Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

Misconception A: “Graphic Design is easy and not much work” November 18, 2008

Filed under: artists,I'm jazzed,jobs,method,organization — Beth D @ 4:15 am
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Truth: I just finished my 13th hour of design for the day. You have got to love this gig to do it. Fortunately, I love it. The time has flown… I feel like I just sat down 3 hours ago and am amazed at what I’ve managed to accomplish. I love days like today. I live for them, when everything just clicks!

The newsletter I’ve worked on all day is almost done. Tomorrow, I resume the next project – a companion piece to a holiday event here in town. I’ve already put in about 3 days of work on that project. Mainly, the time has been spent on organization and other housekeeping items. Making a list and checking it twice types of things. T’is the season. I’ll post more about that project in the future. I experienced a bit of design block over the weekend when I was trying to come up with something. I cured that by getting out and socializing on Saturday & Sunday – which has been few and far between in my life in the past few months. That seems to always do the trick – get away from the computer and let the mind play. While out I got to hang with a lot of friends that happen to be in the design and photography field. There’s no escape! (ha!)

In other news, I have a meeting tomorrow that I think will be interesting. The meeting is in the morning & I’m so NOT a morning person either. The meeting involves coffee, so there’s hope that I’ll have some comprehension when the caffeine kicks in. The cool thing is, I’ll be on the other side of the table from which I am accustomed. I kind of dig that, a full circle kind of moment.


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.


You want the truth?

I’ll give you the truth.


(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.


(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.


The Lost Art of 9/11 September 11, 2008

Seven years ago today. Hard to believe it’s been seven years.

I know we all remember too well where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. And watching the coverage today, the feelings and emotions come flooding back. Strange, it just doesn’t seem like seven years.

Through my artistic interests, I’ve run across ties into world events. Strangely enough, the first time I had heard of the Taliban, I was reading a copy of “Art News” at the job I held at the time. It was a short article about a small sect of religious zealots that had blown up these amazing Buddha statues. I remember at the time, thinking how twisted people must be to destroy such amazing and ancient works. Little did I know they were capable of so much more evil.

Among the almost 3,000 lives that were extinguished seven year ago, $100 million in art was lost as well.

Right, I know that art is meaningless when compared to a human life, and that’s not my point here. Art goes on as does our lives as survivors. Another painting can be painted, another sculpture sculpted; not so with the human lives that were snuffed out on that day.

Still, it’s rather astounding how much great art was contained in those two buildings in lower Manhattan. Among the 9/11 art losses:

– “The World Trade Center Tapestry” by Spanish Artist Joan Miro – one of two the artist ever created.

"World Trade Center Tapestry" by Joan Miro'

-“The Entablature Series” Roy Lichtenstein

– Paintings by Pablo Picasso and David Hockney were also destroyed

– B Gerald Cantor, the namesake of Cantor Fitzgerald, was the largest private collector of Rodin sculptures. A portion of this collection, some 300 sculptures as well as drawings, was lost in the attack.

– “Recollection Pond” – a tapestry by Romare Bearden

– approximately 40,000 negatives of photography by Jacques Lowe documenting the Presidency of John F. Kennedy

“Bent Propeller” by Alexander Calder, a 25 foot sculpture that was exhibited in the courtyard, survived, although it was crushed by falling debris. Though most of the bent remains is co-mingled with portions of the debris of the WTC, Calder’s grandson has vowed to restore it if enough pieces are found. It is thought that the rest of the sculpture is at the Fresh Kills site on Staten Island, the location where theWTC debris was relocated and sorted. There is conjecture about the restoration of the sculpture — some think it should be restored, some think it shouldn’t – while others think the current condition of the piece is now an unintentional work, created by tragedy. I guess I find myself siding on the final of the three views. The event marked the piece with a brushstroke of history, if you will.

Calder sculpture before 9/11

Calder sculpture before 9/11

Calder sculpture after 9/11

Calder sculpture after 9/11

Perhaps the best known piece of art from the WTC is “The Sphere” by German artist Fritz Koenig — it survived although it is badly mangled and is now on display, dents and all, with an eternal flame at the 9/11 memorial in Battery Park.

The Sphere after 9/11

The Sphere after 9/11

From the artistic standpoint, I always seem to view things a little differently.

Call it looking for something hopeful and beautiful out of something so horrible — perhaps that’s a poor choice of words — but the way I see it, out of great tragedy, comes some of the great art of the world — that’s the thought that crossed my mind as I immersed myself in news coverage.

I came across this link today, buried in the stories on the internet — it’s a slideshow of many of the memorials made from the steel from the World Trade Center — and it’s worth a look.

And, of course, as you view all this art, and all the aftermath, take time to remember the people who lost their lives in the tragedy.


I heart Jeff Koons

There is something about Jeff Koon’s “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” life size in porcelain sitting in the palace of Versailles that makes me smile.


