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Here. Not Anywhere Else.
Guest Editorial by Alison Matheny

This morning I put on my classic black interview dress, organized my “student work” portfolio and hailed a cab uptown. People are such idiot cab stealers, I thought. Due to the 20 minute delay in getting a cab, I would now be 3 minutes late, work up extra nerves and have a refreshing layer of perspiration to greet my potential new employer. I would leave feeling good about my work, confident in my presentation and genuinely excited. Much like a first date, I would wait for their call, all the while beginning to doubt myself and my potential. This is me in New York. Freaked out and vulnerable.

When I was in school I pictured New York City nights filled with heady job security, champagne, my friends and me laughing in wedge heels. I would find inspiration from the street; I would wow creative directors with my ambition and determination. I would earn the whole package because I really wanted it. Scribbling “remember you love this” over again in my design journal seemed to validate me as a designer. Or rather, a Designer–with a capital D, with self-esteem and confidence, ready to change the world by way of filling up the white space. Often it takes telling myself that out loud in order for me to really believe it.

In juxtaposition to my New York City dream, my nights are now filled with economy sized bottles of wine, scouring the Internet for unsuspecting design firms and freelance projects that won’t pay enough. I think false expectations pretty much sums it up. From people, myself, the industry. Turns out a book and a dream get me pretty much just that. Sometimes I think it’s all a load and I should just move home to Florida and work for a mundane corporation that wants me, relish in biweekly paychecks and sandy beaches. But then I would be a wimp, and that’s not something I can really want on my resume. Instead I choose to love design as much as I did when it wasn’t paying the bills, and relish in the freedom and unique opportunity given to me by the power of freelance.

Somehow design seems a much more passionate field than selling encyclopedias door to door or making millions on Wall Street. You have to take responsibility for your work, even if it is creating a PowerPoint presentation with clipart and words like “team building.” For me, being in New York City is coming to terms with my reality. Knowing who I am and what I’ll stand for and not making excuses for it (with emphasis on not making excuses). I am now coming to believe that a heartfelt defined and designed soul is far greater an accomplishment than a surface print ad in a decorated design annual. And, honestly, I hope that doesn’t change with experience. I try to remember now, that my inexperienced advice can also be the best. It reminds me of what I wanted before things got complicated. It reminds me to be true to myself. That myself is good enough.

I want to always be able to recognize if something is pretty just because I like it. Or if a logo works just because it is plain. Can my design knowledge and opinion be based solely on creating something simple and meaningful, devoid of the politics and corporate climbing that now seem so necessary?

Is it so amateur of me to think of this as a career? Getting excited about Fashion Week, saving clippings from catalogues, doing a really awesome rendition of Freedom by George Michael. These are things I pride myself in. Is it possible to do what I love and actually be recognized for it by someone besides my mom? Or will my inexperience crust over with logic and client restrictions, leaving me working overtime because I have to, not because I want to?

Saul Bass said, “A career is built on a series of successes, not just one flashy hit.” “Successes” for me right now are making rent, having my work in CMYK magazine or finally landing that interview. And I’m learning to be okay with that. The glamourous life of the designer I still want to be–the kind that sketches and makes champagne toasts and writes and collects and travels on the weekends–I still think will come someday. And as I sit here typing to the sounds of perverted workermen digging a hole in the sidewalk outside my apartment, I think of where I was a year ago and how much has changed, how much I have learned and grown as a designer and as a person. And I truly know that counts for something.

Alison Matheny attended the University of Florida and Portfolio Center before moving her life to New York City. Originally from Florida, she enjoys long walks on the beach (for real), overeating and delicate sabotage.

Currently Alison is freelancing while living with a big dog in a small Manhattan apartment. In her freetime she enjoys painting, writing and dreaming of summer homes on the coast. You can look her up at www.helloalison.com and lifeofaharpy.blogspot.com.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2762 FILED UNDER Discussion
PUBLISHED ON Aug.08.2006 BY Speak Up
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Allen’s comment is:

I think that knowing who you are and what you'll stand for is the key to your already found success. Of course the "Freedom" rendition has helped as well.

On Aug.08.2006 at 01:49 PM
Dave Werner’s comment is:

Alison, you're immensely talented and there's no doubt that you'll eventually find the right fit. As Dr. Phil-esque as this may sound, success doesn't need to be defined by a salary, title, or public recognition. That glamorous lifestyle of a designer might be closer than you think.

