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.

 

The Vendor / Client Relationship – In “Real World” Situations May 27, 2009

 

In Which I Respond to A Craigslist Ad on My Blog February 11, 2009

I’ve been surfing through Craigslist again & I read this little gem this morning: (I’ve bolded my favorite part)

Book designer (XXXXXXX, TN)
Date: 2009-02-11, 9:07AM CST

We are a progressive, up-and-coming book publisher located in the XXXXXXX, Tennessee area. We are showing steady growth this year, and find ourselves in need of a book designer with the following characteristics/qualities:

– Applicant must be familiar/knowledgeable/preferably expert at InDesign software. A knowledge of Quark would be beneficial as well. You will be designing the interiors of books. You will also be given the opportunity to design covers as well.

– A knowledge of Photoshop/Illustrator is a plus, a big plus. You should be able to edit photos and illustrations for use in hardcover/paperback books.

– You should be knowledgeable about of the book industry – how books are produced, distributed, marketed and purchased. You should know what an endpaper is; you should know a mass market paperback from a trade paperback. You must know that (bookstore name redacted) is not a country western duo.

– You will be designing the interior of books – layout, font selection, rules, styles, parts of a book, type, etc. You should be able to provide us with a few samples of your work that is similar in nature.

– You should be able to work at an acceptable rate of speed. Not sloppy fast, but reasonably quickly with an emphasis on quality. We often have deadlines. You must be able to meet them.

– You must not be a flake. You must respond to emails within one day, preferably sooner. You must be available. Projects must be done on time. Always. No exceptions at all. Again, we work on deadlines.

– You must be able to send/store large files easily and securely. You must be able to send files in a PC format. You should be bondable. You must be comfortable handling copyrighted material. You must not lose the material that we give you. You must take this seriously, very seriously. Our authors depend on us.

– You may be asked to correspond with authors directly. You should be able to do so in English, using proper grammar and sentence structure. Some of our authors are rather well-known, and since you will represent us, your writing skills must be up to snuff. You must copy us on all emails. You must know how to correspond with people in a timely and professional manner.

– It would be a plus if you can design book covers, and can provide samples of same.

Benefits:

– In return we can offer little pay [at present], but lots of opportunity for the future. We are growing, and expect to be around for a long, long time.

– You can work out of your home. After all, it’s probably all ready set up as a studio,so you are most comfortable and productive there. No reason to upset the creative boat.

Our emphasis is on quality, beauty, and content. You will be encouraged to learn all you can to keep your skill set fine tuned. Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about.

Hope to hear from some qualified candidates soon,

(name redacted)

* Location: XXXXXXX TN
* Compensation: Contract per job
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a contract job.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Did you hear a bang earlier? That wasn’t the weather, it was my head exploding.

Look, I get it – we’re in a financial crisis, and everyone is looking to get the maximum amount of work/stuff, etc for a good price. But to write a laundry list of tasks and then have the, for lack of a better word, BALLS to say “we can offer little pay” – well, all I can think is “no wonder they’ve apparently worked with flakes before – ONLY A FLAKE would answer this ad — you’d have to be crazy to sign up for this!” I mean really… why not, when writing this job description, Mr Job Poster, didn’t you say “Cure Cancer” and “Solve Middle East Peace”?

Oh, one of my favorite parts of this ad is how the job poster even went as far as to throw the “celebrity angle” in there in the sentence: Some of our authors are rather well-known. Yawn – Still doesn’t make me want to bite. This makes me realize that only the well-known author and the publisher will make any money even though the designer will be doing the grand majority of the work to make the book marketable to the average customer — after all, we’re the ones that make a book jump off the shelf and grab a consumer’s eye. And in my experience in design, the more cooks you have in the kitchen, so to speak, the more work there is to be done. And the project takes even longer to complete — for the same amount of money, usually.

I’ve looked around at other postings for jobs in other categories other than “art/media/design” and I never seem to find this low-balling fascination when people post jobs in other professions. The reason we chose to be creative is we like to create. Most of us are damn good at it. And, while we might have gotten used to the term “starving artist”, no one is striving to be one. And honestly, I can go work at the mall for more money than this joker is probably offering – AND when I leave the job at the mall they won’t call/email me around the clock – NOR will they expect me to do MORE and MORE work for the same amount of money. That’s almost always the case when a designer low-balls him/herself.

So, to all you job posters out there, with the audacity to write, well, a book of qualifications and job responsibilities like the one above, here’s a newsflash: most reputable designers have a little thing called “self-respect” and we’ve all met your kind before. You are a joke to us. Stories about you become the “worst client ever contest” of storytelling at our cocktail hours. And we’re not flakes either — but people like you, Mr Job Poster, make us so mad that we turn flaky… of course, what you call flaky is what we call “being compensated for the hard work we put forth for piss poor pay.”

After all, the job poster said it himself: Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about. I suggest all designers stay ahead of the pack by steering clear of “jobs” like this.

UPDATE
The job has been reposted, and now the compensation reads “$100-$300” per book. Seeing as my minimum hourly rate is $75 per hour, I think I’ll pass. I’ve designed brochures for more money.

