I’m not a designer anymore.
I’ve been a graphic designer for ten years and approximately two weeks ago, I made the decision..not to be.
Let me take you back. I studied 3D animation. I was bad at it. I ended up in graphic design somehow. Ten years passed. The end.
Okay, so it’s a little more complicated than that.
First off, let me say that I didn’t completely suck at 3D animation. I did pass after all. I was just young, lazy and kind of stupid, and ultimately that is the point of this article.
People can’t possibly be expected to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives when they’re in their late teens or even early twenties. You will never be more stupid than in those years. I’m convinced even young children are smarter than you during that time.
(Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. It probably has something to do with hormones.)
And yet this is the time when you are expected to make alarmingly permanent life choices. What to choose as a career, should you put said career first or pursue a long-term relationship, who to marry if you’re in to that sort of thing, whether or not have kids (again, not for everyone), even where to live at this point could impact where you can afford to live later. Do you try to invest in property early? Or leave it until later? And with that in mind, should you pick a career that can make you a lot of money early or one that has higher rewards later on? Etcetera, etcetera.
It really is no wonder that the majority of people will change careers at least once in their lives.
Let’s be clear, this is not a problem.
Many people would view a career change after many years as wasteful or worse, as some sort of failure. This is probably why most people won’t admit it when they feel the urge to venture into a new field, especially as they grow older.
It would be almost impossible to pinpoint the catalyst for a career change. For most it seems to be a slow boil over years that culminates in a do or die moment.
Any yet for some, like me, it may be the realisation that the choice you made so long ago wasn’t the right one. I have genuinely enjoyed graphic design. I even enjoyed studying 3D animation but when I look back and trace the path that led to me to make that decision it is ultimately a list of compromises and decisions made under a pressure to choose which is strangely condensed in relation to the duration of your life.
I used to think it was because I didn’t have a conventional high school career i.e. I didn’t have a high school career but I’m not so sure. I think the majority of high school graduates leave school feeling more lost than ever. The past few years of their lives have been nothing but wasteful routine, homework, standardised tests, sporadic chores and the occasional extracurricular sport.
What have they learned about a shitty client shouting at them, or making a genuine mistake that costs their company money, what it’s like to sit in traffic every day for an hour or what kind of job they can sustain for approximately 70% of their life?
Nothing of course. And why would they? They haven’t experienced life beyond school yet, so where would they experience these things? How are they suppose to study and live the life of an adult at the same time? How are they supposed to make such an important decision, one that will likely cost a substantial amount of money, based on pretty much nothing?
They can’t. Obviously.
And that’s the very problem with choosing a career at that age. You have zero point of reference. Nothing to base your choice on except for some hobbies or vague interests. They may even be passions, things that you feel very strongly about but that does not always equal a career. In fact, there is no quicker way to kill a beloved hobby than to try and make it into a job for life.
So far the solution seems to have evaded us. Perhaps gap years help. Or a few years of interning or job shadowing in various disciplines. More specifically in this case, some exposure to the design world would certainly help when making the decision to be a graphic designer but this is easier said than done.
I will say this much to those considering a career in graphic design: most designers spend their entire careers in the industry and never feel the need to leave. Some even love it to the point of passion. Others will reach a point where they feel like the result is no longer worth the effort required. Perhaps they’ve had one too many bad experiences with fussy clients or they’ve simply outgrown it in their own way.
Or perhaps like me, they’ve realised that even though they may appreciate great design, they’ve never been able to achieve it on a satisfactory level because it just isn’t important enough to them.
Unfortunately, you don’t get to know which one you’ll be before hand.
If I went back in time, would I choose to be a graphic designer again? Perhaps I would, but that was ten years ago. Ten-years-ago me is very different to today me. Ultimately, this is why careers often change.
Relationships between people, whether they are friendships, romances or even marriages end because the people involved change over the years until they are no longer compatible.
Why should careers be any different?