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Midlife Crisis — Does it Affect Designers?

This came as a suggested topic, when I read it it completely hit me — you don’t hear that much about 40 year old graphic designers. Probably a false, not very true, generalization yet there it is.

We hear a lot, and complain even more, about the young designers (for this discussion they will be all people under the age of 30). On the other hand we like to constantly take stabs at the older generation (50 and over) and poke fun at their lack of web savviness. What happens in between?

It is a strange stage in a designer’s career; does one take on a managerial role for a bigger firm working with senior and junior designers? Or open their own firm, where they still design but have to manage the business? Or dye their hair an electric black, buy a Porsche and take a ride on the highway?

I am sure it is not as bleak as I made it sound, there are obviously numerous designers who are fabulously over 40 and doing great work. I’m not positive of their correct age but David Carson, Sagmeister, Hillman Curtis are all great practicing designers that come to mind.

Thanks to Ginny for the topic.

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PUBLISHED ON Sep.19.2003 BY Armin
Darrel’s comment is:

Career issues affect everyone. There's no right answer. Do what you like. ;o)

On Sep.19.2003 at 09:21 AM
Rick Moore’s comment is:

If I remember correctly, Paul Rand did sweet work through his forties. (and fifties, and sixties, and seventies, and eighties...)

Sorry, but I had to get the Paul Rand post out of the way.

On Sep.19.2003 at 09:33 AM
Todd’s comment is:

At first I thought, "Of course it does! Designers aren't special." Then I went back and actually read the post. I wouldn't really describe the change in a person's career as a "mid-life crisis". That strikes me as a personal doubt of life accomplishment. However, if we're talking about the change in profile a designer makes over time, I think a couple of factors come into play.

One, your day-today experience morphs. As you advance, you start to be come more big-picture and you're not doing so much hands-on work. You may start to be more concerned with management than with design, so influence in the latter sphere drops.

Second, your peer group changes. You stop working elbow-to-elbow with other designers, working out solutions in teams, etc. You start working more and more with clients, talking up the business. That's gotta change your connection to the work at hand.

Last, a lot of the big names develop a "shtick" for lack of a better word. Their creative skills atrophy as they get pigeonholed by their previous successes. You see this in a wide range of creative jobs, from movies to music to writing. It's really tough to break out in a new direction and see that risk rewarded in the same way previous "fresh" work might have been.

On Sep.19.2003 at 09:46 AM
eric’s comment is:

something else to keep in mind is that a lot of people have had involuntary changes imposed upon them from the economic slump or voluntary changes because of post-September 11th climate.

both of those things at once have forced a lot of hard decisions on everyone from 20 through 50.

On Sep.19.2003 at 10:03 AM
Armin’s comment is:

On a side note, I think designers in their forties got, not screwed, but... let's say challenged by the "desktop revolution" of the early to mid-80s. There were those who fully embraced the technology at that moment and then there are those who are still struggling to accept it today. This is just what I think, as I'm nowhere near my forties and was born with a nintendo (well, Atari) controller in my hands, that's why I think technology plays a huge role in the way designers in their forties are practicing today.

On Sep.19.2003 at 10:38 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Oooh. Great topic.

Todd -- I agree with everything you said. All true. There is definitely a life cycle to a designer.

Aside from work and technology, the thing I've noticed from 35-45 yrs old designer friends is that personal sacrifices for their careers become obvious. Many people put their heads down, work like ants until 35 or 40, then realize that along the way that they forgot to live a life outside the office. Now I'm not saying that it's a requirement to be married or have kids. (though I highly recommend it.) But the fact is, I know a number of very successful 'seasoned' designers (male and female) that have chosen careers over a family. As a result, there are lots of talented, but lonely and single designers out there. And lots of online dating and matchmaking services. Don't let it come down to that.

As you grow older, your priorities change -- but the demands of the job remains the same. Something's gotta give, you know? It's about trying to achieve a balance I suppose.

But I realize that what I'm saying is applicable to a number of professions, not just design.


and a trivia tidbit -- Julia childs didn't start her cooking career until after she was 40. She did her first TV show on PBS's "The French Chef" when she was in her mid-40s. So it's never too late....

On Sep.19.2003 at 10:43 AM
sena’s comment is:

I am a graphic designer who just turned 39, and didn't get into this business until my early 30's, so this is my second real career path.