 

Archiving your work – the Old Skool Way January 12, 2009

Most of my friends know that I can be a bit of a pack-rat. It’s a trait I got from my family – so I got it honest. But as of late, I’ve been purging around here – cleaning out closets, going through boxes and just simplifying in general around here. I filled 3 laundry baskets of with clothes, separated computer cords to take to the Goodwill – hopefully someone can use those, and about 87 cosmetic bags from the freebies from Clinique. I even found a Syquest drive from 1997 – the discs are only good for use as coasters at this point – Remember when 280 MB was a huge amount of storage?

Anyway, in a box in the back of my closet, I found a box with stuff from college. Inside, I found slides and photo negatives of stuff I’d done in Drawing I & II and Design I & II. Somehow, back then I had a wise professor that had the foresight to have us take our artwork to have it photographed for posterity. I gasped when I found this stuff. Immediately I began scanning the photos to put them in my archives of work.

I don’t know how stuff is done now – that is, if having work photographed is still the norm as I’ve been out of school for a little over ten years. But, to all design students out there, take your stuff and have photos taken. Or do it yourself. Don’t just rely on a hard drive or a disc to store your stuff. Have hard copies – slides or negatives – of your stuff. You never know when a hard drive will die on you – or fires or natural disasters – I have a friend who lost all her photos in Katrina, for example.

I am so thankful someone told me “Take it & have it photographed” – who knew?

 

Must Read – Designing Thru The Recession January 11, 2009

If you’re a designer, especially freelance, go read this now

 

“Objectified” + my theory of how the PT Cruiser design was born January 10, 2009

Filed under: artists,fonts,HA!,I'm jazzed,time waster — Beth D @ 7:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There’s a new movie coming out by Gary Hustwit – he’s the guy that did “Helvetica” – the new film is titled “Objectified” and the trailer was sent to me this week. Looks great, can’t wait to see it. Click here for the trailer.

I was en route somewhere the other day, with my friend the Film Producer* in the car, and we found ourselves beside a PT Cruiser in traffic. The Producer started this complete diatribe about what a piece of crap car the thing is. I’ve never driven one – never even been in one for that matter – but a few months back, The Producer & her significant other, The Austrian*, had car issues – days dragged on and they found themselves in the possession of a rental PT Cruiser. But not just any PT Cruiser – this was a turquoise blue PT Cruiser. And not only was the outside turquoise blue, the interior was as well. It burned my eyes. I was ashamed to have it parked in my driveway. The color is not found in nature, UNLESS there is some undiscovered bird somewhere in the Amazon that has this particular shade of metallic speckled clear-coat somewhere on it’s body.

At that moment, sitting in traffic, en route to I forget where, the theory of the design of the PT Cruiser was born:

Whoever designed the thing is a ZZ Top fan — Like the #1 fan of ZZ Top – the President of the Fan Club. I imagine “Legs” was blaring as the sketches and clay forms were made, his crazy ZZ Top-esque beard flying in all directions.

Remember the ZZ Top videos from the ’80s? They all involve what I dubbed the “ZZ Top Mobile” – some lady in a miniskirt (leopard print was involved as well as pleather) was in distress at her job selling shoes and viola! The men of ZZ Top appeared in their ZZ Top Mobile – it rolls up, cue the close ups of the side, front and rims of the thing – the details of the car were always highlighted in the videos. Then, they tossed some schmo the keys as they got out, and the keychain – in the shape of the “ZZ” blinged in another close up. And by the end of the video, all was right in the world. They were like rock n’ roll Texas superheros – perhaps their beards and keyring were their superpowers? And, of course, they got the girl, a blonde in the leopard print and miniskirt in the end – after a makeover, of course.

Long story short, the PT Cruiser is the poor man’s ZZ Top mobile.

That is precisely what the guy that designed the PT Cruiser was going for. Except, he didn’t realize two things:

1) men won’t drive it – too girly (even gay men won’t even drive it!)
2) women would drive it – and what this designer failed to realize is this: the women of the ’80s had grown up and they were now middle aged moms driving his version of the ZZ Top Mobile – taking their kids to soccer practice. Not very rock n’ roll at all.

Since MTV won’t let you truly imbed a video, I’m not linking to their website. Seek out their videos on other sites if you haven’t seen them and need a refresher course.

* the neighbors

 

out with ’08 – in with ’09 December 29, 2008

Filed under: artists,I'm jazzed,inspiration — Beth D @ 5:35 pm

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one always brings out the reflective side of me. I guess it does for a lot of people.

Perhaps more-so, this year, for me.

For Christmas, I asked for and received this book.

Besides being beautifully designed and amazing, it’s chocked full of wisdom by someone in my field of work – maxims that began in the author’s personal diary that he turned into graphic work over the years. Personal truths like “Complaining is silly. Either act or forget” and “Over time I get used to everything and start taking it for granted.”

While these actualizations about life are useful to designers in daily work life, they’re useful for everyone else as well. They’re good mantras to live by.

I’ve been thinking a lot since receiving this book about what have I learned in my life so far?

Here’s three*:
– A $2 purchase gives me as much of a thrill as a $200 purchase
– It costs nothing to be kind
– A valuable lesson can be learned from every person I encounter

My 2009 New Years Resolution is a very simple one – to figure out what I’ve learned so far, and put those lessons into practice. Well, actually, maybe that’s not so simple, but I’m a work in progress.

Happy 2009!

—-

*feel free to post the truths you’ve learned in life below in the comments