Artistic Snobbery July 10, 2008

I watched this documentary the other night, “Who the *$&# is Jackson Pollock?”

It’s the story of a retired female long-haul truck driver, Terri Horton. She purchased a painting for $5 at the local thrift store for a friend. The friend ended up hating the painting (and it wouldn’t fit through the door of her trailer), so Ms Horton ended up keeping it — eventually a friend saw it and told her “wow, that looks like something by Jackson Pollock” — which led Ms. Horton on a quest to get the painting authenticated.

It’s a really entertaining story and Ms Horton is a character with a tenacious drive to get someone in the art world to take her seriously. I won’t spoil the story, but in her endeavor, she came upon some real jerks — specifically the guy who used to run the MOMA, Thomas Hoving.

Herein lies the issue I have with the film — well, not specifically the film, but the powers that be in the art world.

(A) Most artists are not the eat cheese and drink wine types. They aren’t a part of the monied society people. This is where the dichotomy meets… the starving artists sells a painting to the monied folk, where the price is driven up even higher. The commodity the artist sold is now the very thing that separates him/her from the establishment. Sure, some artists become rock stars and very wealthy, but those are very few and far between. For example, Van Gogh died penniless whereas his art continues to set new records with each sale.

(B) The treatment of this woman with the possible Pollock painting made me sad. Few people took her seriously because she didn’t travel in the circles of the artistic establishment. If this were Steve Wynn, Dennis Hopper or Elton John – serious celebrity art collectors – the process would have become much more seamless and I imagine the painting would be hailed as a new discovery of a lost Pollock work. Snobbery is at the heart of this issue… and that infuriates me.

Visual art is like music – it cuts across socio-economic divides. But unlike music, there is a divide that is established by the monied faction of people who maintain that the art world should contain a void to keep the unwashed masses from attaining certain works. I have always found and continue to find that attitude unsettling.

For the art world to open it’s doors to all people – which isn’t going to happen – would be a win win for everyone. Artists would enjoy much more publicity and the public would be rewarded with an enriching experience. But sadly, there will always be the gatekeepers – like the ticket scalpers who drive up concert ticket prices that keep the die-hard fans away — and that’s where the art world is cutting it’s own ear off to spite it’s head.


‘Skine Art April 25, 2008

A link for inspiration today since it’s Friday.

This makes my head spin… something to aspire to.


Prince & The Artistic Revolution

Filed under: artistic angst,controversy,history,inspiration,method — Beth D @ 4:38 am
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I was watching this thing on VH1 Classics the other night, caught the middle of it – a documentary about Prince, “The Prince Of Paisley Park.” The documentary included all this old footage of the era of the “Lovesexy” Tour and included interviews with the band members – Sheila E and all the others whose names escape me. They were sharing their recollections of what it was like back in the day to tour with Prince and how creative and demanding he was – but that it was all worth it because they were in the presence of artistic genius.

So, I’m sitting there watching this with a friend. The footage changed from the interviews to live footage from a concert and back and forth. At one point, my friend, an audio guy, commented on how bad the sound was (Nashville!) and how could anyone possibly get any enjoyment out of the show because of the sound and how the tempo was off, etc. And something struck a chord in me watching this coupled with his reaction.

I told him that the whole deal wasn’t for other people to get enjoyment… that the whole purpose of an artist creating is to get the art out. Most of the time — when commerce is not involved — when I create a drawing, painting or take photos and tweak them, it’s not for the world at large. It’s for me. I have to have some kind of artistic release. It’s a really hard concept to explain to people, but that’s the best I can do. Honestly, I’d never really thought about how my creative flow related and paralleled the angst of songwriters/musicians, but at that moment it clicked. It’s almost like the need to burp or have a good cry.

Legend has it that Prince has all these recordings of songs that he’s never released. Albums and albums worth. My creations parallel that to a much smaller extent – I’ve got tons of artwork that I’ve hoarded – my own stuff that might never see the light of day, but it’s like a disconnected visual journal, of a string of particular moments in time.

Prince isn’t creating that music for the consumption of the masses — well, he is in a way, to keep money flowing, but mainly, he’s doing it because he has to. It’s like inhaling and exhaling. I’ve heard often from songwriters that they hear the song in their head and have to put it down on paper, or at least release the sound into the world. The same concept is at work for visual artists. Sometimes you just have to get the paint out.

In another part of the story, Sheila E was talking about how all the band members would learn the show, and the next day Prince would change the whole thing and they’d have to learn it all over again. Another “Ah-Ha!” moment for me. Perfectionism is a weird thing. And when perfectionism cross-pollenates with art, it’s dangerous business. There have been many times I’ve created something and then just when I think it’s a great idea, and the work is long gone, I think “Whoa, I should have done this, I show have added that, this would have taken it to a whole other level” — the process is never-ending because it’s a process. And while it’s frustrating, it is part of having artistic DNA.

I can’t imaging being an accountant. I bet Prince can’t either.