I recognize the "head down and work like an ant" mentality that a couple of you have already referenced. Going to school full-time and working full-time didn't leave any time for anything else. I'm glad I got through that to get where I am today, but I doubt I could do it again.

In a way, I leapfrogged the obstacles of the "older designers" by getting into the field when computers were already entrenched, and the web was still growing and nobody knew what it was supposed to do. (Exhilarating, wasn't it?) I didn't have to "unlearn" decades of experience with the technology of the last generation of designers. So in a way I consider myself a part of the younger generation of designers who "grew up with computers".

But since I am approaching 40, I find myself running into attitudes from younger designers that suggest that I have nothing to teach them. That simply being the age I am makes me some kind of dinosaur who doesn't know anything beyond pre-Quark production techniques. And I have to do a lot of work to overcome that perception. And I hate that.

When did graphic design become a career exclusively for the young? I am almost 40. I am just starting to do great work now, though honestly I never expect to become any kind of Big Name. But I do expect to keep improving, 'cause I love this work. And I do expect to have many productive years ahead of me.

On Sep.19.2003 at 12:11 PM
marian’s comment is:

Well, I turned 40 this year and I'm in the middle of a major career crisis that I can't help but think is related to my age. But it's also related to selling the company that I started and feeling like it I completely failed in my goal to become a top-notch design firm. It's also related to moving to an island. The personal and the professional are inextricably bound up together.

But I also came to design late. I spent my 20s working for a publishing/typesetting co. (books) and travelling around the world. Then at 31 I started my design firm with a friend and that has its own cycle that goes from flying by the seat of your pants every day to the daily grind of people management and money worries. Things seem to go in approx. 10-year cycles for me.

This year I'm either doing a Sagmeister or I'm just confused, but I'm taking a year off design (maybe. I think. it depends), and throwing myself into Illustration because I don't want to reach 50 and say, "Fuck, I should have at least tried."

And I find I'm questioning everything. I don't know if I "believe" in design, and I don't know if I care. Sometimes I do, a lot, but other times it just seems so unbelievably pointless. I look at the business cards of my electrician and plumber: They're hideous, but it makes absolutely no difference to me or to whether I'll hire them. I found myself thinking the other day "Plumbers and podiatrists don't need my services, aside from maybe making their invoices clear and understandable. I won't read their brochures, and ultimately the only reason I'd hire one is by a recommendation from others." Similarly, I buy milk in the world's ugliest carton. I mean you just would not believe how bad this milk carton is (though if you're dying to see it, I once did a rant on it here), but it makes absolutely no difference to whether I buy it or not. and if it makes no difference to me, I have to question how a better design would help sales with a non-design public.

I find I'm also increasingly appreciative of the "undesigned" stuff that surrounds us. Things that 8 years ago I would have considered abominations that should be fixed I now find quite wonderful. The other day at our local recycling depot my first thought was "someone should do something about this signage." My second thought was "Why? It's actually perfectly understandable, and these hand-written felt-pen cardboard signs lend a certain friendly atmosphere to the place." There is beauty in garage sale signs.

So I come here and I just love it to see and read all of you so happy and enthusiastic in your careers in design. And sometimes I get enthusiastic too, and it feels like old times. but something is different for me and its entirely possible it's my age.

I will try not to get old and cotchety though -- at least not any more than I am now.

(Will you still wear that t-shirt now that you know the age of the person who designed it? Does it lose some of its cachet?)

On Sep.19.2003 at 12:19 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

I'm not sure where you're going with this. At first it sounds like you're talking about that transition between being a precocious young designer and a seasoned veteran. I'd be interested in hearing about people who have traversed (or are currently navigating) that gap, because I wonder about it myself all the time.

But the last paragraph of the post seems to be suggesting that merely being older than forty is detrimental to a design career, which seems patently impossible. Maybe it's because of my field, but most of the designers I admire and look to for guidance are over fifty.

Which one are you going for here?

On Sep.19.2003 at 12:21 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> When did graphic design become a career exclusively for the young?

I've asked myself the same thing. I'm 35 this year, and man, somehow, I went from a 25 year old arrogant kid swaggering into a firm to kick some ass, to being called "sir" by the intern -- all in the blink of an eye it seems.

Funny, but I don't feel "seasoned". I feel as energetic as when I first started, but maybe not as gung-ho in my determination. I know that I have more patience now, that I read people much better -- and therefore, know how to pick my battles and put things into perspective. Does that make me less passionate about design? Maybe, but it doesn't feel that way. It just feels like I'm doing things a little smarter.

