Paying Your Dues Without Selling Your Soul

How do you strike the balance between exuberant young artist with vision, supporting cast member, ever-ready helper, and frustrated doormat?

“You have to pay your dues.”

It's a mantra heard often by students and young designers. But it can mean many different things to many different people. And its usually stated in the third person. So, for clarification, I've asked over a dozen successful designers for personal stories about how they paid their dues.

Most describe it as a period time during which they had to give and follow patiently, even when they wanted desperately to be allowed to break loose. They gave up something to receive something they did not have, something that they desired: credibility, professional skills, experience-the answer is different for everyone.

But when do we go too far? When do we go from paying dues to selling out? Is it OK to “rent out” your soul once in a while? How many times is too often? When is it a temporary necessity as opposed to an intolerable state?

The stories told vary in situation and circumstance, but there are common themes of hope and reflection. They illustrate the power of pursuing our individual vision and doing whatever it takes to make it real. Just thinking about it is not enough!

Petrula Vrontikis
Creative Director, Vrontikis Design Office
Senior Faculty Member, Art Center College of Design

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