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The Grass is Always Greener…

I love my job. I enjoy what I do. Things are good. But every now and then — actually quite often — I wake up, or fall asleep with “change” on my mind. What if… I would organize things differently, be less about business, more about artistic expression? What if I’d explore a different type of client? What if…? Over time I have made adjustments to my business, to the way I work. All with the idea of moving closer to the “ideal.” Needless to say that the ideal is not only constantly changing, but also seems to be impossible to define. What sticks with me, is the constant desire to “get there”.

Asking some friends if they have “dreams of change”, I get a variety of answers. The ones that like what they do and/or run their own businesses seem to think about ways to change, to make things better, but usually it’s very related to what they are already doing. Often times, their intentions seem to be actual possibilities. There are plenty of folks that hate their jobs, that don’t care about the line of work they’re in and dream about how their lives could change. They’re the ones that play Super Lotto every week and spend — sometimes serious — change on Scratcher tickets (obviously I’m generalizing here). A few of them have their own personal side-thing going, hoping to eventually make it and to be able to tell their bosses to “fuck off” and move on. For many, these feelings seem to get stronger, as the booze flows freely, but that’s another topic in itself.

Come to think of it, I have to assume that Speak Up has grown out of one of these “What if…?” moments.

It also seems that plenty of creative types start with big dreams and ideas, they seem to have the talent, but eventually run tired of trying, get fed up with rejection and just seem to forget about it. What I have not come across, are people that are just happy the way things are.

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PUBLISHED ON Jun.28.2004 BY Peter Scherrer
Hesham’s comment is:

Well, don't count me one of them. Having changed 5 jobs over 4 years might be an indication that I am one of the "fools" who believe the grass is greener but as you said I am getting tired of trying and pretty much of graphic design in general.

On Jun.28.2004 at 08:49 PM
James Song’s comment is:

Funny thing - I was thinking of this very issue on the way home from work. I am planning to open my own studio in a few years and was thinking about my longevity. "Ok if I get bored of print maybe I'll be an interactive studio!" then "Ok if I get bored of interaction I can do motion design" then "Ok if I get sick of motion design I can do _____" etc etc. I think the fact that I am already laying a trail for myself is bad enough, but will I ever satisfied to just do the same thing? God I hope not. I think that is what being an artist is about - expanding horizons, shifting visions, creating taste, 180 degree spins. What is the point if it is safe? What is the point if all the problems are solved? I know that I'd probably end up making problems for myself if none existed, and I think it's this little bit of neuroticism and over-obsessiveness that makes design such an enduring profession that can sit in our chest for so long.

On Jun.28.2004 at 09:39 PM
dp’s comment is:

My Job, Pros and Cons. I want to look for a job in a design firm. Right now I'm at a “Marketing Communications” firm.


• Laid back atmosphere

• Nice People/Culture

• Not High Stress

• Decent Pay

• I get to design all the logos/identity

• I design all the Web stuff - makes me an asset - job security


• The work we put out is mostly crap

• No Creative Director, just us designers (1 1/2 yrs exp)

• AEs are the ADs

• All brochures are 8.5 x 11 - tri fold, oh, and coated stock

• They think that uncoated stock is the devil

• AEs decide format and get estimates without consulting a designer first

• Clients butcher the heck out of our work, they beat it unrecognizable

• Boss stands over shoulder saying, make the logo bigger,

bigger, bigger, ahh, that's it. Now make the font bigger.

• Copy is crap more than half the time, the other half, the clients make it crap.

I'm thankful to have a job. I am, but I'd really like to work some place where I'm proud of the work I do and somewhere that values excellence and strives for excellence. I'd also love to have a creative director that can teach me. I'm still pretty young as a designer and I know I have a ton to learn. Maybe the grass is greener. I'm really working on being content where I am though, until something better comes along. Until then, I'll just be thankful I have a job and wait patiently. Okay, sorry, had to get that off my chest. Thanks for posting this topic.

On Jun.28.2004 at 10:22 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

I share some of the same sentiment of ps, however I would change the ideas of "dreams of change" to "progressing faster". I think once you become happy with where you're at, you've lost that hungry edge. Personally I'm scared of satisfaction. What challenges are there after being satisfied? One of my favorite authors (aside from Mr. Kinross) Mr. T mentions "Like a soldier of fortune, always have your book armed and ready". If you have that mindset you'll make your own luck and not have to worry about the lottery.

On Jun.28.2004 at 10:24 PM
Rebecca C.’s comment is:

... people that are just happy the way things are.

If we were, we'd be shopping at Walmart, driving Kia cars and working at banks instead of making things better; designing them to be better. Isn't that kind of the point of being here? On the planet, on the SpeakUp forum, on the G5?