Marian touched on a good point -- that things happen in lumps, rather than paced out evenly. For me, it seems to happen every 6 years or so. I don't think anyone hits a stride indefinitely -- there are high and low points to everyone's careers.

I experienced the exact same thing as Marian. I started a small firm when I was 29. We did things by the seat of our pants, and it was a blast. But with time and success, along came people managing responsibilities and money worries. Nothing fun about that.

Rick Braithwaithe, a partner at Sandstrom in OR and a board member of the APDF, once told me that he could tell the age of a design firm by the problems the owner was complaining about. And that by year 10 or 12, every owner starts thinking about exit strategies. Not design awards or visions of AIGA grandeur, but how to retire before the business destroys them and everything they hold dear. God, I hope that isn't true.

So back to the question -- is it a career for the young? Yes and no. With youth comes naivete and blind determination in the profession. But that's not necessarily a good thing.

On Sep.19.2003 at 12:49 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> I'm not sure where you're going with this.

Nowhere really. I have no vendetta towards people in their forties, I was just posing a couple of questions from a few (contradicting maybe) perceptions I myself have. But I'm really not trying to get these people out pf the profession or anything.

> Similarly, I buy milk in the world's ugliest carton.

Wha?!? You don't like the MU? It's so amazingly ugly it's perfect, like the garage sale signs.

> Will you still wear that t-shirt now that you know the age of the person who designed it?

I dunno...

On Sep.19.2003 at 12:52 PM
eric’s comment is:

old women rock! bring on that bad-ass shirt.

On Sep.19.2003 at 01:20 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

by year 10 or 12, every owner starts thinking about exit strategies. Not design awards or visions of AIGA grandeur, but how to retire before the business destroys them and everything they hold dear. God, I hope that isn't true.

Me too! But maybe this is an effect more of running a business than being a designer? The older designers that I know definitely express concern about burnout, but I don't sense the urgency that you seem to have encountered. Then again, most of them are art directors, not founders of design firms.

On Sep.19.2003 at 01:40 PM
David E.’s comment is:

>> but it makes absolutely no difference to whether I buy it or not. and if it makes no difference to me, I have to question how a better design would help sales with a non-design public.

I really dont feel like I'm here to help people sell their products. That may be the reason people are paying me, but i tend to think more about the people who see and use the things I create. Dont people deserve something of quality? Good design enriches people's lives, whether they know it or not (and usually they dont). Designers create a better world for people to live in. Any benifit to the economy is just icing on the cake....and I see no value in a milk carton looking like it was designed by a farmer. The guy ought to have sense enough to know that he's a specialist in milk, not packaging.

By the way, this thread's very interesting. I'll be 39 in a few months and have to wonder if potential employers will percieve me as too old in 15 years (or even before then)...and im not sure I really want to start my own firm. I enjoy designing, but dont really consider myself a business person...although I might end up really enjoying it. Who knows?

On Sep.19.2003 at 01:49 PM
Ginny ’s comment is:

Armin, thanks for posting my topic. But I want to make it clear that it wasn't "You don't hear much about 40 year old graphic designers" it was "Where are all of the 40 year old graphic designers"? I myself am 31 and all of the designers I work with are in their 30s. But you don't see many designers who are in their 40s. Where are they?

Have they become art/creative directors? Have they started their own firm? Have they switched careers? Are they all paper reps?

I and many of my 30-something designer friends have been talking about this for some time. Mostly because we're thinking about OUR future in design. I'm a senior designer now, at 31, where to go from here? The above mentioned I suppose. But not everyone of us end up there.

I don't think my statement about the lack of 40-something year old designers is exaggerated or a blatent generalization. Look around you....

Yes, there are 40-something year-old designers out there and you can go ahead and name them...they're mostly the popular ones. The ones who are usually principals. But look at the guy/girl next to you. How old are they?

I agree that one of the reasons could be with the advent of the digital design world. But I think there is ageism in our community. Sena, for example, pointed out that she is a victim of that.

Maybe it's this way with every profession...I don't know. This is the only profession I've ever been a part of. I just think it's curious.

On Sep.19.2003 at 01:53 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>old women rock!

why thank you, Eric.

