Three of my friends and I headed off to the same college at the same time. I was the only one who ended up graduating. It wasn't that I was any smarter than the others. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am often dumber than a box of rocks. The reason I made it through all of the hoops and hurdles is very simple:
I went in with a plan. In fact, in my high school yearbook, under future plans, it actually says, "to become a high school graphic arts teacher." When I started college I knew what I wanted to do and knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel made it a lot easier to get up for an eight AM class.
Our society has been doing a huge disservice to kids for a long time; as parents we have done one to our children; as teachers we have done one to our students. We have made entering college a life goal. Kids hear throughout their academic years that getting into a college should be their primary goal, and so once a kid is accepted to college, they feel they have achieved their only goal. No wonder the college dropout rate is so high. These same kids wander around from major to major with no direction. They have already met their life goal and have nowhere else to go.
What we need to tell kids is that a career should be their ultimate goal. Although we might imply this, we don't make an effort to formalize it. Kids should first find something they have an aptitude for and that they like, and then find a career that matches it. If a four year college is a step in reaching that goal, then so be it. A two year community college might be even better for some kids. Some will even be ready to start their careers right out of high school. In any case they now have a goal that is more purposeful. It is a hell of a lot easier to get up for an eight AM class when there is a good reason for doing so.
I had a student who was incredibly talented and took several of my graphic arts classes. He wanted to go straight into the industry. He was also quite close to another member of our staff. This other teacher and I had huge debates about what advice we should give him. I felt he was ready to start his career without college. After all, the kid had a clear vision of what he wanted to do and how to get there without additional formal education. The other teacher thought he should enter college for college's sake. After all, this is America. College should be a goal for all kids. Fortunately, I won the debate. Two years out of high school he was featured in Time magazine for his accomplishments. Four years out of high school he owned his own business and is one of the leaders in his industry.
Another student left high school and went directly to a four year school. She knew that she really liked the graphics industry, but wasn't certain which part of it she should concentrate on. After two years of struggling with general required classes she quit the four year school and enrolled in a community college that had a good two year graphics program. It was there that she found the right direction for her. A year later she was recommended for a scholarship to attend one of the leading programs in the United States. She completed that program, entered the industry, and now works for one of the leading graphic arts software developers in the world. Dropping out of the original school had nothing to do with academic preparation and it had nothing to do with how smart she was. It had everything to do with her purpose and why she was there.
College for college's sake should never be a goal unto itself. Young people need to find out what they like to do; find out what they are good at. They should join those two things together and find a career that matches. If college is a step to their career goals, then great. If not, who cares? Spend time in an internship doing job shadows and taking career assessments. These activities will prove invaluable down the road.
I love my job. I could not imagine going to a job each day and not really wanting to be there. I knew from an early age that I wanted to teach graphic arts at the high school level. That was just plain lucky, but it has worked out for me. Now it's twenty-five years later and I still enjoy coming to work each day. Taking additional classes and jumping through bureaucratic nonsense may not be all that much fun, but it is a lot easier knowing that it will get me where I want to be. If all kids were to shift their focus further down the road than college, I think they would find all the little steps a lot more manageable.
Tom Danielson was born in Winnetka, Illinois. 1974 (Where all of the John Hughes films were made). He reads a lot of history books. He drew a lot of army men fighting dinosaurs. He wrote a poem at age seven about D-Day. His first "design moment" came at age three, on a family trip out west. He would scream and yell until his brother and sister held his face inches from stops signs he would see. At that point he would drift into a quiet trance. It calmed him. He now lives in Brooklyn, where he directs art.
Exclusive + Inclusive: the Twofold Nature of Graphic Design
One thing that continues to attract me to the study and practice of graphic design is the diversity of activities and roles it includes. Not only do we research, develop, refine, and implement designed communications, but we also work with a variety of stake holders throughout the process, such as audiences, users, clients, suppliers, printers, fabricators, etc., each with differing needs and expectations. Clearly our field is not for those who seek simplicity and certainty. Instead, we must become comfortable with complexity, contradiction and ambiguity. We're required to trust in our process, knowing that in the end a solution will present itself.
As I have been working as a full-time design educator for a number of years, I've discovered another aspect of our field that seems contradictory — that the profession is simultaneously exclusive and inclusive. Specifically, gaining entrance to both study and qualify to practice in the field can be a very exclusionary process. On the other hand, the actual practice of graphic design is most powerful when an inclusive approach is used — i.e. the more input we have from various stake holders, the better our efforts serve the public good.
It's no great secret that many of the better graphic design educational programs enroll only a small percentage of those who seek entrance. As an example, the undergraduate visual communication design program that I direct at The Ohio State University admits roughly 20% of its applicants, and the percentage of acceptances to the graduate program is even less. Other recognized programs would no doubt report similar results.
There are some good reasons for our exclusivity. A majority of design graduates tend to stay in a program's geographic area for a period of time before spreading out to other locations. Many graphic design students participate in internships with local firms which can, on graduation, then turn into full-time job opportunities. Obviously, the job market can only absorb so many new designers per year, so keeping the numbers low benefits everyone. Graduates don't have to compete against too many classmates, and employers are fairly certain that the graduates they employ are of a high caliber. In addition, and at the risk of sounding snobbish, not everyone who thinks they should be a graphic designer is actually cut out for the job. While it's quite clear that there are well-qualified students turned away during our acceptance process every year, I'm not so sure that there are that many more that we'd accept, even if we could. It's been suggested that we double our numbers and take in two cohorts of students to meet the demand for our program. However, I'm fairly certain that only a handful of that second group would actually perform at the level of those currently accepted. As we have no desire to dilute the quality of our program, we've thus far resisted this notion, and I hope that we'll continue to do so. So, to conclude this point — graphic design is not for everyone, and a certain amount of exclusivity concerning who is allowed to enter the field is, to my mind anyhow, mostly a good thing.
Apparently, "inclusivity" is not a word recognized in all dictionaries. But let's go ahead and use it anyway. It's my strong belief that the more inclusive graphic designers are of the requirements of those who experience our work, the better the results are for everyone. Audiences and users benefit from clear messages; our clients benefit from more satisfied customers and constituents; and designers benefit from providing a valuable service to all. Similarly, I believe that one of design's main contributions to society and our nation's public life is making communications easily understood by as many people from as many walks of life as possible.
One significant example of this role is seen in a recent project sponsored by the AIGA and coordinated by Marcia Lausen, a designer and educator in Chicago. This "election design" initiative entailed taking an inclusive, user-centered approach to the design of new ballots, election administration materials, polling place signage, absentee and provisional voting materials, and voter education and outreach literature. The designers involved made sure that all materials could be easily used by those with limited abilities and from low-income backgrounds, along with individuals who spoke languages other than English. The success of this program has been documented in a book to be published in 2007, which I would urge all graphic design students and practitioners to read and consider.
The "election design" project is an example lifted from a graphic design educational program that takes a more user-centered approach. Others may involve more fine art or advertising. All are valid and necessary approaches, and many of these different programs use the exclusionary acceptance practices described earlier. My program at Ohio State has long been oriented to inclusive design, which is probably the most under-represented of the three approaches. I personally feel there is still much work to be done in this direction and invite other educators and practitioners to consider exploring this potentially more responsible approach.
