Crime of Design conscience… again…

Posted on 11.11.2009

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I know that a while ago it was firmly established that I didn’t get into the Design program at MICA because I actually wanted to do design. We know this. I’m a digital artist first. Designer second. Photographer all the time.

I grew to love design when I was in the program, and I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at it. So why all of the issues now?
I’m here, loving my life in Germany and job searching. Unfortunately, I just can’t bring myself to even begin to be interested in the idea of working for a company as an in-house designer. Or even a large design firm. ‘Firm’: put that up on the list right next to the other words that I hate. I am not totally sure why. I’ve narrowed my initial thoughts on the ‘why’ down to my having a mostly terrible experience at TRP (totally independent of the ass I dated there), a terrible experience with my temping agency, being let down by not one or two but THREE independent design firms who held me for far too long with the promise of a full-time position, and of course the bottom feeders I met through CL that needed design. For nothing. Compound this with every asshole guy that has ever said ‘I’d like to meet with you about making my website’ with the full intent of bedding me and zero intent of said website ever being created… and I think I can figure out what my current problem is.
I think my current issue is that I feel like almost every group/company/client/’firm’ in the industry (and lets face it, everyone is our client and therefore everyone is the industry) wants something for nothing. And the worst part is that we train the clients to expect the same. They expect everything but have no idea what everything is. They don’t want to pay what our work is worth, they fail to see the importance of what it is we are doing, they require all of our time, and they want it done yesterday. It’s easy to feel discouraged in this climate.
I’ve met some truly amazing people through design and the industry. Some of my best friends went through school with me and are doing what they love. And I love them for it. But somehow I feel like every designer I meet (that is not a friend) seems to have this air of disdain surrounding them whenever we end up on the subject of design. I met a lady the other night at dinner. I sat right across from her. She was talking with our mutual friend about the possibility of her designing a website for his friend. She just did NOT seem happy. Not even excited. And I decided to not get into a conversation with her about design, because I didn’t want to talk to her about it. It already seemed like she doesn’t enjoy her work. Or maybe she was just really shy.
How can you NOT be excited about what you do? Design aside, why would you NOT make it your goal in life to do exactly what it is that you love? Even if you love shoveling shit, you are still doing what you love. Design is such a wonderful job. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do. Even when there aren’t any exciting projects on the table, Design itself is really exciting. It is EVERYWHERE. It makes decisions for people. It has such a subtle influence on everything and everyone.
The best design jobs I’ve ever had were at Blakeslee when I was an intern and the freelance pro-bono work that I did (do) for good causes. Blakeslee was great because I was learning new things and it was a challenge. It’s also a challenge working with great organizations to try to solve what they need vs what they can afford.
So how do I turn loving design into a job when my favorite jobs are the ones that don’t pay? I could be totally happy to sit here in my office and make personalized books for my friends. And myself. And maybe I will. I don’t care about doing work for big, well known names. Maybe that’s also my problem. I’m not concerned with recognition. I want to bring good design to normal people and normal things.
My best clients have been non-profit organizations I was involved with and friends. I got to know every aspect of them, their lives, the project and I became a part of that, even if only for a little while. I think I’m finding this a little hard now that I am not OUT doing things and meeting new people as often. I can’t find the good people and groups to work for when I’m still not comfortable with the language. My ‘network’ has all but vanished in it’s physical form. Thank goodness for the internet, because it might be what keeps me working.
I know what I love doing and what I am great at: invitations, publications, front-end web design, resumés and identity. And I know why I got involved in art in the first place: fashion, music and because I know I can do better than what already exists… I need to NOT look at in-house jobs based on those last two sentences. I also need to stop thinking and start DOING.
I think that I may be about to go fully freelance. I think I have to re-invent what I do. And it scares the hell out of me.
…And I still think it’s going to require another job, just in case.
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Posted in: graphic design, life