Okay, I am about to turn 42. Having the usual mid-life crisis kind of stuff: what is my purpose here, why am I doing what I am doing, etc. Actually, I have dealing with those questions all of my life, they are just more pervasive now.

I was one of the last generations of "paste-up" artists, and while that meant I came to the computer a little late (1990! gasp!) I am glad I had the chance to learn how to draw .5 rules with a rapidograph, carve out beautiful patterns with ruby lithe (sigh) and watch my boss rip up my color break overlays because they were not neat enough.

That being said, I think that age is irrelevant to talent. You either have it or you don't. Where age is helpful is in making sounder decisions. Being more considered about what may work and what won't. Experience is a marvelous thing, as long as you don't let it stand in your way of being courageous.

On the flip side: I started a design business with a partner when I was 26 years old. I had just enough money in the bank to last maybe a year, if I lived like Mahatma Ghandi. It was ballsy and it was reckless. But I had no fear at the time. That is youth for you. Anything is possible in your dreams. You get a little older, and suddenly the requisite responsibilities filter in. Oh, the mortgage. Oh, the car payment. Not that I would change anything now...I love what I do and feel priviledged to be doing it. But, if as I go through this mid-life crisis and decide to pack it all in...the ramifications would be oh so much different now than when I was 26.

Moral of the story: take advantage of your youth and live like there is no tomorrow. Make the reckless decisions and work like hell to make them come true.

On Sep.19.2003 at 02:05 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Ginny -- I know lots of 40+ designers. Yes, a majority of them are now art directors or owners -- but there are many that are still very productive member of larger firms. It's not like the movie Logan's Run, where you get executed when you turn 30, or in this case 40.

Then there's the salary thing. If you work in a firm for 15+ years, your normal salary increases also means that you need to bear a greater burden of responsibility to justify your cost. Thus, most 40+ designers get kicked upstairs to management or directorship. No company can afford a bunch of $70K+/year, 40+ yr-old senior designers. It's economics.

(Damien, where are you?)

On Sep.19.2003 at 02:08 PM
eric’s comment is:

Ah, sweet Millie, welcome back. You know, when I sit around with my reveries, this Alec Guinness quote from Bridge on the River Kwai always comes to the fore:

“Still, it's been a good life. ... I wouldn't have had it any other way. But there are times when suddenly you realize you're nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything. Hardly made any difference at all, really, particularly in comparison with other men's careers. I don't know whether that kind of thinking's very healthy; but I must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines from time to time.”

On Sep.19.2003 at 02:16 PM
Ginny ’s comment is:

You all know in 10 years or so, I'll be asking where all the 50 year old designers are and then in 20 years all the 60 year old designers.

Where are all the post-modernist, neo-progressive, 62-year-old, designer/non-art directors who refuse to alter their concepts for purely religious reasons?

On Sep.19.2003 at 02:20 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>Where are all the post-modernist, neo-progressive, 62-year-old, designer/non-art directors who refuse to alter their concepts for purely religious reasons?

Glaser, Chermayoff, Chwast...

On Sep.19.2003 at 02:34 PM
Ginny ’s comment is:

Wow! Thanks Debbie. I thought my question was rhetorical?

Riddle me this Batman:

Is the left handed designer more or less creative than the monkey?

On Sep.19.2003 at 02:41 PM
sean adams’s comment is:

I won't say how old my partner Noreen is; she can get mean. But I'm 39 and she's a tiny bit younger. Compared to where we were ten years ago, the most valuable aspect of age is either the, "I don't give a damn" attitude or the, "I deserve to be treated like a human being" need. As time passed it was necessary to make a strong choice of types of projects and our role in them. I have no problem walking out of a new business meeting if I think it's a bad fit. In my twenties I would have just sat there. Maybe it's stupidity, arrogance or wisdom. Probably all three, but it feels great.

On Sep.19.2003 at 03:27 PM
jesse’s comment is:

I'm halfway through my 30th year and I'm questioning whether or not I want to continue along this career path. I love graphic design, but I'm not sure I want to stick with it. I'm a senior designer now but I'm not sure I want to be an art director. I had an interview earlier this year for an art director position and was at once excited at the prospect, scared to death of it, and afraid it wasn't the proper next step. I have to admit I was a little relieved when I didn't get the job because the pressure was off.

