Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

Welcome KnoxNews readers December 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Beth D @ 8:17 pm

I’ve been crazy busy here lately, chipping away at project after project — one big one left the printer today and I’m slamming to get another one out the door.

But I wanted to take the time to say a huge round of “thanks” to the folks over at KnoxNews for the link.
If you’re reading me by virtue of their link, welcome.

Once things settle down around here, I have some things to talk about… stay tuned.

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The Truth About Graphic Design November 17, 2008

I’m always amused at how people find my blog. I normally get a lot of “Michael Jackson + Bubbles” or “Jeff Koons + Prince + toy poodle + latex.”

“Tonight, I saw a search for “Truth About Graphic Design Industry” in the search list.

Heh.

You want the truth?

I’ll give you the truth.

THE BAD NEWS

(A) You won’t get rich. If you’re entering this profession thinking you’re going to be printing money, I suggest you seek other avenues of employment. There are months that I do well. Others, I could probably do better asking “do you want fries with that?” or working at the Gap.

(B) If you’re thinking “oh, I’ll get to meet famous people…” — ok, in Nashville, on occasion it could happen. I’ve met, I think, 3 people of note through my job — the coolest being this lady — a friend of a client. She was ultra amazing and a total English lady in every sense of the word. Oh, and she’s still beautiful. I have photos with her and she even indulged me with an autographed press photo for my brother, a huge James Bond fan. We had nice conversations while chain-smoking cigarettes as she regaled me with stories of her time in the movies, her rounds in Hollywood and her work on “Goldfinger.”

(C) “…oh, maybe I’ll get famous, like Michael Beirut, David Carson or Stefan Sagmeister…” — don’t count on it. Chip Kidd said it best: “famous designer is like famous electrician”

(D) If you’re going into this field and you have an ego — you better lose it quick. Sooner or later (sooner, rather than later) you will have to sell out. Get used to selling out. Once, a friend of mine asked me “do you love everything that you design?” — I laughed and said “No! But the checks cash the same.” With that said, always do your best and give your all. But, note, there will be limitations — like images you have to pull from the internet or someone’s low resolution vacation photo they want to incorporate into the project. In these cases, refer to the famous words of one Mr. Tim Gunn (“Project Runway”) and “…make it WORK!”

(E) Get used to wearing a lot of hats — especially if you’re a freelancer. I’ve done the freelance thing for almost 5 years. I am the receptionist, the cleaning lady, the accountant, bills payable & receivable, customer service, order fulfillment, production artist, creative director, liaison (between printer and designer), typesetter, photo retoucher, editor and copywriter, just to name a few.

(F) To be a great graphic designer, you must learn to handle criticism well. Would I like every project to be my own ideas and a masterpiece? Sure. But there are always the clients that have their own visions. And those visions are unique to the client – and many times the client has a completely different approach that is refreshing. Learn to listen. It’s not about the designer, after all. It’s about a happy client.

(G) The client is always right. Now, mind you if they want your Photoshop files, you should refer to this post — but most of the time, you need to listen to the direction of what the client is requesting artistically.

(H) Above all else, you will be suited to this field if you meet one requirement: sitting in front of a computer and sketch book, drawing, dreaming and creating — and the whole time you’re doing these things, it is NOT WORK. I adore what I do. Do I get insane at times? Absolutely. But I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have friends who have desk jobs pushing paper — and the grand majority of them hate it with a burning passion.

THE GOOD NEWS

(A) I contain so much excitement and passion for the field I am in. There is magic in my profession. I can’t think of any other gig where you could say to 50 people “give me this product at the end, you have to use photos A, B, and C and it has to meet requirement 1, 2, 3, and 4” — and in the end you could have 50 results that meet the specifications.

(B) This is probably my favorite characteristic about my colleagues: graphic designers are a very sharing and giving community. There have been times I’ve been assigned a type of project that I’d never done before and I’ve had questions as to how to tackle the job. In those cases, I called up another designer or two – I’ve even emailed designers I didn’t really know – to seek advice; the common thread is that everyone has always been happy to help and give me counsel. We’re a tight group — we’ve all been through the war, so to speak.

