I've been teaching graphic design for many years now. Sure, we
talk about messaging, composition and process—but there's a
question that looms heavy. Surprisingly, it's rarely asked: Will
graphic design be a satisfying career?
What can I say to those who ask? There's a glass half full
response and a glass half empty response.
When the glass is half full, I see that most of us really love
what we do. We become fast learners and are quite resilient. Our
field changes frequently, especially in terms of technology. We
keep up because we fear that our work will become stale or our
skills outdated. Our civilian (non-designer) friends think we have
it made: we get to be creative for a living.
Our civilian friends don't realize that the tough part is
being creative for a living. Creativity doesn't always happen on
demand. When the glass is half empty, I see that many of us are
tormented by procrastination and resent the “business” part of our
creativity. We question everything and are rarely sure that we are
doing our best work.
Most graphic designers create artifacts for a living. When we
reflect back, we see a trail of books, catalogues, brochures,
posters and logos. Is that all that represents our endless hours of
toil? Has graphic design been our life?
Some of us just crave recognition—validation that what we have
done is important. We designers reward each other with more
artifacts: certificates, books, plaques and Lucite circles, squares
and triangles. Again, is that all that represents our endless hours
The answer is varied; and the experience, like design itself,
can't be limited to one perspective. I decided to ask a few
colleagues to share their thoughts about their careers so far.
contributions are compiled in this series titled: Reflections.
Hopefully their experiences can shed some light on what one can
expect of a graphic design career. They can help us recognize
what's rewarding and reveal what they might change if they
Let us know what you think.
Design educator Vavetsi prepares students for the real world of designing for clients’ needs, not their own.
Section: Inspiration -
graphic design, personal essay, mentoring, students
You can love your work, just don't love your work, to
the degree that you forget there's also an audience and a
Allen offers a personal post-grad reflection on making her way back into professional life with new attitudes about design and the designer’s role.
Section: Inspiration -
professional development, personal essay, Voice, students
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AIGA member Jessi Arrington made this video about creating her skateboard for “Bordo Bello,” an annual skateboard art show hosted by AIGA Colorado. Her skateboard design is one of many on view at the AIGA National Design Center in New York City April 22–July 2, 2013.
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