On Aug.08.2006 at 02:00 PM
karen’s comment is:

alison - i couldnt be more on par with your commentary if i tried. after graduating a little over 2 years ago, i took a dead-end design job just for the simple fact of i needed a job. i stuck it out for a year, but when i couldnt take it any longer, i decided to quit and move to chicago, where i ultimately wanted to be, and i decided i was going to do whatever it took to make ends meet.

i worked my butt off for 6 months or so, working 3 jobs and doing those ridiculously low-paying freelance gigs on the side. i finally got another design job, but it did not have benefits, it was insanely low-paying (i made more when i was working retail), but it was what i wanted to be doing, so i took it. after about 6 months there, another company found my portfolio site and offered me everything i wanted.

i constantly second-guessed myself and was hoping i had taken the right route by agreeing to work for as little as i did at the previous job, but the work that i produced at that company was good enough to land me the one what i am currently at. things work out in funny ways.

i guess we all have to "pay our dues," so to speak... but it always seems to work out in the end as long as you remember your reasoning for getting into design in the first place.

On Aug.08.2006 at 03:04 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Alison, first, welcome to Speak Up. It is great to have you part of the family.

Second, I am writing this from a wifi connection in the Atlanta airport. 23 years into the business and I am still traveling "door to door," which includes lots of bad fast food, trains, planes and automobiles (all of which I have experienced today, and it is only 3;20), lumpy hotel beds, mean flight attendents and even nastier fellow travelers. I am often asked if I love to travel, as if the standard answer should be me gushing, "why yes, indeed i do, it is *such* a glam life." But it isn't really--and I don't. Yet at the end of the day, no matter where I have traveled and where I have been, if the design work we are doing is good, I am happy. Design is not an easy career and there are no shortcuts. But, imho, it is one of the most satisfying, interesting, fascinating practices I could ever, ever imagine having.

Third...one bit of advice I give my students is this: when in doubt, don't compromise. If you are afraid of doing something, see it as faith masquerading as fear. If you are afraid of doing something, chances are it means something to you, and if you can muster up the courage, do it. You will never regret taking the chance, you will only regret not taking it.

On Aug.08.2006 at 03:32 PM
Nathan Philpot’s comment is:

I have felt the same way at times. It is usually when I am comparing myself with another designer. A design celebrity?

You know who I am talking about. Those designers that speak at all the conferences, their work is in all the magazines.

Have you seen the ad in the design mags lately. They are Veer ads, but they feature this one designer, looking out a window, looking all designy.

I think, I want to be like him. I want design fame and design fortune.

But than I think, what would I actually do different if I was the designer in that ad. Probably nothing.

On Aug.08.2006 at 04:57 PM
WIlliam Carlson’s comment is:

It is really refreshing to read someones personal experiences about finding yourself in this field. I, too, have recently graduated from college and was one of the "lucky" ones who found a job right away. The shock and awe of being a designer quicky faded into numerous production tasks and 14 hour days. I think we just need to keep our heads up, continue to work hard, and never settle for anything...

On Aug.08.2006 at 05:27 PM
Shane Guymon’s comment is:

I applaud your ambition and dedication, I am praticly your twin, only I am a male, never gotten a chance to write an entry on "speakup" and never had the balls to move to New York and try to make it BIG!

hmmmm...

Oh yeah I did jsut recently graduate with an Ass. Degree in Print Graphic Design, and now I am currently sitting infront of a G4 at a subpar (atbest) Design and desktop publishing company trying to do something with my life.

Maybe I should of started out with, "I want to be like you."

And for whatever it's worth, the work on your website is great, and I think you are and will continue to be a GREAT designer.

On Aug.08.2006 at 05:29 PM
Rob’s comment is:

an my design knowledge and opinion be based solely on creating something simple and meaningful, devoid of the politics and corporate climbing that now seem so necessary

not to sound overly cynical, after twenty years working as a writer, designer, teacher, father, husband, neighbor...there is nothing that we do that isn't influenced in someway by politics or corporate climbing whether it's inside the office or outside in the bars and clubs during happy hour. it's life. and it all influences our work and our knowledge in ways we can never imagine.

alison, i applaud what you are attempting and wish you all the best. i have many friends in new york who have braved the same path and found their niche. plus, where else can you find such great bagels?