What I think I really want to do is switch my focus to art, something I have little time for now. It would be such a risk to suddenly attempt to support myself (and my wife) by painting full-time, but it's where my real passion lies. Thinking of trying to sell my art and getting my name out there and supplementing my income with some grants (if I'm lucky) is daunting. I know a lot of artists, but I only know a few who are able to make their livings completely from selling their work.

The safe thing would be to keep working for a few more years as a designer while saving some money. But I'm feeling the urge to do something different now. My graphic design career has felt like a fight for its duration, full of frustration and a feeling of never gaining enough appreciation or respect, and certainly not making enough money at it. I'm tired, then, as well as being confused about the next step.

As I said, I'm only 30 but I kind of feel like I'm having a sort of crisis.

Side note: Marian, I'll wear your t-shirt, I don't care how old you are. It's a great design, that's what matters.

Another side note: Rebecca, how did you weather the hurricane? Good to see you posting!

On Sep.19.2003 at 03:53 PM
marian’s comment is:

Wha?!? You don't like the MU

Graphically I like the Mu, but I buy the hideous one that was thrown together by some farmer's cousin. I won't even buy the Mu and I don't know why.

old women rock!

Thank you, eric.

i tend to think more about the people who see and use the things I create. Dont people deserve something of quality?

Yes, yes yes, I agree with you. I agree, but I do not necessarily believe, if that's possible. I don't mean to posit that stuff as some kind of argument, just a change in the way I view my career.

I am glad I had the chance to learn how to draw .5 rules with a rapidograph, carve out beautiful patterns with ruby lithe (sigh)

Me too. I feel I was lucky to have started at the end of the "old ways" and learned during the advent of the computer in design, and yet I can't really say why. Does it really matter that I know how to strip type one line at a time with a waxer? Am I a better person for having used Letraset? Am I a better designer for having worked with galleys and non-repro pens? I think not.

On Sep.19.2003 at 05:40 PM
Michael’s comment is:

I'll be 42 at the end of this month. It's true that most designers don't stay with it this long but there are plenty who do. As Tan points out they tend to have senior positions or run their own shops (as I do). The AIGA event in Chicago today was packed with 40 somethings.

I don't agree with Armin's assumption that computers had a negative effect on my generation. Most either adapted easily or got out right away. You're still going to need an exit strategy, boys and girls.

Speaking of which, I'd love to get out. I still enjoy the work, but the business has really worn me down. However, like Debbie, I have property and responsibilities. It's not easy. It's not a living hell or anything, but it's not easy. Enjoy your youth.

On Sep.19.2003 at 06:34 PM
sena’s comment is:

But I think there is ageism in our community. Sena, for example, pointed out that she is a victim of that.

Erm...that ought to be "...he is a victim of that." ("Sena" is my last name.)

I haven't encountered much concrete ageism yet. It's been more like the preliminary twinges that tell you the next headache is going to be immense...

Since I came to this career comparatively late, I feel like I have quite a few years of fight left in me, which is a good thing. I'm not quite ready to figure out how I'm going to get out of this industry and what I'm going to get into next. There are so many things I still have to learn.

On Sep.19.2003 at 07:38 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

My grandfather was a linotype machine operator in Granite City, IL, just across the river from St. Louis. A true typographer, was apparently a real ace at handling the hot lead blocks. And he kept doing this until '72, he died in '78 at the age of 75...he stuck with it for a long, long time.

I know that's different than being a designer, but he loved it, and it was a serious discipline and he could have quit earlier if he really wanted to.

I've noticed that as the profession of design becomes more and more complex, that it takes awhile to really settle into it. Sure, plenty of young people do a ton of work in the early part of their careers, but I've known a number of people who didn't feel like they were doing anything that was uniquely theirs or at the level they wanted it to be until close to, or into, their 40s. I guess it just depends. I've heard Bruce Mau talk about this before, and I know for a fact that in other professions--like architecture--the same definitely applies.

One of the blindspots of my youth perhaps is that I'm really excited at the prospect of where I'll be and what I'll be doing 15 years from now. Kinda cool.