(C) A fantastic perk of my job is that every day is different. There is no way to get bored. Then there are all the things one can learn — in the past few months I’ve learned about a Creek Indian leader, Pioneers of Cardiac Surgery, and the Planetarium at the Adventure Science Center of Nashville. I am always being presented an opportunity to find out new things. I feel so incredibly blessed to make a living doing something I consider fun and exciting and engaging.

(D) Graphic Designers are some of the most fun people you will ever meet. I love every single, solitary designer friend of mine. And I meet new ones all the time. We’re a well rounded and diverse group. And we usually have really fun parties or at least the invite to one.

(E) You get to write off all your cool technology from the Apple store. The iPhone is worth the blood, sweat and tears, right?

So, if you can take the good with the (sometimes) bad, then I’d say you are suited for a career as a graphic designer.

Good luck… if you’re willing to hang in there through this economy, you’re in for a treat.

 

Freelance Graphic Designers in a Wonky Economy November 16, 2008

If you’re a freelance graphic designer, or a freelancer in general, do yourself a favor, and read this

 

The Native (Files) Are Restless November 11, 2008

I had a dilemma arise this week that I’ve never encountered before.

First, a little background:

I took on the task of a project that seemed simple enough at first – design a packaging for a product. Upon the initial client meeting, I was handed a disc of art files and additional materials instructing me on how the client wanted the product to look. We also agreed upon a flat fee, half of which I received up front.

Last Friday, I began the project as I had awaited one final element to begin the design process. I spent over seven hours on Friday working on the project — this included looking for two types of photographs that can only be described as obscure. That task was only complicated more as the client didn’t have the money to spend on any type of professional photography services, nor did said client have the money to purchase anything from a stock photo site on the web. Basically, I had little or nothing to work with.

I ended up getting severely lucky with one of the elements. The other, he happened to have what he needed in his possession and took his own photographs and sent to me. After acquiring those two photographic elements, I spent six hours cutting the background out from one of the elements – the other photo, I gleaned the piece of the photo I needed which amounted to exhausting that one element of the photo, using Photoshop to enlarge it and adding more to what was previously not there before.

Then, over the weekend I got an email from the client. The email stated that the project was to be at the printer today (Monday). I replied to the email and explained that deadline was virtually impossible as I had only received photographic elements mid-afternoon on Friday and was still knee-deep in the design of the project. He relented and said Tuesday would be a workable deadline.

So, today I sent a second proof via email. The client and another person involved pow-wowed on the proof, sent back edits and I reworked the project to their exact specifications. I went down the list, checking things off.

Tonight, after sending the second proof off, I got an email asking that I send the native Photoshop files to him — that he would like to work with them and that it “must be the designer in him.”

WTF?

Now, I don’t know about other designers, but this here are my things about this:

I spent years in college honing my art skills and my design capabilities. And I’ve spent 10+ years working professionally as a graphic designer. I have what it takes to get a project to a final conclusion that I am proud of. I have a portfolio full of projects I am proud of and clients I am blessed to have a continued working relationship.

In all those years that I have spent, I have learned many things. Why should I turn over my intellectual property to someone who can just take this and that and reuse it for their own profit?

Also, knowledge is power. I possess a design and computer proficiency that makes my talent valuable. I know how to set up a file for print and I can muddle my way through a certain amount of web design. If everyone knew how to do this, my profession would cease to exist. And if I just hand over my knowledge to every client that asks, aren’t I devaluing my design knowledge and artistic skills and running my own business into the ground?

Also, once I hand over the Photoshop files, it ceases to be MY work.

I consulted the web to see what other people had done in my situation. The results were all over the map. But the general consensus seems to be that a graphic designer is only beholden to give up the final files for printing, NOT the workable native Photoshop files. Those are the designer’s intellectual property.

