As a Designer: The first 6 years

Just like a newbie mechanic, teacher or street sweeper, you get the cars, the classes and the roads no-one else wants.

But most of it has got nothing to do with designing and a lot to do with people, paperwork & politics

Year 1 & 2: Explaining, Meeting, Fighting

  • Explaining to people with MBAs why it is they shouldn’t use yellow text on a black background.
  • Explaining why the new website won’t be done the same day it was briefed in.
  • Explaining brand positioning and why it matters
  • Explaining why digital advertising isn’t “whacky” or “futuristic” (in 2009)
  • Explaining that you’ve been in art school for the past five years and you really do know what you’re talking about.
  • Explaining why the thing you knew you were talking about ended up being a total disaster
  • Meeting to brainstorm
  • Meeting with consultants who charge a fortune to confirm what you’ve already said
  • Meeting clients at their location; birthday gift in-hand
  • Meeting about how we are having too many meetings (this really happened).
    Once or twice I was called into a meeting at 09:30 which ending at 6pm. I think that’s when you know it’s gone too far.
  • Fighting for budget.
  • Fighting for equipment
  • Fighting for time
  • Fighting for a thinner font
  • Fighting for a bolder colour
  • Fighting for a shorter copy deck.
  • Fighting for a meeting with the MD so you can fight for an opportunity to fight for your idea to the board of directors.

Year 3 & 4 Losing. Managing. Winning.

  • Losing pitches because we went into execution too soon
  • Losing clients
  • Losing your work because Photoshop wasn’t always as good at recovering files as it is today.
  • Losing sleep about an image choice
  • Losing your mind about licensing
  • Losing your job because of a massive economic sideswipe no one saw coming
  • Winning pitches.
  • Winning awards
  • Winning the tepid approval of your boss’s boss. (Yesss)
  • Winning a thank you or a well done from a client (probably the most powerful win)
  • Running with an idea that might not work, but feels right.
  • Running to the shop to go find the product so you can get a product shot because you can’t wait for the client to give it to you.
  • Running out of time and cutting all of your favorite parts off (the project that is) to hit the deadline
  • Running out of patience. (I think it could be scientifically proven that everyone has a certain number of “sh*ts to give” that depreciate year-on-year until you’re an old man sitting on your porch shooting at salesmen). Someone get on this.

Year 5 & 6 Disagreeing. Pushing. Managing.

  • Arguing against spending 150k on a magazine that 7000 people read.
     Seriously, if you put that money into a YouTube pre-roll you would have 1.5million (min) impressions versus 2000 (max) impressions
  • Arguing about user journeys (Bill isn’t the type of guy who would know what that symbol means. You don’t know Bill! You don’t know his life!)
  • Arguing about development with people who are much smarter than you
  • Arguing about designs that were signed off weeks ago.
  • Arguing about terminology
  • Arguing about whether you should or shouldn’t do wireframes (who fucking should)
  • Pushing back on changes.
  • Pushing your teammates to deliver on time.
  • Pushing for an idea and having it shot down because it’s “gimmicky”.
  • Pushing for a clearer brief
  • Managing timelines that you initially think are unmanageable.
  • Managing files (this is honestly a huge part of being a good designer IMHO)
  • Managing morale late into the night
  • Managing to get award entries done on time
  • Managing to maintain a relationship with my significant other while working an average of 14 hours a day.

Being a designer is great. It’s one of the most creative, rewarding vocations fathomable. I’m hugely appreciative of the people who’ve taught me so much and to the people who’ve given me the opportunity to do what I love. The struggle must be embraced — it’s most of the experience, but it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading this far.

If you’re just out of school and thinking of perusing a career as a designer, check out the four site I visit religiously every day.

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