So, by way of wrapping up, I'd suggest that we all think deeply about what our roles in society might be. Should our profession serve mainly the for-profit sector, or should we also put our considerable talents to use for the public good? The answer to that question may differ for each of us — but for students embarking on careers, it may offer an alternative to their expected career path. Our profession may not be for everyone, but that doesn't mean that what we do can't benefit us all.
Paul Nini is a Professor in the Department of Design at The Ohio State University, where he also serves as Coordinator of the undergraduate Visual Communication Design program and Past Graduate Studies Chairperson. His writings have appeared in a variety of publications, and he has presented at numerous national and international design and education conferences.
Be a Two-Headed Monster
Who are you?
Answer that question before you start to work.
School will teach you about kerning and Paul Rand, but they cannot teach you the thing that will determine whether you will be good or great. That thing is up to you. In fact, it is you. Your work needs to have your unique point of view.
Go to a party. One full of people. People holding drinks and pretzel sticks and conversation. Who are you drawn to? Who stands out? Those who express something interesting, charming, reactive; i.e. NOT the standard boring banter about weather. They are the ones you are attracted to.
To stand out, you need two heads. One is the head you fill with all the fundamental skills you learned in school. Exacto cutting, font spotting, use of the word "juxtaposition," etc. This is the head everyone can fill if they take the standard creative professional path. But to really kick-ass and stand out at the party, you need to develop a second head which you should fill with the unique you.
Your work will stand out if you have a point of view. Everybody has unique life experiences that give them a special outlook on the world and you will find your POV in experiences that have nothing to do with your career. In fact, the more divergent these things are, the better. Maybe you were raised by a military family, or you once loved baseball, or you immigrated to the United States when you were very young. All of these experiences shaped who you are and how you see the world.
Before I was an art director, I was a lawyer. Also I have a manic interest in history and politics. These pieces form my second head, the real Jimm, and guide me when I solve creative problems. This is the core of what makes my work my own. It makes the work interesting. It makes the work human.
Law school shaped the way I communicate. I was taught to make dense concepts simple enough to relate to a jury. My choice of words, colors and images is often direct and straight to the point.
My love of history and politics lead me to create sharpastoast.com, where I supply the world's nerds with cool T-shirts. These designs come straight from my second head and are informed by my love of history and politics. In these cases I am able to create primarily on instinct because the work is so personal to me.
Designers are professional communicators. Good creative work feels like a conversation between two people, and the more personal you can make your work, the more people it will touch. Everything starts with a knowledge of self. When this mixes with your craft, you will begin to create the work you always wanted to.
In the film "Boogie Nights," Don Cheedle's character, Buck Swope, spends a large part of the film socializing in different clothing styles and it is getting him down. He can't figure out which style fits his true self: Rick James or Rhinestone Cowboy. Finally his friend, Maurice, clues him into the solution:
"Do what you dig."
Jimm Lasser, Esq. (1974 - ) On the stormy morning of Sunday, December 9, 1974, Nancy Lasser, wife of Alan, gave birth to a boy. He was born on a bed of poles covered with corn husks. The baby was named Jimm, after Comedian Red Foxx. The birth took place in the Lasser's rough-hewn cabin in Winnetka near Chicago, Illinois. Alan Lasser was a dermatologist and a farmer. Nancy Lasser had little or no accounting schooling and could not write French poetry. Jimm spent a short amount of time in a log schoolhouse, before graduating from the University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University School of Law, and the Portfolio Center. Jimm attended school dressed in a raccoon cap, buckskin clothes, and pants so short that several inches of his calves were exposed. Jimm earned his first dollar ferrying passengers on a Lake Michigan steamer, and designing T-shirts for the 84-year old James Toast at sharpastoast.com. He spoke out against the Dred Scott Decision, has won many decorations for valor in battle, and is now a "creative person of interest" at Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon.
4 Steps to Idiocy (And 1 Step to Sheer Genius)
- Step 1
- I went to college and studied graphic design. I managed to learn how to spec type, crop photos, use a waxer (don't ask), drink coffee, recognize Paul Rand, make comps with markers, steal ideas from design annuals, and create a portfolio.
- Step 2
- I got a job. First at a little ad agency, then at a crappy little design studio designing 2-color pamphlets. After a few years of relative progress, I became a partner and eventually bought out the other guy. So…
- Step 3
- I had my own design studio. Now I was master of my own domain and, better yet, starting to win design awards. Things were going well and it felt pretty good. I was making decent money and driving a somewhat nice car. I wasn't at the top of the mountain, but I could see the peak from where I was standing.
- Here's where it gets interesting.
- Step 4
- I realized that I was an idiot. We were working with a client that had hired a behavioral psychologist from Cornell University to help evaluate to what degree their competitors were victims of "heuristic bias." I had never heard this term before. It simply means that people are victims of learned biases or orthodoxies. As we develop, we learn things that become ingrained patterns of behavior. These synaptic connections allow us to survive in the world and make quick and efficient decisions.
- For example, a useful heuristic bias develops from learning that swimming with great white sharks can be a tragic mistake: a dorsal fin next to you while surfing = get away fast. However, this same useful bias can also lead to poor decisions. If a shark attack off the coast of California is widely reported in the national news, people will stay out of the water in New Jersey even though the statistical probability of an east coast event has not increased due to a happening 3,000 miles away.
- (Insert image of light bulb going off here.)
- I realized that I was an idiot. Even though I thought I was a good designer, generating copious creative ideas at will, I was actually severely limited by my built-in biases. My brain was automatically short-cutting to solutions for my work without exploring the range of possibilities available, one of which could be brilliantly unexpected and effective.
- Step 5
- I learn how to "think wrong." Some people are natural wrong thinkers. They short-circuit normal biases without breaking a sweat. Picasso, Fellini, Phillipe Stark and Stefan Sagmeister are examples… damn them.
- The rest of us need to work hard to get our minds to break out of predictable patterns.
- The bad news is that doing this is really tough. How tough? Try talking "wrong," out loud right now. Link words in a nonsensical sequence meaning absolutely nothing. It's probably possible but I can't do it.
- The good news is just knowing that thinking wrong can be a useful way to generate alternative ideas is an advantage in itself.
- The better news is that there are techniques and exercises that can be used to trick your heuristic mind into "lateral" thinking.
- I'll describe one of them. Next time you're "brain storming" at the beginning of a project, get out an encyclopedia. Pick a number between 1 and 100 and another between 1 and 10. Say… 45 and 3, for example. Go to page 45 in the encyclopedia and find the 3rd word. Say… "brimstone." Now use "brimstone" as the starting point for brainstorming about your project. Since there are no incorrect answers, go in whatever direction you want. I guarantee that you will end up someplace new and unexpected.
- It might not be the right answer, but then again… it could be sheer genius.
John Bielenberg is a partner and co-founder of C2, in San Francisco, with Greg Galle and Erik Cox, and founder and director of Project M, a summer program in Maine that is designed to inspire young designers, writers, photographers and filmmakers by proving that their work can have a positive and significant impact on the world.