Change, and by extention, improvement, is why I do what I do. Being a designer allows me flexibility in my work and expression. It's only natural that I want to express change in other areas, i.e., workplace, process, hair style. As for grand ideas and burn out, it all boils down to the difference between Inspiration and Perspiration, and the percentages of each I am willing to commit. Satisfaction is overrated.

On Jun.29.2004 at 08:08 AM
bryony’s comment is:

I believe the key is not change, but evolution. It is about taking what you have now, learning from it, knowing what you like/dislike, what you wish to keep for the future and what you surely wish to avoid, by having constant reality checks, and adding all of the above and more in order to take the next step.

We all (and I generalize hoping this is true) have dreams and expectations of how we want to work, about our ideal home/work balance, the perfect client roster, etc. The only way we can identify these things is by experience, by dealing with the crappy clients, by working with routine-based AE’s, by designing the same thing over and over to see it’s long silent death in the hands of snobby executives…

Change is good. Change is a way of life. Evolution is how we get there.

On Jun.29.2004 at 08:27 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Another way of looking at it… in two words: attention span. Not meant in the simple way, as in flipping the channel on TV every five minutes. Rather, it is sometimes hard to stay interested in one line of work, whether is print, web or motion or doing print, web or motion solely for pharmaceutical clients or financial clients. It is normal and expected to outgrow what one is doing, it's just a natural progression. But it comes with a feeling of guilt too; "Am I changing for the right reasons?", "Am I just giving up?", "Being lazy?". In the end it is important to just do whatever feels right, if you are unhappy in the situation you are and you decide to move on it can either a) get better or b) stay equally lame, but at least you changed scenery or clients.

When in doubt, also consider if other people think of what you have as being greener. Maybe you think that what you are doing sucks but it is what many other people actually want.

It is also a reflection of growth and maturity. Equally, it can be a reflection of immaturity and indecisiveness.

On Jun.29.2004 at 08:29 AM
Valon’s comment is:

I think true happiness relies on having a specific goal and reaching that goal in a specified amount of time. The rush I get from setting a goal, working on it, finding ways to achieve it, and finally completing it; is truly what drives me everyday. I used to believe that the Grass is Greener on the other side, but that's what folks on the "other side" think about our side, so in a way all Grass is Green, it's just a matter of seeing that. I am not suggesting that we should be happy with everything we have. What I am saying is that we should be grateful and thankful about the things we have and try and improve everyday. That's what I think is evolution and what bryony is suggesting about change.....

I know I took off and what I am saying is not directly related to the design process, but just an idea I am trying to work on - on what happiness truly is.

On Jun.29.2004 at 09:35 AM
Al Fleener’s comment is:

Yes the grass looks green over there. But it’s pretty green right where I'm at.

After almost 20 years designing, I have yet to get bored with what I do. I think it is all about keeping things in perspective. Do I wish I had more opportunities to design without constraints? Sure—what designer doesn’t? And I can buy into the idea of change for change sake, and the quest for exploring new design challenges.

But when it comes down to it, I have found peace and pride in taking a client’s old, shabby work, and turning it into something that ends up professionally done, that usually exceeds the client’s expectations, and gives me a great deal of design satisfaction at the same time. All the while getting to work with a cup of coffee in hand, listening to my current artist of choice on my iPod and getting paid.

And when I feel like designing completely without boundaries, I create something for myself, friends, or just take on a pro bono project.

So when I hear people in the design community bitching about how if only they got to work on this or that type of project or a certain type of client, and THEN they would surely find happiness—I say take a closer look at your circumstances. In the current culture of hurry up and give me something new and give it to me right now, take the time to find the positive in things. Never stop dreaming and working toward your full potential, but take time to be happy right where you are.

I for one am.

On Jun.29.2004 at 10:15 AM
erica’s comment is:

one of the things i like about this field in general is that it's not repetitive. you may get bored of the particular project you're working on, but there's always another around the corner with a completely different approach, different process, different solution. the job itself is always changing.

in starting a new project, though, i always want to be learning something new, and when i feel that it's more about applying things that i already know and less about learning or discovering something new, i start to get bored. a string of projects like that is when i start to wonder if i should move on, if maybe the grass IS greener on the other side.

and unfortunately, armin, knowing that i'm lucky to have a job, or that so many others would envy the job i have doesn't make me desire change any less. (actually, it makes me feel a little ungrateful and wonder "why can't i be satisfied?")

On Jun.29.2004 at 10:17 AM
dp’s comment is:

Okay, it's a new day. Now that I'm looking at all of these different perspectives, I definitely have a clearer outlook on this situation. Do what you can with what you've got, wait patiently for the next level and be content with what you have for now and still, strive to move forward. Thanks. All very good perspectives.

Now back to that tri fold.

On Jun.29.2004 at 10:54 AM
dp’s comment is:

At the same time, I think it's nice to know when to move on as well. Like Armin said:

It is normal and expected to outgrow what one is doing, it's just a natural progression.

