we’ve talked in depth about the state of the economy, she said the same thing as two other designers: I paraphrase, but it was something to the effect of “I’m ready to quit design” or “I want/need to find some other profession in order to generate money other than being a designer.”

This hurts my heart.

Maybe it’s painful because she expressed and articulated out loud the thoughts running through my head as of late.

The first person I heard say this thru the Depression of ’09 (and don’t kid yourself, it IS a depression) was my best male friend, a landscape architect. He was a casualty in the second round of layoffs at his firm in Atlanta. Months of stress had been endured and as he was on the phone with me, verbally going thru the five stages of grief, he just said it: “I want to quit, I don’t love being a designer anymore!”

Remember the Sex and the City episode where Charlotte says something about needing to be taken care of by a man and Carrie writes in her column that Charlotte’s words were the sentence that single women over 30 dare not speak. The same thing applies here.

I asked my landscape architect friend this: “is it design that you hate, the job situation you endured or is it the headache that comes along with the whole ball of wax?” and he said “oh, I LOVE design, I always will. BUT it’s the constant issue of being beaten up by clients that I find exhausting.” I understood exactly what he was saying.

In the last post here, I embedded a file about how it would be if what we go through as designers was translated into real life bleeding into other occupations. Is it ludicrous? Absolutely! But it’s also pretty crazy that more often than not when negotiating a price for a project vs. the amount of work it will take to complete a design to the client’s vision, I am asked more and more often to give my work away for free. And after a while it wears on a person.

Back to the phone conversation with my local friend the designer, she expressed the same frustration and even said that she was ready to quit, but didn’t know what else she could do. The fact is, it can be hard to make a living now as a designer, for these very reasons. And she’s dealing with clients that don’t pay – a dragon I’ve yet to have to attempt to slay, thankfully enough!

I love design. I live and breathe it. But because of the economy, I’ve had to rely on the part time job I initially took to pay off credit card debt in order to live. And actually I don’t hate it. As design can be a very isolated endeavor, getting out in the public can actually lighten my mood and get my mind off the state of things in my primary business. As for gaining happiness through art, I watercolor a lot more now. Maybe I need to do something in which I can exert total control for an art medium.

I realize everyone is having a hard time now. I guess I just needed to put that out there. Design is work. And just because something looks like it took “five minutes”, it didn’t. That’s because as designers, we put lots of research, effort, thought and hours into our work.