One person made the comment that the PSD files contain “trade secrets” — I guess I’d have to agree with that. I have a certain way of creating certain looks within my design. I’ll be the first to admit, one way I learned a lot about Photoshop was from looking at other designers Photoshop files. Who is to say that some fly by night person who bought Photoshop won’t do the same? (There’s no way this person will be able to reach the learning curve my PSD files would throw his way… I’m not terribly worried about that, actually…)

I spoke online to a former classmate of mine tonight. She echoed my point of view on another facet of this topic — why aren’t graphic designers taught business courses? My classmate and I, during our college years, were required to take FOUR semesters of foreign language. Now, I’m not putting down the need to be bilingual in any sense, but we both agreed that those four semesters would have been better spent in business classes that specifically dealt with the ethics of graphic design and selling art. And for the record.. all my four years of Spanish taught me was how to order a beer and find a bathroom — which in my opinion, are the two basic things needed to when speaking that language.

In the end, after I calmed down after receiving the email, I emailed a response to my client and explained that the question he broached made me uncomfortable and I found it somewhat unethical to pose such a request. But I also added that as I am a designer that works with my clients, although every bit of me that values my design skills was against it, I would send him the files. BUT any edits that are made to them are subject to an additional fee as this could lead to a disruption of my work flow. I told him I’m sure he would understand me amending my end of the agreement (my fee) as he was amending his (hiring me to do the design work exclusively without outside interference).

I’ve yet to hear back.

What do you think?

 

Billions, Scmillions… October 7, 2008

I can’t remember if I wrote anything here about my favorite design/nerd documentary, but if I have, forgive the repeat — go here and have an ’80s game flashback.

I was reading several blogs, to see what other designers are saying about our economy. And I stumbled across this post — which includes the PDF of Lehman’s Bankruptcy notice.

The typeface of the document?

Helvetica

h/t: Design Observer

 

Running on Empty September 20, 2008

I normally stay on topic around here and keep my conversations on the subject of art and design.

Today will be one of those days where I veer off course.

As I’m sure most of you know, we’re having a bit of an adventure when it comes to getting gasoline in Nashville. Yesterday was the tipping point — estimates are that between 60 – 85% of gas stations are dry currently.

Yesterday afternoon, I see where the story is linked from The Drudge Report. Great. Now we totally look like idiots on the national level.

This morning, I see this story on CNN.

“Everybody has just gone nuts,” said Mike Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Petroleum Council.

He said he has no idea about the origin of a rumor that there was going to be no gas in Nashville. One reporter called him, saying she had heard that Nashville would be without gas within the hour, he said.

Hearing the rumor, drivers rushed to fill their cars and trucks.

“no idea about the origin of a rumor”?????

REALLY?

Because, apparently Mr Williams has had his head under a rock all week as the Tennessean, the NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates here have been adding fuel to the fire (sorry, pardon the pun) all week!

Yesterday, the Tennessean, our local newspaper, even went as far as to put a VIDEO LINK showing the mass hysteria at the Tiger Market on 12th and Broadway!!!!!!!!!  That’s right, inject more fear into the situation.

As I work at home and might put a 1/2 tank of gas into my car every month, I won’t point fingers at the people who need gas to take their kids to school or get to work. That is legitimate need. But to hoard gas to fill up a lawnmower or boat? That’s irresponsible, pure and simple.

On another note:

Yesterday was one of the rare occasions I had to leave the house and meet with a client. The meeting was held about 16 miles from me, in an outlying suburb of Nashville, known for the high income residents that populate the subdivisions around a large mall. As I was leaving the meeting, I pulled up behind a gigantic SUV* — this one came close to the size of a Hummer. The bumper-sticker adhered to the back said “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less” — now, I got called an environmental snob via Twitter over my comment (hi Matt!) that the owner of this automobile is an idiot. But I maintain that anyone who is driving something that gets less than 10 MPG is an idiot to have the audacity to put that on the back of their car.

I think we should drill here, for the record. But should we drill here so Mr/Mrs Gigantic SUV can suck more fuel through his/her gas guzzler? Absolutely not.

—————–

*For the record, I drive an SUV as well. But the difference is, mine gets 27 mpg.