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  • Square-One All Over Again

    One of the funniest things in life—well, I'm sure there are funnier things, but I am simple man-is watching a cat get ready for a nap. He will choose a spot in the couch, bed or belly and start kneading, turning and fussing, relentlessly, furiously and determinedly readying the surface for as long as it takes—five, ten, twenty minutes! it doesn't matter—in search for the ultimate prize of a tranquil rest. Finally, peacefully, the cat sleeps, only to be awakened and start the ritual again. And again.

    Paying your dues is no different. It takes a lot of hard, consistent and persistent work-kneading if you will (trampling or pitty-patting in kitty terms) to reach a point where you feel comfortable: the napping, rewarding part of this somewhat odd metaphor. Whether it is mounting dozens of blackboards for a presentation as an intern or cold-calling dozens of prospective clients as a novice principal of a recently incorporated one-man operation, dues may very well be the third sure thing in life besides taxes and death.

    No matter what state of your career you are in, there is always a better place to be—that is, if you are even somewhat ambitious—and it is not uncommon for that next place to require some sacrifices and hardships and that sense of square-one all over again, or as we have come to know it: paying your dues. I should emphasize that I think dues are not solely a burden of young designers or that they are limited to the first two, three or even five years of a designer's career. At every stage, there are new things to learn (from preparing files for print to preparing RFPs), new people to respond to (from creative directors to clients) and new challenges to face (from running out of adhesive spray before a presentation to having to lay off an employee). Perhaps, even, if at some point you feel you have paid your dues and that you have earned the right to do as you wish you may, in fact and in all possibility, not be challenging yourself enough.

    Surely, if you are a Design Master with 30 years of experience running a highly lucrative design business where your clients grant you unquestioned creative freedom that allows you to spend long evenings and full weekends at home with your loved ones then, maybe, you have actually paid your dues. In which case consider yourself lucky, few people pay their dues in such way that they actually get a refund.

    Whether it is mounting dozens of blackboards for a presentation as an intern or cold-calling dozens of prospective clients as a novice principal of a recently incorporated one-man operation, dues may very well be the third sure thing in life besides taxes and death.

    Graphic design is not harder or easier than other professions, it is how you choose to engage with your career that will determine how hard or easy it is and how costly your dues will be. You can be assured that hard work is well compensated in this industry-or at the very least, you will benefit from good karma-and that it is worth every penny you put into it. You just have to stop thinking of dues as something that you must survive early in your career, rather, think of dues as constant challenges in your evolution as an apt individual who has the amazing privilege of being in a profession that is at its best times undeniably exciting and challenging. Now, find yourself a warm, sunny spot, knead it, soften it, ready it, make it yours. Relax, enjoy, sleep a little. You have to get up soon and do it again. You'll need your rest.

    About the Author: Armin Vit is a graphic designer, observer and aspiring critic. Unafraid of public scrutiny, he has written for Emigre, Eye, HOW and STEP magazines among others. His work has been published in numerous publications around the world and has been awarded many times with much fanfare. He is founder of UnderConsideration and the (in)famous Speak Up. Feisty behind the keyboard, Armin remains timid at heart.
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