On Sep.19.2003 at 08:51 PM
ben schicker’s comment is:

can us youngsters post on this topic?

i've been working graphic design for ten years, so if i've got another 10 years of design work before my mid-life crisis, maybe i'll just file this under mid-career evaluation rather than crisis. while i've worked a little bit of everything, i always come back to design. i've been thinking about breaking out on my own, but i've been listening very carefully to those who've done it before. right now i've got too much debt instead of six months of living expenses in the bank, so i won't be hanging a shingle out any time soon. i know i'll be working for the man for a while now.

however, i'm still young enough that i want to make a difference. i'm thinking about going in on public service projects with friends of mine. not so much starting an agency, as a collective/co-op that does some non-profit work. the projects we're talking about will be in our spare time. hopefully rewarding enough to pay for materials & operating costs. this project appeals to the idealist in me, the "let's make a difference" civic-minded designer. i'd like to make it my job, but i also want equity. i want to buy a house. and good intentions & pro bono work never paid any of my bills.

as those of you look back to how you got to doing what you love, my question is this: am i being too idealistic wanting to do work for non-profits that i believe in? do any of you someone in their late twenties who makes a living working for causes? or do i have to pay some more dues first? [kevin lo, are you out there? any thoughts?] finally, what career choices have you made that have kept you in design, that have appealed to your passions, that have kept you vibrant?


if i've got another 10+ years in me, maybe i can find a way to work in such a way as to pre-empt a midlife crisis. or maybe i'll just work another ten years and write my first novel. then i'll pull a dave eggers, start my own press / journal / what have you , and dabble in design while i write full-time. instead of the other way around.

On Sep.20.2003 at 01:15 PM
Bradley’s comment is:


I'm a youngster so I should probably keep my mouth shut, but for what its worth...

If you want to make a difference with any of the causes that excite you...I would dedicate yourself to them full-time because then you can make a living at it. Wealth? Probably not, but, posters and brochures won't change the world--your direct efforts will though.

Commercial design has always and will always pay a decent wage. Commerce is not an altogether bad thing, and I believe that you can leverage it and work with it to affect the changes you'd like to see. I mean, what if more commercial pieces acknowledged the world as it is, not as we imagine it to be? I'm sure there's an infinite opportunity here...of course, I'm just trying to tell myself that, so...what do I know...

I've known plenty of people who've been in the business for about ten years who long ago sacrificed or lost track of their ideals. I'm glad to see that you've still got 'em.

On Sep.20.2003 at 07:36 PM
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:

Read this.

On Sep.22.2003 at 01:29 AM
JZ’s comment is:

I'm glad to see this topic come up, as I suggested a very similar topic some time ago.

Personally, I'm just confused as to where to go with my career. I'm nearly 30 and have spent my career thus far as a corporate in-house designer...in each of 3 cases I have been the designer. Solely responsible for the company's entire visual communication. I have found lately that I need to advance both in salary and position, but I'm running into dead-ends.

I feel like I'm too old to jump into the traditional agency-type role where one's career path is more defined. And I'm not sure I want to go freelance, though I continue to work on the side.

To me the numbers just don't add up. Most of the good designers by 40 should either be a principle in their own firm or at the management level (AD, CD)....but certainly there aren't enough jobs for everyone.

So where are the designers at 40?

And where does a non-agency type like myself go from here?

That is what I can't figure out.

On Sep.22.2003 at 08:42 AM
Tan’s comment is:

When I graduated college, I remember my instructor telling me that statistically, only 5 out of 30 of us would stay in design past 5 years, and only one or maybe two of us max would make it past 15 years. So far, that prediction has been completely true.

It's because of a number of factors -- it is a very demanding and competitive career. Design is something that demands priority in a designer's life in order to be sustainable. I'm not talking about technology or business demands -- but the energy and passion for design. You need to wake up everyday wanting more of it. It's a constant battle to prioritize design with your family, your friends, even your personal health. This is a lot to ask for many. So their drive recedes, gets lost, or is intentionally discarded. Or for some, it gets replaced by the challenge of business.

JZ -- you just have to ask yourself if you love it enough to keep going. If it's a definite Yes, then it won't matter how old you become or what you end up doing -- it will still center around design. The truth is, no one knows what the next five or ten years will hold for the profession.

On Sep.22.2003 at 12:02 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

Ugh these blogspams are ridiculous. Any way to stop these things?

On Nov.28.2003 at 07:40 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Armin has to do it. It's happened before I think -- it's a blog virus that will find random threads and post those fortune cookie statements. You gotta admit though, the alias names it generates are kinda funny.

Man, something always happens when he's out of town.