I think as long as you've given it your all, your best to try and change things and it's just not working out and there's no more you can do on your end, it's time to move on.

On Jun.29.2004 at 10:59 AM
Schmitty’s comment is:

dp- I haven't met you which is odd because it sounds like you work in the same office that I do! Your Pros and Cons are identicle to my situation.

In 10 years, I have worked in 3 places-the shortest time span being 8 months-so I am not a "Job hopper". I niavely believe that if I work hard for a company and be dedicated to it's goals, I will in return be rewarded with "things" that allow me to have the "life that I want". Now 10 years later, I feel that I have missed the prime of my career and I am behind in my proffessional goals.

Having said this, here are the "things" I mentioned above. Money is important, but I also look for positions that are doing design similar to my own style, clients that I think would be fun to work on, regular training or attendance to industry seminars.

When you are at a job in which you are no longer learning-then it is time to leave.

On Jun.29.2004 at 11:41 AM
tim’s comment is:

It's one thing to, say, persue a career in motion graphics because you're truly taken with it, and another thing to take it up because that seems to be "where the money is".

It may be a tough lesson (and difficult to institute if you're just starting out) but I truly have found "always for love, never for money" a good rule-of-thumb. The jobs I've had strictly because the paycheck was bigger have been my most miserable years as a professional.

On Jun.29.2004 at 03:45 PM
mwb’s comment is:

If one is questioning what they are doing and looking ahead to do something else before they complete it, (shouldn't that be a red flag to you that your in the wrong field)? maybe i am young and naive but if this is something you are going to do for the rest of your life no matter what it is, you better damn well love it. And as for design, i am still in school, but i know damn well that i am not going to make allot of money when i get out, or for that matter maybe ever. As far as change goes, i am a firm believer if you want it bad enough you'll find away. Who the hell gives up after getting slammed around a few times? On the other end of the spectrum who the hell is completely happy with what they have, you'd be lying to yourself. Graphic design should be done for the sheer enjoyment and love of it, and the lives of the people that you effect [hopefully for the better].

On Jun.29.2004 at 04:16 PM
DT’s comment is:

This is my first post on SU. So, Hello and thanks for the topic.

First let me say that there is an equally old saying of the grass may indeed be greener on the other side but you still have to weed it (or something like that). This topic of the grass being greener has been an ongoing debate for myself for years. I've taken any opportunity to discuss it with friends (both designers and not). The two overarching conflicts seem to categorically fall into one of two camps satisfaction and achievement.

I don't think that my conflicts arise from the unhappiness of my current situation as much as it is the desire for more. I recognize that there are somethings in any job (be it for yourself or for a company) that can be viewed as drudgery (the weeding). Things like invoicing, endless meetings, archinving data, babysitting vendors or what have you. That aside, I've distilled the crux of the problem to be desire. The ability to dream and visualize the as yet intangible is an essential quality/ability for any designer--so how then do you turn that off when it comes to your current situation in life?. Yes, you need maturity, patience and perspective, but if you have vision then how do you not turn that on yourself without ever catching too much of the what if's.

It is a conscious and continual effort to remind myself of staying and enjoying the here an now... today and on this grassy field. Perhaps you've heard the phrase get a compass and not a clock for judging your current situation. In other words succum to the temptation of when will we get there as opposed to having a plan and enjoying the ride. I'm happy today because I know where I want to go and I'm taking the steps to get there.

I feel like I'm getting slightly off track and this is getting rather lengthy so--what about achievement? Well, this is the biggest of the two hurdles because it's the judgement that leads to satisfactions ugly twin. Avoiding the clock judgement is one improvement, but then along comes desire again. Protect me from what I want.

What really used to get me fired up was when I started to question that burning impatience of youth. The phrases that started with God, I can't wait until... (I get out of shool, I get my first design job, I get done with this crummy job, I get more money), then I'll be happy. I started to question whether I'd ever get "there". Like the desert mirage it's fine to entertain the fantasy (as bad as it may seem) but don't lose your grip on the reality of the situation. While this analogy is perhaps a bit stretched I hope you get what I mean. I guess what it comes down to for me is am I chasing an unreachable goal or should I "settle" for where I'm at (or is that giving up)?

So, while I feel that I've gotten much better and have tools (maybe that's maturity) to deal with these conflicts of satisfaction and achievement, I find that I try to wrestle with drawing finer destinctions between desire and ambition.

For me it's that feeling of dissatisfaction, lack of achievement and the driving sense of urgency that leads to the longing look of approval at the neighbors yard. Don't stop dreaming but get a map and get rid of your clock. It helped me. It hasn't cured me, but it has helped me. Sorry this got so long winded. But as I said, it's a topic that resonates with me. BTW love the site!