On Aug.08.2006 at 06:57 PM
minus five’s comment is:

dang.

that's pretty much my feelings exactly. and that's why i told you the truth when you wanted to move up to nyc. you have no idea how many people will feel better reading a truthful account of the beginning stages of life in design.

not everyone is capable of taking chances like that. moving to a city like ny. if i were a forethinker and reasoner, i might not have done it either. but i say if a person can find it in themselves to jump out and try to do whatever it is that they want to do, then they should.

i've gone with my gut always. and i've never stopped believing that one day it will have been worth it. one day it will make sense.

i told you all those months ago that if you needed to make it, if you really wanted to make it, that you would find a way. and you have. and i'm proud to know you.

On Aug.08.2006 at 07:02 PM
Mr.Frankie L’s comment is:

Have you seen the ad in the design mags lately. They are Veer ads, but they feature this one designer, looking out a window, looking all designy.

You mean Armin Vit, the guy who founded SpeakUp,
who works for Michael Bierut at Pentagram?

I do like that shirt he's wearing...

On Aug.08.2006 at 07:19 PM
Billdo’s comment is:

Best two pieces of advice I have ever gotten:

Kick down doors. You can't wait for people to open them.

You can't polish a turd.

On Aug.08.2006 at 08:24 PM
Angie’s comment is:

Alison, thanks so much for your column. I'm just starting out in graphic design - I graduated ASU in 2003 with a degree in political science and realized that was NOTHING I wanted. I've quit my job and taken out some student loans to be able to do this. I love SpeakUp and other forums and the perspective of everyone involved.

But I worry that I'm making a mistake. Especially now, with my health insurance running out and parking decals costing 200+ and I haven't even bought books yet. I'll be 29 before I graduate (again) and what on earth am I doing?

But with this I feel sure. I've been "designing" since I was 10, when I would "write" books by designing the cover and first page with the dropped cap. I love what I want to do and I just hope that I'm good enough that I can make it worthwhile. I'm taking a chance on myself for once. It's not easy - it never is: isn't it harder, like you said, when it's something you really care about? - but it's worth it.

Thanks again, and also, thanks to all who contribute to this site.

On Aug.08.2006 at 08:40 PM
Gyula Szilagyi’s comment is:

Keep your head up and remember to keep your eyes on the prize.

On Aug.08.2006 at 10:14 PM
Andrea DeSaga Heser’s comment is:

Wow. Your discussion pretty much summed up my life. Yet, I did not make the jump to San Francisco (I live in the desert of Phoenix, Arizona and Frisco is our version of New York). But I do not think I am a wimp because I didn't venture off and take a big risk. Sure, I don't drive a BMW, wear couture Channel pumps and have my designs plastered across the internet, I am not a graphic design superstar, but was that really what I wanted? It is a wonderful dream but it wasn’t practical for me.

I love my life living in my hometown with my husband and cats and I enjoy designing for my 500k+ readers (I design for the states largest newspaper). I have come to realize I do not design for myself, that is not what being a designer is about. I should have become a self-proclaimed artist if I wanted that. I design for the end product, that being the residents of Arizona. And when I design something that is compelling and clear I know I succeeded in being a designer. When I start to think of my life in that perspective I realized I have made the right choice and I am happy right here in the desert.

On Aug.09.2006 at 12:01 AM
Armin’s comment is:

As a designer who enjoys looking out a window while looking all designy, the best advice I can give anyone is that you will have to settle , you will have to give up and you will have to compromise many more times than you would like and many more times than anyone will want you to believe that you won't or shouldn't – the advice part comes in that you best get over it and that it's not the end of the world. It is humanly impossible to get your way everytime whether it's with a client or a potential employer or your wife/husband or your cat/dog. You can and should always give it a fight and your best, but don't throw yourself in front of a bus if you have to do something that you are not 100% behind. It's the way the world works. And sometimes, painfully, you will have to settle for something that covers your bases (i.e., money) in exchange for something that would satisfy your creative urges – don't worry, you are not going to hell, it's survival and there is nothing wrong with that.

> But than I think, what would I actually do different if I was the designer in that ad. Probably nothing.

It's all about what you want, how far you want to go, what you are willing to do and, in all earnestness, how hot that fire under your ass is. There is always going to be somebody better than you, always, no matter where you are. If you have the desire to get to any specific level, it's a matter of sitting down and doing it, and doing it until you get what you want. And when you get what you want, well you want more. Sometimes it will come with public recognition, sometimes it will come with personal satisfaction alone. The things I do, I do because I found design to be something I like way too much and because it is the one thing I can do somewhat well – my other proficiencies may include writing, watching reality TV and eating chocolate – and not because I wanted to get in that ad, or speak at that conference or whatever. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all that, but just equally, there are people who are way more talented than I ever could be at designing (writing, watching reality TV and eating chocolate) and live in perfect anonimity. As you say... "What would I actually do different?" Probably nothing.