Since 1991, John has produced an ongoing series of projects under the pseudonym Virtual Telemetrix, Inc. that address issues related to the practice of graphic design and Corporate America. Projects have included the "Quantitative Summary of Integrated Global Brand Strategy" booklet and video produced for the 1998 AIGA Brandesign Conference, the 1997 Virtual Telemetrix Annual Report satire of corporate branding and "ceci n'est pas un catalog" which parodies designer products. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has acquired 6 of the VT projects and staged a Virtual Telemetrix exhibition and mock IPO (Initial Public Offering) in 2000.
John is a member of AGI (Alliance Graphique International) and is Vice President and Director of the Pop!Tech Institute.
Perhaps you remember this scenario from attending a football game in high school. Your team scores and the cheerleaders throw small plastic footballs into the stands. On each ball is an ad from a local business. When I was in college at Kent State, my internship was pasting up mechanicals of those ads at a local printing company. Because you aren't in design school in the early 1980s you have the blissful advantage of not knowing what "paste-up" is. Believe me, contrary to what old-timer curmudgeons would have you think, you really aren't missing much. While this internship was not the least bit glamorous, I got to refine my stat camera skills (see paste-up above) and watch the high speed letterpress that used a bed of open flame to dry the ink as it came off press in what I now remember as a Beavis and Butthead meets Fred Goudy moment.
Luckily, a few semesters later I was invited to be in Glyphix, a program at Kent where a studio staffed by students designed work for local non-profits. This was certainly more in keeping with what I was interested in, although in those days before computers it seems — in my memory at least — that lots of time was spent waiting for the typesetting to be delivered (see paste-up, above).
After years of teaching I am still struck by this unspoken reality: all the weeks of effort put forth in the classroom getting ready for a final presentation is the work that would be done in a studio setting preparing for a first presentation. We need to remind ourselves of that from time to time. So, when I teach I try to critique students from a variety of viewpoints: the reality of their work in class; how things might be pursued differently in a studio situation; how it might be even more different in presenting to a client; and how design is an inherently iterative process that continues well beyond the first presentation. I try to keep the students aware of these shifting conditions as I critique.
In 1995 when I was asked to start a Glyphix-like studio practicum for graphic design students, I thought it would be a great opportunity to teach from these multiple points of view in a setting where the outcome would be especially clear. Sputnik, as the studio is known, started with two students in the fall semester of 1995 and has grown significantly since then.
Sputnik's only client is California College of the Arts (CCA). San Francisco has a wealth of design firms with a strong sense of community responsibility and it seems that every non-profit has a designer — the last thing I wanted was to take work away (often fun and rewarding work) — from our local colleagues. Besides, I can't image a better situation than designing for the CCA: clients who are pre-sold on the value of interesting design, who are visually sophisticated and, well…it's an art school.
In Sputnik the students work essentially as free-lance designers in that they're assigned projects individually and are responsible for the design and production of those projects. They present sketches and comps in class and once those are approved they present to the client. The presentations are chaperoned — either I as the faculty advisor or the College's director of publications are at the meeting to provide backup. Presenting is often a good wake up call because the kinds of convoluted explanations often used in studio classes just don't work. Sometimes I need to gently prod the students during their presentations ("Maybe you can talk about why you're using this image." "And orange is a good color for spring because…?").
Every semester, the faculty nominate students they think would make good Sputnik staff members. I ask them to consider students who are reliable, articulate, and mature while possessing excellent typographic skills, the ability to self-author imagery, and the aptitude to effectively process criticism. This is a dream list, really, because very few students possess all these characteristics. I think I'm missing a few of them myself. We interview everyone and look at their resume and portfolio. When it comes to looking at resumes, I'm a big fan of students who have the sense to run spell check. And here's a hint. A resume is a nice simple typography problem. If you can't nail the design of your resume then things are looking dismal from the start.
It's interesting how the staff comes together each time. I'm one of three votes. Erin Lampe, the Director of Publications and her assistant are the other two. And we don't always agree. Erin, because she has far more contact with the students and has deadlines and processes firmly in mind at all times, is attracted to more mature students who she can be sure will promptly answer their email. I'm often more willing to take a chance on someone whose design skills are outstanding but whose organizational skills are questionable. Neither of us, however, want to deal with prima donnas. Things happen too fast to have senseless arguments with people, and we have to consider our clients as well. The students will move on after the semester, but we work with the same people year after year. We're trying to build trust and rapport so that the quality of work can continuously improve. If someone's attitude endangers that we have a big problem. Other designers often say they're looking for an employee who's a good fit. This can mean lots of things —someone whose skills complement those of the office, for example. But what they usually mean is that they want someone who fits within the office culture and personality. You spend more time with your co-workers than with your family. No one wants to spend the majority of their waking hours with some jerk, no matter how talented.
I think being in Sputnik and having this extraordinary degree of support and independence beautifully prepares students for the working world. Even if you don't have the opportunity to participate in a program like Sputnik, there is a larger lesson here. Not too many people get full time jobs straight out of school. Most of the time there's a stretch of freelancing before landing a job. Having freelance experience can expose you to the possibility that you might not need a "real" job anyway, and that perhaps there's another way to manage your career. Freelancing is a perfectly fine option, and a good segue to opening your own studio. I wish I had realized this back when I first moved to San Francisco. I turned down a chance to design music packaging with Tom Bonauro (a hero of mine to this day!) because I wanted a full time position.
Bob Aufuldish is a partner in Aufuldish & Warinner and an Associate Professor at the California College of the Arts, where he has taught graphic design and typography since 1991. In 1995 he founded Sputnik, a student-staffed design office that produces work for the College.
With A&W Bob has designed diverse projects for clients such as Adobe Systems, Advent Software, American Institute of Architects, Center for Creative Photography, Chronicle Books, Denver Art Museum, Emigre, the Logan Collection Vail, Moore Ruble Yudell Architects, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the State Compensation Insurance Fund. His digital type foundry, fontBoy.com was launched in 1995 to manufacture and distribute his fonts.
He has participated in a number of exhibitions, including, "CCA at 100: Fertile Ground" and "Icons: Magnets of Meaning," both at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He has lectured across the US as far east as New York and as far west as Honolulu. His work has been included in competitions and publications sponsored by the American Association of Museums, the American Center for Design, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Communication Arts Magazine, Critique Magazine, Design Net (Korea), dpi (Taiwan), Graphis Magazine, How Magazine, ID Magazine, Idea, the New York Type Directors' Club, and Print Magazine, among others.
Bob has a BFA and MFA in graphic design from Kent State University, Ohio.
Collecting Matter: Adventures in Magazineland
I'm a big believer in the power of friendships. When you have a best friend and you are both passionate about what you do creatively, you can achieve anything together. It's like an unstoppable force. Or, at least, that's what it feels like. Rachel was my best friend in design school at the University of Cincinnati. She was in Industrial Design and I was in Graphic, and we were full of enthusiasm, passion, and naiveté — the perfect combination for taking on anything.
