Keeping the Passion for Graphic Design

Finally, I get it.

As graphic designers, we chose graphic design because we love aesthetics and visual arts. We love color, line and form. When we were kids in elementary school, many of us lived for two, one-hour art classes a week where we could lose ourselves in the creative process. We loved to push rules aside to create beautiful pictures (so we thought). We dreamed some day of being the next Salvador Dali, or even the next Leonardo (not Dicaprio), though we likely at the time had never heard of them.

Life happens and we make choices. We give up the aspirations of our youth to pursue success, or at least, an ability to feed our stomachs in lieu of feeding our souls. We strive to be successful based on societal norms and definitions, and hope to find a place where our talents can earn a living for ourselves, and if we are lucky enough, our families (if we chose that path). Compromises are made and some of us give up vocational art all together and pursue professional paths like sales, medicine or something even less exciting to pursue a living.

If you are like me, you may have even spent four (ahem, yeah right), years at a university only to discover you have no passion for your chosen field of study. You finish, and instead of pursuing a career congruent with your formal education, your career chooses you, and you find your way back into visual art through graphic design.

With the hope to contribute with my passion, I began my first career job as an entry-level graphic designer for a trade magazine in Santa Ana, California. From there I worked at a consumer lifestyle magazine in Laguna Beach, California, an ad agency in Costa Mesa, a marketing agency in Carlsbad, a web development company in San Clemente, self employed in Palm Coast, Florida and now again at a marketing/production agency in Daytona Beach, Florida. I have now been in the field of marketing and graphic design for… oh man (ugh)… 27 years.

I still enjoy the business, but I have learned a few things:

  1. YOUR design is not important. Good design is.
    • Let your manager, your peer or your subordinate take the glory if it is better, or even on par. “My way or the highway” is for buttheads.
    • If you think your idea is better, let it be known and why. But don’t get so passionate that it comes out as anger.
  2. Always be humble. Don’t let your pride get in the way of your marketing goals.
  3. Design should ALWAYS aim at achieving marketing goals.
    • Don’t be gratuitous with your graphics (even if they are really freakin’ cool).
  4. Feel free to let your visual inspiration direct copy if it works.
    • Copywriters often try to dictate concept without thinking about the graphical implications. This can be a dead end if the graphical goals are too expensive or unachievable.
  5. The simple solution is often the better solution.
    • Overthinking the design often ends in clutter, roadblocks and lost messages. When in doubt, go clean and simple.

It did not take me long to realize that I am not always the best at everything, or anything, I do. I have peaks of inspirations between expansive valleys of “just doing my job”, and that is OK. Learning to see inspiration and passion in others has become as important more important than stroking my own ego. I actually enjoy the success of others more than my own at times. At my best, I can go home and spend time with my family knowing that they are more important to me than my ego at work.