> I do like that shirt he's wearing...

Thanks... J.Crew.

*****

And lastly, whoever got into graphic design for the glamour, fame and money, got into the wrong profession. There is very little of that going around.

On Aug.09.2006 at 08:53 AM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

Here here to Florida transplants and making calculated compromises. 2 steps forward and 1 step back gets you a hell of a lot closer to your dreams than standing still.

You're own self-awareness is an infinitely valuable and powerful trait. Congrats.

(I'm a teeny bit jealous)

On Aug.09.2006 at 09:59 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Armin said:

As a designer who enjoys looking out a window while looking all designy, the best advice I can give anyone is that you will have to settle , you will have to give up and you will have to compromise many more times than you would like and many more times than anyone will want you to believe that you won't or shouldn't – the advice part comes in that you best get over it and that it's not the end of the world.

All true, Armin, all true. However--there are different types of compromises. There is the type of compromise which includes agreeing to change the font, or the color palette or the size of the headline. All which happen regularly and are part of the process of being a practicing designer. Then there is the type of compromise that involves not going after what you want or not saying what you feel or not challenging yourself to go for a specific job because you are afraid.

This and this alone is the compromise that I urge you not to make. I still remember the moment I compromised something that I wanted in my life--very badly--I remember what I wore, where I was standing, what the air smelled like--and it was in 1983. I will never get that moment back and I will never be able to recreate the opportunity in quite the same way.

Think about it: any choice made out of fear or lack of self esteem is one that should be reconsidered. As soon as possible. No one, no one, will just *give* you opportunities. You have to go after them, you have to make them happen and you have to have enough belief in yourself to follow through.

Okay, enough preaching for today...I gotta go fight with a client.
; )

On Aug.09.2006 at 10:15 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Of course... I wasn't talking so much about going from 9pt Helvetica to 10pt Helvetica; it was more about settling for a not-so-cool-job, or engaging a client whose product or service sucks but you need the money – things that may not be life-defining (as your experience) but have a snowball effect on someone's life and design practice.

On Aug.09.2006 at 10:25 AM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

I'd like to add another perspective, one that may be overlooked.

I think it's great to go after what your dreams are, but I want to emphasise the importance of making it your goal, day after day, to do what it is that you want to do. This sounds very vague, and honestly even figuring out what you want to do is often the hardest part (at least for me).

I moved to Pittsburgh from Chicago just over two months ago. In Chicago I had some really great things happening, but I wasn't happy with my work life. So I've made what some people would consider a "downgrade" moving to a smaller city. I won't have the same kinds of opportunities here that I had in Chicago. But I have the kinds of opportunities here that I make for myself, including more time to do the things that make me happy (personally and professionally). I'm happier now than I have been in months.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is this: if your dream is to be in NYC and find a great job at a great firm, make that your goal every single day. But don't let the goals of others interfere with the goals you set yourself. Don't compare yourself to anyone else because you are no one else. Seek out constructive criticism from people you trust. And make sure to ask yourself questions all the time about where you are and where you want to go, because it's easy to get distracted, and no one else knows the answers.

On Aug.09.2006 at 10:49 AM
Greg Scraper’s comment is:

Awesome. Thanks for this article.

For the record, Florida's not so bad. There are worse places to be (*cough*Kansas*cough*). All in all, it's what you make of where you are, not where you are that counts.

On Aug.09.2006 at 01:51 PM
mswaine’s comment is:

Alison, thank you for your insight as a young designer. I admire your spunk. I, myself have been a designer since 1966, having gotten my first job in a print shop (probably the lowliest beginning possible). But this was during school and long before graphic design was a glam job and hey, it was a job at something I loved and had a modicum of skill at. But I moved on, when a wise-man told me that "the job and projects you turn down are more important than the ones you take on, because they establish the level at which your willing to work and compromise".

Fortunately, in this business the penalty for moving on is not harsh and in some ways equates to more experience. At some point you will settle into a comfortable "lifestyle, position, point in life" whatever level that is is determined by your collected experiences and compromises. You may rest there a while, then get the itch to move on when the compromises are too dear. The glamourous lifestyle is your to manufacture.

