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Turning it all off for the holidays.

I work hard. Like really hard. When I interview for jobs or talk to students about what I do when I’m not grading all of their sketchbooks and projects, I list out all the things I’m working on. Usually before I actually finish the list people look completely overwhelmed or just stop me (If you want a full list, I’ll be happy to relay it to you). These days I always chuckle a little bit at this literally repetitious situation.

I really like to work...

Through the direct teachings of my parents and watching my grandparents who were raised in the Depression Era, I learned that working hard was a skill like everything else. That not everyone had it, but by having that skill it would take care of me. It certainly has. I have earned a lot of opportunities and had a lot of successes by working hard. Through teaching, I have also been able to pass it on to another generation of designers. That feels pretty damn good. Plus, I also just like working. It makes me feel like I’m contributing to society and luckily I chose a field that I love, so I don’t mind working on design every single day. Then sometimes you just have to work too. It’s called bills. It’s called being an adult. We’re a big club and we meet every Tuesday…hehe

However, it has taken me years of working 15-18 hour days on all my various projects, to realize that sometimes you just have to turn it all off. Don’t worry, I’m not fighting the battle on technology over-use today. But at some points in your life, you have to decide to power down and let things rest. There are 100 analogies for this from letting a souffle rest before serving it or putting a garden to “bed” over the winter so it can replenish its nutrients for the next year. Same goes for us.

It was only today that I looked up, saw a calendar and realized that Christmas is NEXT WEEK. I retraced my days on the calendar, tried to figure out where I had lost a day here and there and still came to the conclusion the Christmas is next week. So it was then that I realized that it was time to step back and turn it all off. Finish what I needed to do professionally, and then when it was all done, to put down my hard-working badge of honor. Harder than you might think. But you can do it. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate during this time, make the conscious decision to go be with some people you love, try out that new recipe you’ve been considering for weeks, and just switch into a different (and well-deserved) gear.

By taking my own advice, this will be my last blog post until January 5. I hope each of you have a really wonderful holiday season and you decide to turn it all off for a while and tend to the other aspects of yourself, other than your hard-working self. You’ll be happy you did.

A little pep talk

The last couple of week has been nothing short of crazy, hectic, involved, stressful, and just plain nutso. Whether is was employee changes at work requiring me to take on the work of three designers or stress from my personal life, it’s been hard.

I write this post because I know that I can do with a pep talk and I’m sure anyone reading this is also going through their own hectic lives, trying to make everything line up and come out on the other end relatively unscathed. I still have a few burn marks from previous encounters and I’m sure you do too.

So let’s get a few things straight:
1. It’s Friday. That means that you made it to the end of the week and most likely you can take a little time to recover now.

2. You are working your hardest and that’s all that matters. People might be inclined to ask more of you, but there is only one of you and a finite amount of hours in a day. Remember this. I tend to get a no excuses mentality going when I’m stressed. Don’t do that. There are physical limits to this world and physical limits to yourself. Let me know if you manage to find 26 hour days…

3. You do not suck. I’m positive that everyone that receives this blog post through my mailing list, does not suck. You actually rock or I wouldn’t be sharing this blog with you. People will continue to try to mess with you and get you doubting yourself. Do not let them. Trying to get something done and thinking that you suck? Yeah, that’s going to go well. So just stop there. YOU DO NOT SUCK. If anyone questions that, just send them my way…

4. Know when to call it quits. There is nothing that is perfect. Damn close exists, but you have to be able to recognize it and its cousin that’s not so perfect, but is no less appealing. Make your goals and deadlines and if you reach them, then take what’s on screen and send it on. Remember, you don’t suck, so your work probably doesn’t either. So send your work on and see what happens. I’m sure it will all work out and if it doesn’t, then you start again. But to just keep going over and over and over something doesn’t do anything but wear it thin and leave you with a less-than-fresh solution. Just like fish, only the fresh sells.

5. Lastly, stop being so hard on yourself. This is kind of like #3, but on a more personal level. There are only so many hours in a day, only one of you, only so many hours before a deadline, and only so many revisions you can do on anything. Things do come up, putting you behind schedule, you will get sick, you will miss a deadline, you will a lot of things. But don’t let one event define everything else. It will just make the whole overall process harder. I speak from experience.

So there you have it. That is my pep talk to you and myself. This pep talk also isn’t just for designers either. This is one of those things that everyone deals with in some form. Some might apply to you, and some might not. But no one ever said, “Things aren’t going great, but no thank you. Your pep talk is not necessary.” Or maybe it has been said, but those people are insane.

Chin up readers and consider yourself pepped!

Prozac for designers?

So I’m starting to notice an interesting trend with designers: They’re not happy. Now is not a good time to be looking for a job, but as big as the design community seems, it can get small, and well, people hear things. I was recently talking to a college design friend of mine and she told me of a friend of hers who was an English major (mind you, no graphic design training ever) who just got a job at a MAJOR publishing house designing book jackets. Fair? Well it certainly doesn’t seem so.

That situation is a designer’s worse nightmare (well, at least tied with the use clip art) and this phenomenon seems to be happening more and more. I know that since working at my current location, many new graphic design candidates don’t have any design credentials and their portfolio reflects that. But then when I bring this issue up, I’m looked at like I’m the crazy one. I’ve found that in the world of graphic designers there are two separate schools of thought when talking credentials. One school says: It makes no difference if you’ve been to art school and had any training. If the portfolio work is good, then it’s good. The second school says: Formal training is valuable and necessary to give a designer a good creative base and some experience with working with clients. I come from the second school. I think the first school of thought is the exception to the rule. There are those out there who just pick up graphic design and who are great. But without some formal training, or an apprenticeship even, I just don’t see how they would have truly developed work or personal style.

I think everyone is creative in their own way (that’s the future teacher talking in me) but I don’t think that means that everyone is a graphic designer. But with new online schools offering people to become graphic designers in 12 months or less, well I’m certainly stopping to ponder this point more and more. Now regardless that I’ve said all this, it doesn’t mean that people without formal design training are going to stop applying for graphic design jobs or putting work out there. So the solution? Try not to let it get you down (easier said than done, I know. I really do). There are going to be situations such as the one I described above that just DOES NOT make logical sense. However, remember that your degree does count and that you worked hard to get it. Most likely you met many of your best colleagues and friends in that program, learned that fine craftsmanship is a skill honed after many hours of working (not a given), and that there is a whole community out there to support you. As for getting that stellar job, I have a feeling when the right future employer comes along, they’ll be able to tell the difference between you and someone that thinks comic sans is an appropriate font.