It was the Christmas break before the last stretch of design school when I got an email from her. "Hey," she said. "Got an idea for my thesis project. I want to make a proposal for an eco-design magazine. But not some old green granny crap. Mega dope shit." Now, somewhere along the way, we scaled this idea up. Way up. No longer was this a mere thesis project but, instead, a full-fledged independent magazine launch. And why not? The concept was to launch a hip magazine for a generation of young, fresh designers that highlighted the most imaginative design. It also had to be eco-conscious. But not all in your face about it, simply using eco as a regular quality of good design.
In our minds it was a win-win situation for everybody. We could spread the word about cool young designers of our generation while mixing it up for the audience and advertisers by throwing in a few big peeps and making the world a better place through green design. During the process we got to skip working for the man by starting our own business. We were still at university, but in our minds we were sipping margaritas on the roof of our Brooklyn office. Genius.
Building the Foundations
Because neither one of us had any magazine or business experience, or THAT much practical experience, period, this was going to be a ground-up operation. But we weren't about to let lack of "experience" knock us down and, besides, how much experience does one really need?
So Rachel and I created an identity for our magazine concept by figuring out who our audience was, who the competition was, and other ad-agency/business-y stuff like that. After a few gruelling sessions on thesaurus.com we christened the magazine Collected Matter, a name we thought sounded interesting, straight-forward, and not all in-your-face about being eco. I'm terrible with numbers, budgeting, and checking my account balance, so I was stoked that Rachel was on top of all that. Not that she was a business-planner extraordinaire, but her dad's friend was a lawyer (somehow that was enough).
With a registered name and identity behind us we were now in full-fledged business partner mode. Behind the television in the living room we set up our "office," which consisted of a plastic table with two unmatching plastic chairs. We were in overdrive and spent more and more time in the apartment, leaving only to hit essential classes and the grocery store. We were starting our days at eight and working til 1 or 2 in the morning, not even taking time to get out of our pajamas or brush our hair. We were feeling big time.
A Little Strength
With the addition of each contributor, we became more and more confident in our concept. We were gathering tons of material, but knew we had to get on the ball with the actual publishing part. We needed a little Strength.
Strength was a skateboarding magazine that a few of our friends had worked for in Cincinnati. It had started out independently and was distributed nationally, so we thought, "these are the guys to get some advice from." Jeff, the intern-turned-editor who'd seen it from its beginnings, turned out to be amazingly helpful. He had tons of advice and answered all of our zero-experience questions without making us feel like idiots. He pointed us in the direction of a few good printers and told us how to figure out ad rates, etc. He even gave us a few dirty little tricks of the trade for beginners. His final words to us: "Best of luck and keep me posted! And hey, just so you know, this magazine stuff… it's pretty damn tough! I'm serious. Make sure you are really, really up for this… It's going to be hard as hell." I had no idea.
Our next mission, in the fun world o' budget land was to find out our printing costs. Fair enough. Now, part of the whole concept of this thing was being eco-consciousness so, obviously, this magazine had to be, at least, printed on recycled paper or the whole thing was going to be completely hypocritical. We wanted the whole eco shebang — non-toxic soy inks, wind-powered presses, that melty-biodegradable paper. I made up my dream list and got in touch with an eco printing rep in NYC. We were going to go for a 10,000 to 15,000 copy launch — all eco friendly. And then I got the numbers back — an $85,000 quote! Four times a year!
Needless to say, our jazzy printing rep in NYC didn't hear from us again. We were moving on and cutting costs. Yes, we were shipping our business to good old Bob in Ohio. And maybe we could get some recycled paper with that? 40% recycled? Well. That's better than nothing.
Rachel had Microsoft Excel on her machine and I didn't. Therefore, she was going to be in charge of this business-y stuff. We'd gotten our printing quote way down to what seemed like a semi-reasonable amount. We'd figured out our ad rates and now it was time to get down to business and sell some of these bitches.
I couldn't recall in my mind how many times Rachel and I had had these conversations. "I mean, Nike, right? They are all about trying to eco up their image. I mean, they'd be so into this!" In our minds, we'd just pick up the phone and they'd already be on the other line with a blank check in hand. Later, after we'd called up every ad agency in America, we realized that people in business really were just that, in business. Maybe the CEO of these corporations cared about going eco, but Joe Schmo working the link in the chain closest to the telephone did not care about helping some first-time magazine. In a matter of weeks we had worked our choosy list of cool, eco-friendly corporations down to the recycled toilet paper brands. We had sold zero ads. Something needed to give.
It was a Friday afternoon and we had just gotten the last polite "no thanks" from our now-exhausted list of potential ad buyers. "What the Hell?" we thought. It had been half a year since we had blasted full-force into our project, investing an incredible (and over-achieving) amount of time and energy into our magazine endeavour. We had an amazing collection of contributors, everyone we'd asked had said, "yes," no matter how big time they were. We didn't get it. Well, we did: we had the skills, but when it came down to it, we couldn't pay the bills. How the hell had Strength done it? Well, we'd found out that there had been a Daddy Warbucks. We did not have a Daddy Warbucks. Yet. Now that I recall this dark, dark period, I am sure that this was the closest to "loosing one's grip on reality" as I have ever come.
The last granules of our dream were slipping through the cracks of our fingers. I didn't see the bright lights and big magazine surrounding us. Instead, I saw Rachel's messy pack-rat room. We had to do something; we couldn't let all of our contributors down. Well, it was partly this, and it was partly fear of failing in general. All the work was done, we just needed someone to publish it! I mean, they didn't have to do anything except fork out the money! But, who in the hell could we sell this thing to?
Our so-called competitor? Maybe, just maybe, they would be interested in launching a younger, hipper magazine. So we dug up a copy of their magazine, looked in the table of contents, dialled the general number and asked for the big cheese. Was it really this easy? Yes. Yes it was.
And they really listened! They ended the conversation with "Well, it all sounds like you have a really good idea. I really will think about it and thank you for thinking of me."
When Rachel hung up the phone we knew we would not hear back from them. Nor would we follow up because we had hit crazy level. It was time to get the hell out of the house and so we got dressed for the first time in weeks and took a walk. "I don't know, Cara, I mean I don't know if I can handle this! I need health insurance." Good old health insurance. Whenever Rachel was having serious, SERIOUS doubts she brought up the old health insurance. I knew this was probably the end of our adventure in magazine-land. We had given it every last shot and for some reason we had hit wall after wall after wall. We needed to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Graduation was coming soon, so we decided just to enjoy our last week and then focus on getting REAL jobs. Real jobs. With health insurance.
But, of course, I knew we couldn't REALLY give up. So we gathered up all of our "collected matter" into a book proposal, just to see what would happen and, like magic, I found the way around the walls. It was like realizing that you just had to turn left and you wouldn't run smack into the crash barrier over and over and over again. So, Collected Matter became Experimental Eco Design and two year's later was published all over the world by Rotovision. Of course, we worked nights and weekends getting it all together (after working our day jobs, Rachel's with health insurance*), and going a little crazy in the meantime—but that is another story all together.
*Cara still has never had health insurance, even though she has worked real jobs now for several years.
