If you think I'm going to answer the question above, I'm afraid that you've got the wrong blog.
However — on a similar note — earlier today someone send me a tweet to say that he was thinking of going into graphic design; and ask if I thought it was a good idea.
Boy, what a question.
You can probably get an idea of what my response could be from the title of this post.
Given that the man posing the question found me via my most recent "How to stop being a graphic designer" article, it's one I feel compelled to answer as honestly as possible. (Note: this is the stub of an article. I will be returning to flesh it out when I've had some more sleep).
The end of my love affair with graphics has been getting me down for over a year now.
You could call it a messy break up, I guess.
As with any broken relationship, rewinding to the start... to play over the moments where everything was sheer bliss... is hard to resist. The honeymoon period, if you will.
How I got started with graphic design
When I was a kid I didn't really know that graphics existed as a career option. Looking back now though, there are a few early indicators that I enjoyed aspects of the trade when I was young.
I won a Kellogg's Cornflakes competition to design (oh ok... to draw) a poster. Kellogg's sent me a huge art set with paints, crayons, brushes... everything a little kid could possibly want to make some more art. Another time a Christmas Card I made was exhibited in London. And bless my mum, she took me all the way to see it from Gloucestershire in the west of England.
Fast-forward a few years and I had gotten my hands on my first Apple Mac.
My school had an entire room full of them, and when tasked to create an imaginary logo (I chose to create one for a computer software company), my efforts were so convincing that my computer teacher accused me of copying an existing one.
At least he didn't tell me to make the logo bigger though, right?
I was good at art and technical drawing, but the only hybrid subject combining art and design (when I hit my teens in the early 90s) was "Design Technology". The problem was that I wasn't so hot at making actual 3D objects. I always had ambitious plans which failed to materialise. I conceptualised an amazing chess set in my head but never got beyond the first pawn. I designed a board game but executed it shoddily. In short, I wasn't much of a product designer.
I took one of those tests which pretend they can make incredibly clever career suggestions by analysing your academic strong points and interests. The career advisor passed me the computer printout, and dutifully informed me that I might enjoy being a hair dress. OH SNAP!
Luckily I then moved to a school with a really strong art department and spent a couple of blissful years messing about with paint, whilst also learning black and white photography.
I knew that I didn't want to be an artist (the thought of not having a guaranteed pay check freaked me out) and so was left with the choice between graphic design and architecture.
Given that becoming an architect required expertise in maths (ugh!) and a gruelling study period of seven years or so, graphic design seemed like the best option.
And so I submitted my portfolio to Glasgow School of Art, went for my interview (with an 11am pint beforehand to dull my senses) and set about becoming a graphic designer.
For the sake of brevity, I'm going to skip the intermediate ten years in which I duly pushed pixels around in Photoshop, and instead present you with the pros and cons of being a graphic designer.
(I wonder how many times I have to write "graphic designer" in my blog for Google to take notice and up me in its search rankings.)
Things to love about being a graphic designer
- Your job is to be creative. To solve problems. To make the world a better place. What better kind of job could there be?
- The work changes. Different clients. Different mediums. Different technology (especially if you are working digitally... which most graphic designers are these days) .
- The ever-changing nature of the work makes it harder to get bored. Boredom is not good.
- You can design wedding invites for your friends
Things to hate about being a graphic designer
- It's a service industry. That puts you in the same bracket as waiters and hotel staff. THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. (Although graphic design is more challenging, because at the same time, it is also your job to educate your customers of their ignorance).
- Everything you do, you do it for... someone else. You are not an artist. Sometimes you feel like a sell-out.
- Clients will often ignore your best advice, and often for extremely personal reasons.
- Sometimes it is hard to turn off. You notice dodgy kerning on restaurant menus. Double spaces everywhere. Incorrect usage of em and en dashes at every turn.
- You spend a lot of time sitting down. Sitting down is not a natural thing to do. Ever see an animal sitting down? (I mean at a table, doing something) Me neither.
- You spend a lot of time at a computer.
- The long hours. Creativity is hard to schedule.
- You can design wedding invites for your friends
Would I recommend becoming a graphic designer?
Well, it depends on your motives.
If you have the necessary dedication and talent, graphic design can be an amazing way to earn a living.
If you are 'escaping' another career, think twice about the (seemingly) attractive aspects of working as a graphic designer before you jack in your day job.
Over time, it might just feel like you are chewing off a limb.
Posted to graphic-design in 2013.