On Nov.28.2003 at 09:17 PM
Jason Arendt’s comment is:

I have a... somewhat-related question (and excuse me for bringing this topic back up, but it is something that's suddenly become a concern of mine... ):

Do any of you think it would be a mistake for someone in their early 30's to consider Graphic Design as a career change?

In other words, knowing what you know, would you advise for it or against it? Also, if said someone (me) is male and of African American descent, does that change anything?

(And yes, your HONEST opinion on that last part is paramount. [Yeah, I read Tan's The Diversity of Design thread... ]) :-)

On Apr.03.2004 at 03:04 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Hi Jason,

The idealistic and truthful answer is: no, it doesn't matter how old you are. Lots of people change their careers mid-stream, in their 30s and 40s. Graphic design happens to be one of those professions that many people find later in life. I teach at a local design school and most of my students are close to my age -- early to late 30s, even early 40s.

But the reality is also that it's not easy to get going in this profession. Entry level pay is low, which may be fine for a 20 year old, but harder for a 32 year old with a mortgage and other financial responsibilities. It's not a question of your age and abilities, but circumstances and sacrifices you'll have to make.

And as to your ethnicity -- it doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't. I'm sorry if my view on that wasn't apparent in my thread. It's all about talent, commitment and hard work -- not where you come from or the color of your skin.

On Apr.04.2004 at 03:17 AM
Jason Arendt’s comment is:

Ah... yes, I've read alot about the competition and everything; but yeah, the other factors were the main concern.

So thank you, kind sir, you've been very helpful. :-)

On Apr.04.2004 at 05:05 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Jason, are you going to jump straight into designing or do you plan to go back to school?

I bring it up because in the past we have discussed the merits of going to specialized art school or a regular 4-year college. Many argued for the bigger college's all-around education in other subjects and disciplines. In your case, it would make a lot of sense to spend 2 years focused solely on graphic design — unless you long for some liberal arts classes — and get an intensive crash course in the profession.

At Portfolio Center there are many, many students who are in the exact same position you are. One of the best designers I have seen come out of PC was a lawyer.

On Apr.04.2004 at 06:46 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

I second Armin's comments about a 2-year school. I'm a Portfolio Center grad. I came from a fairly non-design background. I tooled around on the Mac but didn't have any design training whatsoever. In that regard, the 2-year, intensive study was perfect and I haven't looked back. I highly recommend it.

I would look at it like this: if you are, say, 35, then consider that you have 25-30 years to ply your trade before retirement (if you retire!). You've probably spent 10-12 years or so in your current field. Don't be someone who gets to 50 and regrets the career they've chosen. Work is too large a part of our lives to spend it dissatisfied.

On Apr.04.2004 at 10:26 PM
Steph Doyle’s comment is:

I have been a graphic designer for 25 years. I am coming upon my 44th birthday. I sometimes worried about entering my 40s and becoming the stereotypical washed-up designer. But that hasn't happened.

I am part of the generation that had to quickly transition from the waxer to the computer. the time was overwhelming and somewhat intimidating back then. But I have realized through my years that those of us that have merged the old with the new have become successful. Traditional methods of the 70s and 80s merged with the digital age seem to break outside of the usual paradigms. The overly used line of "thinking outside of the box" really comes to mind. Sorry. I had to use that line.

Mid-life in design, for me, is just as fresh as the day I pasted up my first mechanical with beeswax. The challenges are still in place. With the young whiz kids on the block, I embrace their ideas and want to get in there elbow-to-elbow and learn from them. The master then becomes the student. I like that.

Thanks for letting me share. I am new to this forum and excited about the things I can learn from each of you.

On Apr.05.2004 at 08:23 AM
Jason Arendt’s comment is:

Jason, are you going to jump straight into designing or do you plan to go back to school?

Oh yes, of course; going back to school -- a 2-year AAS program is the plan, initially at least (because I imagine for advancement I'll need at least a BFA).

Heh. And Jon, you just about described my situation. Thanks.

On Apr.12.2004 at 07:52 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Jason -- be very selective about the 2-year school you choose. Unlike 4-year programs, AA degrees are even less standardized.

Chain art schools like Art Institutes are especially risky, not to mention expensive. Don't always believe the propaganda and placement statistics they give out. Trust me on this.

Call up a few firms in your area (or the AIGA chapter heads) and ask their opinions on the schools. Market perception and value of a school's graduates can be a more accurate guage of its quality.

On Apr.13.2004 at 11:33 AM