Cara Brower randomly ended up in the graphic design program at the University of Cincinnati, mainly because it was the nearest big city to her small hometown in Kentucky. She was very excited when she later realized that it also happened to be a really good program. With its unique (and extremely long) 5 year co-operative program, Cara was able to gain a range of work experience with Doyle Partners, Landor Associates, Stoltze Design, Paul Sahre, and Open. After graduation, Cara returned to NYC to work at Scott Stowell's Open as a certified designer. Since then she has also worked at MTV and Nickelodeon and in 2006 published "Collected Matter" as "Experimental Eco-Design", with Rotovision. By the time this book has been published, she will have attended even more school and received her MA in Production Design at the Royal College of Art's National Film and Television School. She may, or may not, still be living in London.
Bits On Crits: A Primer to Getting the Most Out of Your Critiqes (REVISED)
As a student, I learned the most through engaged and passionate discourse, not isolating myself in a studio or the library. While the joy and struggle of making design is usually a solitary and internal experience, the process of understanding and making sense of what we create happens in the discussion of the work with others. This discussion happens in the arena of the critique.
You know the scenario: The class is huddled around the work on the wall, giving it the once over. Then the instructor says, "Any comments?" Dead silence. Eyes wander, looking for the one person brave enough to start. Finally, a lone voice breaks the tension and comments on the piece in question. And then — as if this person's bravado is a contagious airborne virus — a discussion has begun.
So speak up as much as you can. The excuses that I've heard for not speaking up are many and uniformly weak: "I hate the way I sound when I talk." "I don't have anything to say." Or "I hate those people who are always speaking up." The ability to verbally comment on design is a skill almost as important as creating the work. Inevitably, the quest to create great design depends on your ability to clearly and compellingly present the work — whether to an instructor, boss or client — and then to also be critical of its failings in order to make it better. There's no place more apt than the critique to practice and hone these skills.
Be honest. Give praise where the praise is due, but acknowledge weak areas as well. No one takes criticism well, but this process is about making better work, not making new friends. An effective way to approach honest criticism is the good first, the bad second and humor all around. Starting with positive aspects of the work being discussed usually helps any negative comments go down a little smoother. Design is a serious endeavor, but critiques don't have to take on a solemn tone. Humor and brevity help the person whose work is on the chopping block to relax. By endearing yourself to the presenter, he or she is more likely to listen to what you have to say. "While I don't love the image you used in the poster, you must have almost gone blind trying to hand set all that cool little type!" Laughter and sighs of relief ensue.
There is speaking intelligently and clearly, and then there is speaking to show off and exclude. We're in the communication business. No one benefits if your goal in commenting is to show off your advanced vocabulary skills and obsession with obscure postmodern theory. Critiques are about helping each other. This doesn't mean you're anti-intellectual, but is about speaking as smartly AND inclusively as possible. Don't make an analogy to an obscure Jean Baudrillard theory if you can instead cite an example in everyday life that is equally insightful and helpful.
Just because a fellow student made a comment about your work doesn't mean it's a good comment. Is your instructor's word the design gospel? Hell no! Stick up for your work. Yes, your instructors know more than you and have more experience. Yes, maybe that fellow student had an interesting point about your choice of typeface. But they impose their personal biases on your work whether they mean to or not. Challenge their assessment if you feel strongly that your design decisions are sound. Your reasons are as valid as anyone else's. The range of subjectivity involved in design begs for you to stick to your guns. Everyone's opinion can be disputed, even the instructor's. Your confidence is vital to convincing others that your ideas deserve notice. Avoid being too overly antagonistic, though. It's good to have allies in class, and your instructors deserve respect for their professorial status. No one is out to get you in a critique as much as it might feel that way at the time.
Lastly, your critique is your critique. So, direct it like a movie. Take control. Pass out a nicely designed project statement to everyone at the critique. If you want your work to be presented in an unconventional way, reserve that large wall space or courtyard outside. If a short interpretive dance will enhance our understanding of the project then screen a filmed excerpt or perform it yourself. The work is yours. Make your own show of it, too.
Starting in the hunter-filled woods of rural Pennsylvania, Eric Heiman embarked on a labyrinthine journey through the Carnegie Mellon architecture program, late nights of DJ spinning, record store employment and week-long vows of silence in the mountains of Maui that eventually led him to design school in the Bay Area. At the dawn of the new millennium he founded Volume (www.volumesf.com) with Adam Brodsley. Volume's work has been extensively exhibited, honored and published around the world, and Eric's writing on design has been published in Emigre, Letterspace and the AIGA's online journal, Voice. Eric is also a Professor of Design at the California College of the Arts.
I'm Demo. How Your Work Becomes You (And Yes, You Look Smashing!)
That first printed piece is special. Like the first time you smush face with the neighbor in braces behind the garage; it's messy, it's confusing, mistakes are made… it's AWESOME.
Some back-story: in 1997 I was going to art school in Detroit and was generally bored as hell with it. Well, the first two years were fantastic, actually; I truly loved learning to draw, and my instructors were mostly cool guys with lots of funny anecdotes of dubious veracity. I had a job taking tickets at the local movie theater, I had clove cigarettes, I had no idea how I was going to survive outside of school… but I was 19, so what the hell? Around this time I lost all momentum in my schoolwork. I realized I was losing interest because I couldn't see myself following the design and illustration world's established path: learn the foundation design precepts; do an internship; interview for a position; climb your way up. I thought the first two 'foundation' years at art school were beneficial, but doing basic design assignments did nothing for me. I wanted to skip GO. I wanted printed work, I wanted my own studio, and I wanted it right away.
This urge happened to coincide with my discovery of the Detroit electronic music scene. Detroit techno was at the height of its popularity. There were parties every week and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever come across. Every time I bought a new record it was a mini life-changing event. And the best part was that art and design were a huge part of the experience! From rave flyers to record sleeves, the music and design flowed together and swept me along in their current. It struck me that all of the great images I saw at parties and in record stores weren't created by someone at an agency with a boss and a title, they were made by people who LOVED the music they designed the sleeves for and who LOVED going to the parties they created flyers for. Some worked in small groups and some did their own thing. They actually lived every aspect of their art. And these were young designers. Some had gone to school, some never did, and I wanted desperately to be one of them.
So, when I overheard that one of the top local flyer designers was leaving Detroit, I nervously approached the party promoter he worked with and offered to take over. He asked to see my portfolio, and I lied to him to cover up for the fact that I had never designed a single thing outside of school and had used Photoshop for a sum total of 3 hours. Thankfully, he needed a flyer so quickly that he didn't have time to question me and just handed me the gig (unpaid, of course). Over the next two nights, working feverishly on a friend's Mac, I crafted my masterpiece… There were Lego spacemen, there was lots of Eurostile, and there were bubbles! SPACE BUBBLES! God, was I excited.
When the printer got the file, he called the promoter because he thought there was something wrong with it. That's how BAD this design was - the printer actually thought there was a disk error! I found myself sheepishly insisting this was exactly the way I had planned it. Those space bubbles and techno trimmings were there because I meant them to be there, dammit! When the flyers arrived from the printer, I was elated. Never mind the fact that they had a mysterious half-inch white border (my fault) and the colors had shifted from a sky blue to a sea green (I had provided the file in RGB format, natch), to me this was a thing of beauty, a beauty of my own creation! I practically wet my two-size-too-large khakis.