Also remember, doing something you love means everything at whatever pay scale. It is rare today. Appreciate it, it's worth more gold than gold itself.

I liked your phrase "power of freelance". Freelance is indeed powerful. With this power I've come to the realization that I am no longer employable, because the freedom I have cannot be matched by many employers. For me, this means I no longer work on big important projects that require an entourage to look capable. But I am completely satisfied in knowing I put my best into whatever project comes along.

You're impatient to succeed and that's great. There is an old worn out saying that "youth is wasted on the young", but that's not true when you look how anxious, energetic and impatient the young are to make a difference in the world. Us old farts kinda get most of that burnt out of us much past 50. Although, I still love the energy and buzz of a new design project. But I'm no longer anxious about the outcome. Things always work out in the end, and if I change the world it will be by happenstance not by design.

Regards,
Mike

On Aug.09.2006 at 05:28 PM
Laia’s comment is:

This writing couldnt come at a better time for me. I'm moving to new york in two weeks to pursue my dream as well, and I'm terrified and excited at the same time.
All I really have to say is thank you.
It was a comforting read.

On Aug.10.2006 at 03:08 PM
Thierry Blancpain’s comment is:

altough i already live in the biggest city of my country (zurich/switzerland with only ~700'000 inhabitants) and dont plan to move to NY in the next few weeks ;), it was a very interesting read (and the comments were insightful, too). thanks!

and its always good to read about people that love graphic design as much as i do. good luck!

On Aug.10.2006 at 07:57 PM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

Alison, welcome to Speak Up—debbie has been raving about you.

I was going to say something very similar to what Debbie said re the compromises. But like all things it is more complicated than "yes to this, no to that." I reached a point in my career, where I knew I had made too many of those big compromises, and so I stopped, and changed, and my whole life changed for the better. But while I often wish I had made that change years earlier, I'm still very aware of how those additional years of experience doing not exactly what i wanted to do informed the work i do now, as well as my life. The truth is we have to earn our chops. Really, in the end, the best you can do is the best you can do. And my best advice is that you just keep doing. If you need to take an unglamourous job to pay the rent, do so with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever, and spend what time you have left over doing what you want to do, or believe in, or love the most; add it to your portfolio and keep getting it out there.

And finally this: the most dangerous trap is to equate value with money. The things that give you the most value may give no money, and the things that give the most money may give no value.

On Aug.10.2006 at 08:38 PM
Jason Puckett’s comment is:

Allison, great, great story. In the next couple months, I will be seeking that first post-graduate design job and I fear for the settlement of a single lackluster offer. Been there, done that and sunk in quicksand for 2 years before realizing I needed to get out. That's how I got to Portfolio Center. Making that decision, and bringing my wife with me, was the biggest most challenging event in my life.

Until now.

I wish you the best of hopes in NYC and continued success in enjoying life and how to live it.

On Aug.10.2006 at 11:40 PM
Michael Nix’s comment is:

I felt the same way living in New Orleans doing freelance and just designing for design sake (plus just enough to feed myself) until I was forced to relocate to Chicago last summer.

This city is huge, pricey, and intimidating like NYC, so there was an immediate need to get a job and I let the corporate monster swallow me... Luckily it was a non-profit, but since I can now comfortably work a day job, I spend an extra 20-30 hours a week doing freelance for clients around the country (thank god for red bull). And because I have a steady paycheck, I do sometimes go out of my way to make that work excel.

I'm telling you this, because there may come a time to take a corporate job, and if anything, view it as one giant 2-year contract... Being able to go to a doctor once in a long while is nice too.

On Aug.11.2006 at 03:49 PM
Mr. Frankie L’s comment is:

This city is huge, pricey, and intimidating like NYC

It's not quite as bad as NYC, it's the best of the
east and west coast. Except for the winter.

Welcome to Chicago!

On Aug.11.2006 at 05:41 PM
David E.’s comment is:

I'd like to add that it's never a good idea to completely discount something that may actually turn out to be a good opportunity. Opportunities to do good work exist in many places you wouldn't think they would.

After having worked mainly in small design studios, I took a position as an in-house art director during the economic down-turn of 2001. As it turned out, I was able to be more involved, and accomplish much more there than I ever had at any of the design studios, in addition to making more money.

On Aug.11.2006 at 06:15 PM
valentina Miosuro’s comment is:

Hello,
I must say, I found myself in your article. Not so much because I have been through the same experience, but because I am at the beginning of my "design career" (not even sure what that entails), dreaming to save the world from NYC, with a great group of talented professionals, drinking coffee and discussing where is design headed as innovation has come.