On Jun.29.2004 at 05:16 PM
DT’s comment is:

In other words succum to the temptation of when will we get there as opposed to having a plan and enjoying the ride.

ahem that's supposed to read In other words DON'T succumb...


On Jun.29.2004 at 05:25 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

This is my third post. Thank you for the topic. I promise to behave....LOL. Maybe those of you with design jobs just don't know how lucky you are sometimes. I used to have a job. Several as Senior art director gigs. But inevitably some dumb boss would squeeze the life out of what was a pretty easy occupation. "The Bataan Death March thru Bad Ideas", I called it. Now I'm self-employed and while it offers benefits like drinking coffe at work in my pajamas, the whole freekin' paradigm shift after 9/11/01 has left illustration in the dust. Maybe those slave ship jobs weren't so bad after all.

On Jun.29.2004 at 06:20 PM
Armin’s comment is:

DT, you also almost got banned for use of obscene language…

On Jun.29.2004 at 06:41 PM
DT’s comment is:

I hadn't heard of Fruedian sympathy, but I'll take it. :)

On Jun.29.2004 at 07:22 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Sorry, nevermind. I have a dirty mind.

On Jun.29.2004 at 09:39 PM
Rob Bennett’s comment is:

When you are at a job in which you are no longer learning-then it is time to leave.

I really used to love my job. I had a great location, a water view and walked to work. I had a great team to work with and we had the respect of our clients (internal) and everything worked well. We all felt important and we learned from each other every day. Then it happened.

The MERGER. Really, it wasnt' a merger in the true sense, more like our big company buying a smaller company. But still that sense of dread hung over everyone. Who would win out, who would lose. In the end, my team lost. Everyone was offered either the chance for a job in Chicago (their team was just layed off three weeks ago) or a package and unemployment. I was lucky and offered the job as head of design for our Institutional team in NY but could still work out of B'more.

What a great gig it was. Travel to NYC once a week. Hang out and do work in B'more. Develop insitutional's corporate identity, work on branding issues and just keep learning. But now, now, it's different. Partially it's been a succession of bosses, too many indecisions at the top, and honestly, working alone, no matter how nice the view does get a bit lonely.

Most importantly, I'm not doing anymore what I want to be doing. Sure, I'm 'designing' but I'm not being innovative, proactivity is a goal blocked by time constraints, and learning, well that comes on my own time. After dinner and the kids are put to bed. So, change is inevitable. Looking sucks. Is my work good enough? Do I have enough management experience? Am I what they want? What they are looking for? Are they going to pay me enough money?

I am very thankful I have a job. I know that I need change. It's not about the grass as much it is about the weeds that are tumbling around me.

On Jun.30.2004 at 09:49 AM
heather’s comment is:

one year out of school... i see this path ahead of me. In my second job and already thinking about my third, I wouldn't say I have "dreams of change" so much as I have "an addiction to change." I'm able to calm this sometimes with hair dye, major landscaping changes in my garden or large interior design projects, but I can't always ignore.

My problem is that I'm young, and I want to do SO much, that I worry about getting it all done, and whether I'm on the right path to get there. Am I shooting high enough? Should I be on the next level already?

Right now I'm in a smaller town I'm not sure I want to be in, and not in my dream job, but I learn everyday, so I feel full.

I agree that yearning for change and greener grass is what makes us designers... We change for a living. I just hope I can change well!

On Jul.01.2004 at 03:04 PM
Deanna’s comment is:

As someone who has lived just long enough to know how little I really know, I'd like to light a fire under those of you who feel you are stuck in your life, be it in a job or something else.

If you are unhappy with your life, then take action. Life is too short! Sometimes we get trapped into thinking that decisions come down to two choices and one is the right choice while the other is the path to hell.

I love what I do. I get to be a sponge, dabble, play, explore, be an instigator. But it's taken me a few years to be happy. For a long time, I felt like if I could just get these type of clients, or that type of job, I'd be happy...but that's just empty chatter that distracts from what's at hand.

I have worked in terrible jobs, worked for myself, made some dumb decisions and became totally disillusioned with what I do. The answer for me (for now!) was to take a 10k paycut to work in a non-profit environment where I have creative freedom and feel like I'm contributing in some way. I take on freelance projects and gleefully turn down what I do not want to do. My goal for this next year is to expand my skillset, delve into motion graphics and film and direct my first music video. : )

Whatever you do, always set the bar just a little higher than you can currently reach.

On Jul.05.2004 at 10:15 AM
Luc’s comment is:

I really believe that someone who isn't content is motivated.

Motivation = good

Being Content = good

But if you're content then you're probably not motivated. I see it as a kind of a life balance, however we need it to be unblanced in order for us to be happy. I think my balance is tipped slightly to the Motivated side and thats what makes me constantly looking for a little more. A day job and a web company at night. I know it takes patience but persistance we'll get me to where I am going.

On Oct.21.2005 at 11:30 AM