But there was another feeling that I hadn't anticipated: the joy I experienced in watching my work distributed. Whether they were handed out at a party or placed among hundreds of others at record stores, my flyers were part of the scene. The idea that I could pour my heart into these ephemeral printed moments and that other people could share and appreciate them was addictive to me. And now I could synthesize the things I loved (art, music, Detroit) with my talent to create a thing which could, in turn, inspire and inform others.
Now, ten years after that first flyer, with many moves and countless projects under my belt, I am still excited when my design fulfills more than just an academic or monetary purpose. The work that excites me most participates in a commerce of ideas, memories, emotions, messages, and meanings — design that reveal the hands of the designer and radiates with their excitement for the work.
As was the custom with rave flyers in those days, I had quickly added a moniker to the bottom of mine: DEMO. Needing something succinct and having no idea what was going to come of this design thing, I figured 'demo' stood for 'trying it out.' And, although that first piece isn't much to brag about, I am happy to say that all the work I have done is still undoubtedly and truly Me.
Demo was founded by designer Justin Fines in 1997. Born out of the love of his hometown of Detroit and it's music, Demo began by churning out flyers and ephemera for the then thriving Detroit electronic music scene. Nine years, three cities, and countless projects later, Fines has found a home for Demo in New York City. In his work, the golden tint of suburban childhood nostalgia blends with the influence of the hulking abandoned factories and mansions of the Motor City. This combination creates a graphic language that balances between hope and cynicism. Fines' work has been featured in publications worldwide, and recent projects include an animation for Nickelodeon, an artist series skateboard for Zoo York, and a series of designs for the Truth Campaign.
Sounds For Sights, Sights For Sounds
It was a couple years after I graduated from high school before I started to pick up on the fact that Andre really was more than just a dude who drew stuff. I was playing in a band, Ancille, with a bunch of our mutual friends and we had started working on our first CD. Not having any experience in creating a finished musical product, there were plenty of aspects I neglected to consider — the most prominent being the packaging.
Luckily for me, and my former band, Andre had volunteered to design the package. He asked me for some direction about what we were looking for. I tried to give him an idea of what I was thinking through the lyrics and songwriting. I even listed some examples of other art that expressed a feeling similar to what I wanted, but the idea of translating music into visuals is a tricky one, especially for me. As someone who is completely inept at any sort of visual expression I was extremely thankful to have someone else take the layout upon themselves. Nonetheless, I still felt a certain amount of stress; even if I couldn't communicate my vision, I still had a specific idea of what I wanted to see. I could share what I thought about the music, but I could not for the life of me actually articulate what I wanted to see when looking at the CD or lyrics. I just knew that I cared. A lot.
In the best cases, working with designers allows me to get exactly what I want, even if I don't really know what that is. I can't ever remember saying anything to Andre about trees or building skylines or earth tones. But when I saw those images, I recognized them as exactly what I wanted. Designers can figure it out for me, by understanding what I want better than I do.
Maybe it was less about trying to convert the music into art and more about assigning art to the music, rather than just transcribing it visually. We, as a band, had begun the process of taking what was essentially a hobby and trying to make it serious; the design took us one step closer.
The final product was a piece that, to be completely honest, stood above and beyond our music. Although I am quite proud of the songs we made and the lyrics I wrote, I am also realistic — my band, and the music we made, was amateur. I believe there's something to be said for expression and sincerity, whether it's amateur or professional, and to that extent I am proud of the things I was able to express through that music. But when I think about that album and those songs, I also get a very clear picture of the design work that accompanied them. Despite the fact that no one in the band actually created or even envisioned it, that artwork is now inseparable from the rest of the album. It's an aesthetic that broadens the scope of the band's artistic expression, and for that I am both thankful and impressed.
Kelly Aiken lives in Seattle, where he impresses the kids he works with by having tattoos, being in a band, and riding a motorcycle. It's working great so far.
How Will You Know When You're Successful?
One Monday afternoon in April, a few years ago, I was sitting on an empty beach preparing a final exam for my class. It was a spectacular day, ceiling and visibility unlimited. It seemed impossible that on such a day and as far as the eye could see, I was the only human present. After scanning the horizon, I looked back behind me and saw my house beyond the dunes. In it was my partner, a great companion and someone who truly enjoys and is occupied by his work. I realized that this being Monday, most people were at work. Many at jobs they disliked or by which they were not wholly engaged, challenged or fulfilled. Not only did I love my job, but it allowed me to have this Monday away from my desk, to sit on the beach and have time to think and write.
What might appear to be a rather simple set of observations was really rather earth-shattering to me. These circumstances represented a level of success I never realized I had, because it wasn't what I thought success would look like. I discovered it by looking in —instead of out — for approval.
Far from making me feel complacent about my career, this discovery freed me to take more risks. Somehow the idea that I had achieved success of some kind provided me with something to build on. I began to produce prodigious amounts of photographs, take on new projects and change jobs with a confidence I hadn't known when I was in the early, striving stages of my career.
As I turned my attention back to the final exam I thought about how much more difficult it is for today's students to sort out what constitutes true and lasting success, bereft as they are of real role models as opposed to the current proliferation of "celebrities." I knew then what the content of the final exam should be. It would consist of one question: How will you know when you are successful?
The class — one of the best of my teaching career — was incredulous. After the initial "What's up?" reaction and grinning was over, I explained that it was a serious question and that I hoped they would take it seriously. They did. Many, actually most, of them wrote lengthy answers, taking over an hour to complete their papers. When it came time to collect them, I told the students to keep them, as there are no wrong or right answers. Success for one would — and should — be very different than for the other and is for no one outside of themselves to judge. I only hoped they would keep the papers and consider them from time to time in the course of their lives, if only to save them the time it took me to make the realization I had made that day on the beach.
Much to the disappointment of subsequent classes, I never gave that final again.
Kathleen Creighton studied Photography at Pratt Institute. She has worked professionally producing work for the editorial, publishing and entertainment markets as well as exhibiting her work. An associate professor in the Communications Design Department she has taught for 15 years and developed new courses including a number focusing on Photography and professional practice. Prior to being appointed Chair of the department in July of 2005, she was the Associate Director of the Career Services office at Pratt and also co-published RSVP, the Directory of Illustration and Design. A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, she is at work on a book of her photographs.
Working For Your Studio
WORKING FOR MY STUDIO
- I LOVE IT
- I choose who I work for.
- I get all the credit.
- I design the layout of the studio.
- I organize my day around what I want to/need to do.
- If I like you and your work, I can ask you to work with me.
- If I don't like you and/or your work, I can ask you to leave.
- I make all the decisions.
- I HATE IT
- I make all the decisions.
- When there's no work, there's no money.
- I stress about projects… and money… and time… and the future.
- I have to fix the printer/light bulb/accounts/internet/mistakes…
- Nobody covers me on my holidays. Do I get a holiday?
- I'm not getting enough feedback. Am I evolving as a designer?
- I can't switch off.
WORKING FOR THEIR STUDIO
- I LOVE IT
- I get paid every month.
- I get paid when I'm ill.
- They've got all the responsibility.
- They have a cleaning person/accountant/IT guy…
- When there's no work, there's no worries.
- They have a lovely studio and they are lovely people.
- I learn from them.