I got the chance to talk to the amazing Larry Keeley a couple of months ago in Chicago, and one of his suggestions for a "rookie" like me is to not loose my excitement and curiosity, and to also not wait for recognition. Design is about solving problems. It is about the impact, and what can be left behind for society to benefit from. The point is not to be famous, what will we do with that? To solve problems, and "optimize patterns", as some of the most inspiring may say, is the highest recognition of all.

So bring on the high rent, the small apartments, the crazy people, the late nights and ealry mornings, the smelly and sticky subways, and the millions of people that have your same dream.
Opportunities are made, not found.
"there are miles to go before we sleep, and the whole world needs what we do"LK

good night,
valentina

On Aug.14.2006 at 02:21 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

Not only do good ideas not care about WHO has them, they also don't give much of a shit about from whence they came. As in, geography matters very little. Focus on designing as much as you can, and less on "being a designer here."

This advised from someone who really, basically, just wanted to be a designer before discovering the acrid reality that I damn well better want to DESIGN--period--if I wanted to survive, much less achieve anything. Because nothing ever comes. You get some of what you go after, some of the time, and if you don't enjoy that occasionally debilitating process ALL of the time then you're gonna be totally hosed. There's an interview with Richard Dreyfus from In The Actor's Studio, in which a student asks him if its possible to make a living as an actor. To which he replies that one can do quite well with voice-over work, corporate work, the occasional commercial, etc; he then says, "but that's not how most so-called 'actors' see it. Most of them just want to be a 'star.'" I'm glad I heard that when I did.

The material of daily life--sitting in traffic, waiting at red lights, standing in line after line after line, looking for the email reply or getting that call back, all the in-between spaces--can either be scathingly beautiful or hopelessly tear-inducing. It just depends on how you look at it, what you choose to see and believe. The only way to live through it and succeed is to maintain the energy, excitement, and sometimes unrealistic idealism that some people attribute only to "the young" (is there an age when "youth" vanishes with the setting of the sun one day?). Because without utter commitment to DESIGNING, as opposed to just "having" all the stereotypical claptraps of "being a designer," you can't do much. Like Tyler Durden says, sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.

So soak up the reality of what you've discovered, and continue reflectig upon it and thinking about it and believing that you can shape it.

I wish you way more than luck.

On Aug.14.2006 at 08:01 PM
paul merrill’s comment is:

Design is not god.

It IS important to find a job that allows you to enjoy the 9-whenever, as well as not doing design for something you totally don't believe in. (For me, that would be tobacco companies.)

But having a life beyond the job is important too. Make time to get married, have kids, etc. I have found more joy reading a story to my five-year-old than from almost any of the work I've done.

On Aug.15.2006 at 07:23 AM
Raphael Del Rio’s comment is:

I've also learned that there is some compromise before great success begins. I started out doing whatever little scraps the Chicago design community saw fit to give me and I am grateful for each of those opportunities even if they weren't as glamorous as I may have wanted. I had to do something to pay the bills too and I knew I'd do the best damn job I could because it would only lead to something better. If you are starting out at a "subpar" firm it is your responsibility as a better designer to try to raise the standards.

My last office was a mediocre B2B creative firm and I started out on the bottom of the totem pole (jr designer at 25k a year...uggghhhh). I knew I was gonna be miserable unless I made an effort to introduce my own ideas even if people didn't want to hear them. Through those two years I became the firm's flash guru (I knew little to nothing about Flash when I started) because outsourcing a lot of the flash was expensive. I went from doing little web banners to full-blown interactive presentation modules where I had virtually free creative reign because I was the only one in the office who really knew how to screw around with that medium. I also developed the firm's viewbook for new clients on my own time and without waiting for someone else to start the project because otherwise it would never have gotten started or done because of partner politics and creative differences. It was those little things that helped me grow to the point where I could start commanding attention from people who would never talk to me when I was fresh out of school. I could tell people I meant business and I could now prove it too.

It only took about three years but I'm now at one of the most highly regarded design firms in Chicago doing the work I always intended to do. Basically what I'm trying to express is you may very well have to trudge through a lot of shit before you really get to do what you want. Not saying you have to but there's a lot of other designers out there and you have to want success more than they do to actually get somewhere.

- Raphael

On Aug.22.2006 at 12:01 PM