- I HATE IT
- I stress about the projects.
- They get all the credit.
- I have to work with whoever they hire.
- They manage my time.
- They make the final decisions on my design.
- They choose the clients.
- I think I could do better if I had my own studio.
Originally from Finland, Emmi Salonen moved to the UK in 1996. She graduated from University of Brighton in 2001 with a BA Hons in Graphic Design. Straight after, she moved to Italy to work at Fabrica, Benetton's controversial young designers' melting pot. After a year, she was back in London where she worked a couple of years at Hoop Associates until moving to New York in 2004. There she was with karlssonwilker, a company known for its wit and clever designs. 2005 she relocated again and started running her own practice, called Emmi, based in a converted gun factory in East London, UK.
It's Not Going to Happen the Way You Think It Will (But It's Better That Way)
Halfway into the first eight-hour drawing class of my freshman year at art school, I realized something very important: my life as an artist was not going to unfold the way I had visualized. Chances were I wasn't going to be the youngest and most successful painter in New York, the Talking Heads were no longer a band and could therefore not be my flatmates, and the Beat poets were either dead or west coast. Perhaps more realistically, I realized that my abilities with paint were inadequate at best, and I sensed that this pursuit had largely become an outdated social convention in which I didn't care to participate. Basically, it wasn't looking like I'd ever see one of my paintings hanging in a New York gallery.
While it's always a disappointment to see your daydreams dispelled, I was beginning to feel excited about living without a set plan. I decided to enroll in graphic design because I considered myself a man of letters (I had no idea how literally that term would soon apply) and because I had an affinity for album covers and music posters. I found that studying design was supported by three of my chief personal attributes: being and acting smart; an ability to create dense and overambitious projects; and a need to control them at the most minute, obsessive level.
Fast forward to post-graduation, June of 2003. I am driving a U-Haul truck containing the sum total worldly possessions of myself and two roommates to our new home in Brooklyn, with enough money in my pocket for three months of living. My sole goal in that time is to find work in order to survive. I had never done an internship, had no professional connections or any way to display my work other than the one hand-bound portfolio that represented the fruits of my print design education and, secretly, a five-minute animated film I made during my senior year in order to teach myself After Effects and Pro Tools. I didn't really consider this a true 'design' project, however. Little did I know that it would turn out to be my sideline pursuits — making short animations and recording music — which would get me work.
In three months time I was broke and broken, reduced to eating crackers for dinner, doing my laundry in the bathtub, and being turned down even from Craigslist jobs. Sitting on the roof after an unsuccessful interview, at the end of a sweltering summer, with an empty Old English in my hand, my old dreams felt far, far away. In fact, far from being a famous artist, I couldn't get work as a hack designer.
But, out of the blue, I heard from a friend who knew someone who knew someone who was looking for someone who could animate in After Effects and had good design skills. I overdrew the hell out of my already dry bank account to buy a website to post my movie, and to get some half decent jeans for the interview. The person that needed to see my movie saw it, I had the interview, and in a week I had my first freelance job. And though my animation skills were found severely lacking, their combination with my rigorous print design background made me stand out. I started to sense the potential of this new world. It was extremely nerve-racking at first. I was all thumbs at the keyboard when I needed to be an octopus. But after a few challenging jobs, the learning curve flattened out enough for me to feel comfortable.
Motion design is a field ripe for exploration by young designers with an aptitude for technology and rhythm and a desire to do things differently. Good motion designers are, in a sense, trilingual. They are able to speak to sophisticated, refined design sensibilities as well as to boundary pushing animation fanatics while occupying their own unique visual space. Motion designers with strong conceptual skills will go far, as there is a general tendency amongst hard-core animators to focus safely on the technical aspects of a project without addressing the larger problems or exploring possible solutions. A strong idea done simply is a good approach in any field.
Personally I have had the pleasure of working with both more traditional design clients branching into motion for the first time as well as more established animation companies seeking a refined design style. People working in motion design tend to be multitalented and branch out into other areas. Through my motion work, I've been afforded many opportunities, from recording music and doing sound design to directing music videos, doing print work, illustrating for magazines, contributing to books, designing apparel, working on documentary films, and creating personal work for gallery exhibitions. It was at one of these gallery shows that I first realized I had somehow stumbled into my old daydream: there is a painting on the wall with my name on it; I'm in New York City (well, Brooklyn, but close enough). But the reality has turned out to be so much more interesting for its unpredictability and variety than the old straight-line vision of success. By accepting the challenge of working in a new field, I was afforded chances I would never have otherwise received and I expanded the potential reach of my creative work.
Wyeth Hansen was born and raised in Fresno, California until moving to attend college at the Rhode Island School of Design, from which he graduated in 2003. While in school, Wyeth began experimenting with combining animation, music, literature, and installation, out of which his current work as a freelance designer has grown. He currently works in a collective design/silkscreen studio in Brooklyn that he helped establish with several friends.
- Made money.
- Made mistakes.
- Made enemies.
- Made breakfast.
- Made up.
- Hated my job.
- Quit my job.
- Got jealous of other people's jobs.
- Felt like I should have their job.
- Used Helvetica.
- Used Helvetica Neue.
- Used Universe.
- Did not use Copperplate.
- Watched TV.
- Surfed the web.
- Touched myself.
- Got wasted.
- Did drugs.
- Promised myself I wouldn't do it again.
- Did it again.
- Felt guilty.
- Felt bored.
- Felt depressed.
- Felt up my wife.
- Felt up your future wife (before I had a wife).
- Specced type.
- Complained about clients.
- Complained about co-workers.
- Drank with co-workers.
- Complained about co-workers while I drank with co-workers.
- Talked about starting my own studio.
- Sat at home in the middle of the day without a job.
- Had a panic attack.
- Called my girl while I was having a panic attack.
- Thought about how to be a calmer person.
- Played Snood.
- Surfed the web.
- Smoked trees.
- Took a nap.
- Smoked cigarettes.
- Quit cigarettes.
- Started smoking cigarettes.
- Quit smoking cigarettes (we'll see).
- Wished I were back in school.
- Stole ideas that I had in school.
- Had an affair with your favorite designer.
- Cross-referenced porn stars from web site to web site, and then to bit torrent programs.
- Ate dinner.
- Overstayed my welcome.
- Overestimated my opponent.
- Over-tipped (when I was wasted).
- Second-guessed myself.
- Worked hard.
- Worked not so hard.
- Acted hard.
- Got hard.
- Said incredibly dumb things.
- Followed up by acting upon the dumb thing I just said.
- Ate lunch.
- Played basketball.
- Beat Dandre in basketball.
- Did freelance work with Dandre.
- Got drunk and harassed Dandre.
- Felt successful.
- Felt like a total loser.
- Felt it again.
- Met my hero.
- Had a good idea.
- Didn't follow it up.
- Had a good idea.
- Sort of followed it up.
- Had a good idea.
- Gave three weeks notice.
- Told someone to fuck off.
- Got told to fuck off.
- Got stitches.
- Got the runs.
- Got a fever.
- Got oral.
- Farted, and a little poop came out.
- Decided I wanted to work for BIG.
- Decided I wanted to work for Pentagram.
- Decided I wanted to work for Base.
- Went to the movies.
- Went to Bogota.
- Went to town.
- Hated the player.
- Hated the game.
- Lent money.
- Got paid back.
- Got stiffed for freelance.
- Undercharged for freelance.
- Made progress.
- Took a step back.
- Redesigned the Penthouse magazine logo.
- Learned that making it doesn't mean the client planned well.
- Designed the Modern Bank logo.
- Learned that just because you have the idea and do the initial design doesn't mean you get to finish it.
- Went postal.
- Got to work early.
- Got home late.
- Compared myself to 156 other 22-29 year old designers.
- Did not apply for the PRINT 20 under 30 or whatever the fuck…
- Did not get into PRINT 16 under 105 or whatever the fuck…
- Watched my mom get her hip replaced.
- Watched her get better from it.
- Watched her have a biopsy.
- Watched her get a tumor removed.
- Decided that "design" isn't shit.
- Worked a few 15-hour days.
- Worked a few 18-hour days.
- Called in sick.
- Ate peyote with Paul Rand.
- Got a hand-job from Ryan Seacrest.
- Saw some concerts.
- Freestyled with my friends.
- Decided I really do like the Arcade Fire.
- Decided that I really do not like R.E.M.
- Moved from the city back to Queens.
- Rode my bike into the city.
- Beat Andre 15-2 in ping pong.
- Lost to Names 15-5 in ping pong.
- Watched George Bush do a great job!
- Hoped Donald Rumsfeld would get assassinated.
- Hoped Dick Cheney would be collateral damage in Rumsfeld's assassination.
- Ignored politics, mostly.
- Got stiffed on my Christmas bonus because I quit, even though I had been the go-to guy in the office from May to December.
- Kicked Dan's ass with a pick axe.
- Lost my keys.
- Fucked up a job.
- Covered my ass.
- Sent approximately 3,500 emails.
- Generated 168gb of digital info.
- Pulled off the highway to use a public restroom.
- Rented a movie.
- Returned a movie.
- Decided that Only Built 4 Cuban Links is the best Wu Tang solo album…or maybe it is Supreme Clientele.
- Bought $150 sneakers.
- Discovered that Greek yogurt is much better than regular yogurt.
- Added honey to my tea.
- Welcomed my wife home from a night of drinking.
- Teased her the next day.
- Fought with her.
- Had make-up sex.
- Plotted ways to have more sex.
- Regretted what I wrote.
- Started making a blog.
- Started writing a book.
- Went to the movies.
- Decided that going to the movies alone is good.
- Decided that going out to dinner alone is okay.
- Decided that going to a bar alone is bad.
- Designed my portfolio twice.
- Went on more interviews.
- Did it again.
There are approximately 4 things in this list that I did not actually do. See if you can figure out which they are.
Frank DeRose is.
I Love Them…
I Love Them Not…
I Love Them…
- Happy dress code Memories:
- Falling in love (with Andre, not Dan)
- Seeing Andre get a job at MTV and spring break 2005
- B-B-Qing on our deck in the East Village
- Watching Dan and Andre teach for the first time and seeing how well they commanded authority
- Discovering how much they learn on the fly (as in how much they fake it till they make it!)
- Watching The OC with Dan, and SVU with Andre
- Getting my first real job, through Dan
- Turning the living room into a beauty parlor
- Helping create really great projects
- Having two amazing friends who I love despite:
- Not so happy dress code Memories:
- Watching Dan hire a stripper for Andre's 21st birthday
- Having a breakdown during a screenprinting marathon (brown is a hard color to mix)
- Realizing (four years after he told me) that Andre was serious when he said work will always comes first
- Being called "Tape Lady" - as in the girl whose job it is to make tape balls to hang posters
- NOT being cast in a spot for MTV
- Waking up in the middle of the night to "Pocker" matches
- Being the only one not acknowledged at Andre's thesis award ceremony
- Not getting credited as the illustrator for the Ancille packaging (it's my drawing on Kelly's arm!)
- Feeling lesser because I wasn't ready to be an artist
- Floundering while they were succeeding
- Keeping track of Dan's girlfriends
Ali recently moved to Minneapolis to produce her TV show, The Alison Rose Bailey Show, at the Minneapolis Television Network. When she is not tap dancing, jazz handsing, lip synching, or hi-fiving, she is working for Fox Television. Seriously.
What I would like to holler at you all about is something called "jobquitting"; one word, lower case. Very simple — 11 letters, lots of t's and i's (and here's a secret: I made it up for this little essay.)
It is appropriate, however, to this particular book for several reasons: one, it is what I have been doing since I finished my degree and, two, it is what I did at the end of December 2006, which has allowed me to put off writing this essay until now- March 6, 2007, which is 6 days later than when Dan wanted it. (Whatever Dan. You are not my boss!)
Anyway, I am sure you can imagine what "jobquitting" is. It is pretty much self-explanatory. But, the psychology it elicits is not always so obvious.
This psychology comes replete with some self-doubt; maybe even some self-loathing (not to mention no money). This past time (and I have done it x3 since I finished my degree in December '04) because of the aforementioned self-doubt and insecurity, it has occasioned some fighting with my wife (Hola Nena!). Sometimes I have trouble keeping these emotions in check and I take them out on her. Of course, I know this is not fair; but it is half the fun! You will, in your jobquitting, undoubtedly discover some new things about yourself and some of them will suck. A lot of them might suck, actually.
Sounds shitty, right? It is.
It is definitely shitty to throw away a paycheck and have nothing concrete to replace it with (imagine throwing money away…), and it is kind of shitty to stay at home all day (Dan asked me to mention how I sit around in my underwear a lot). It is also extremely shitty to spend a vast amount of time worrying that you will never get another job, or find another client. Thereby rendering yourself a pretty poor designer.
But (and you had to know this was coming):
There is definitely something empowering and, one might even argue, a little noble, in jobquitting. The thing to keep in mind is that slavery was abolished in 1865. You don't have to do what you don't want to do; or what doesn't make you happy. I mean, like, totally, absolutely, all the way happy. There is very little reason to keep a job you don't like. In fact, fuck it. If you can figure out a way to either save some paper or earn a little paper in the meantime, you too can practice the technique of jobquitting. Embracing your idealism can stand you in good stead. It does require some guts and a little tenacity, but perhaps it will lead to something greater than a paycheck, like doing what you believe in (this is what I sound like when I am on my high horse… and I know it's a little vainglorious, but it feels so good).
And the thing that it might allow you, just as it allows me — and which is utterly important — is hope. Now, when I wake up, mixed in with the fear and stomachaches is a little sliver of hope: "Maybe today Insert hero designer's name here will remember the day I showed him my portfolio, and he will call me up and offer me a job. Or, maybe I will find the perfect freelance client. Or, maybe, I will finally be able to dunk a basketball."
Whatever it might be… there is now the possibility… there is the time… for something like this to happen (but not the basketball, I am pretty sure that is a physiological thing).
I can take the time to try again. And again. And again. And I can keep getting a little bit better and, eventually, I'll get the job or start the studio that makes me happy and keeps me satisfied. And that is why the past two years have been all about jobquitting.
Frank DeRose is.