Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thoughts on GD as a career

For some reason, I'm still surprised when the skills I learn in school turn out to be skills I can actually use in the real world. I've been at my summer internship for a few days, and while I'm not going to tell you exactly where it is, I can tell you that it is a small design studio that does a lot of work on magazines and websites. Anyway, for the past 2 days, I was working on a logo design, and it was still so odd that I'm being paid (not much, but still) to do the things that I've been practicing and doing for fun for the last six years. However, no matter how big or small the client is, I always find myself doubting my own skill and being convinced my work is a complete mess until I hear that they are happy with it, or at least happy with the direction it is going.

Anyway, back to the logo I was working on - after I had a fair amount of concepts, I met with my boss and another designer in the studio to go over it. It felt just like I was back at a RISD critique, with the things we talked about and the suggestions they gave. I guess that could also be partially because the other designer I was talking to graduated from RISD just a few years ago and in fact did many of the same projects I just finished last semester (though his work was much better than mine is), but it was still surreal to be having a crit in the middle of New York City with "real" designers for a fairly large client.

When I'm working for a client as big as this one, it comes with a lot of pressure to do a good job. One of my weaknesses as a designer, which I know I need to work on, is to not be happy with the first decent design I come up with, and instead to push myself to make it great. It can be frustrating when you think you've come up with a successful solution, but a couple more painful hours tweaking it and pushing it into a new direction can be the difference between competent and brilliant.

I try not to show it too much, but a lot of the time I just completely lose faith in myself as a designer. There is so much good design out there that it just becomes overwhelming. I know that I can never be the best, but why can't I make my work look as good as all the people I admire? It can be kind of scary actually - if I can't even get this logo looking decent, what hope is there that I will ever get a real job? I suppose this is something everyone must feel at some point in their respective fields. There is just so much out there to learn, and the graphic design field is so incredibly competitive that it's scary to think that soon I'll have to make my own way through it, and just hope that I've gathered enough skills and knowledge to be qualified for the kind of job I want to get.

I guess the only thing left to do now is to keep on going, to try to learn as much as I can without realizing just how much I will never learn at all. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter either as a comment here or on Twitter. I may do a follow-up to this blog soon, so get commenting so I have something to actually respond to. And thank you so much for reading my rambling thoughts even when I'm not just showing you artwork.


  1. I totally understand the fear of not being good enough for your chosen profession/passion; I mean, hi, I want to be a writer.
    Honestly, I think it's less quantifiable than you think. There's no way to know how successful you're going to be, or whether you could be doing something better-- you have to believe it and work on instinct and confidence. The graphic design world is huge, and conquering it will be hard, but you will. You wouldn't have gotten this far-- graduating early, getting into RISD, all of your internships/jobs, the fandom/nerdfighter community work you do-- if you weren't talented. *I* think your stuff is awesome. You're still learning, and for the rest of your life, you'll be learning. But you're going to be amazing.

  2. Be proud of your work. Be confident and most importantly, have fun.

    Honestly, the work I have seen have been fantastic. Be proud of it. Even if it doesn't turn out as well as you hope or what your client wants, know that it's only the first draft of something magnificent. Sometimes you have to settle, while other times you know you want to make it perfect. What you think may never be what others think, but as long as you can be satisfied with it, that's most important. Not all works will be your best and the best work may never be recognized. But know your gifts and your skills. Refine it and let it make you into the better artist.

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  4. It sounds like you aren't giving yourself enough credit for all the things you already do well.

    Just because you can do something doesn't mean that it is easy. Give yourself permission to celebrate all the wins!
    And you can even view self-doubt in a positive light: it keeps you striving towards self-improvement. I'm no fan of perfectionism, my reward has always been "the joy of learning", but everyone is motivated by different things.

    Sometimes I get a bit of the "Impostor Syndrome", I wonder if this is what you are describing. My artistic pretension is songwriting, and from what I have read, "Impostor Syndrome" is a pretty common theme with songwriters ...

  5. I can tell you from the perspective of (relatively) advanced age that that feeling never really goes away entirely. But there's good news too.

    First, like countnumerologst, I believe that tiny bit of self-doubt drives us to work harder and set our sights higher and, therefore, achieve greater things than we would have otherwise. I mean, honestly, if you immediately thought everything you did was great, how hard would you really try to make it *awesome*? You may be different from me in this way, but I know I wouldn't try nearly as hard as I currently do.

    And second... even better news... while it never completely goes away, it does get better with time. With maturity and experience you'll gain more and more feeling for what really is good and what still needs work, and you'll feel more comfortable and confident about your own abilities.

    I promise: Just keep working and learning and growing, and one day you'll look back and see that you really are better than you think you are right now. In the meantime, I think you're awesome and I love seeing all the wonderful things you create. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  6. we're artists, we are all completely and utterly horrified.

  7. I think that the whole realising how much there is still to learn, and that there is too much to ever all be learnt, is one of these things that's all part of growing older. It's scary, or at least I find it so sometimes, but that doesn't mean that you won't find an awesome place in the design world. What you're doing now is hugely admired by a lot of us, and I love seeing your creations :)

  8. I'll be a graphic design (technically "communication design") student in the fall, and everything you just said really resonated with me. What's funny though, is those thoughts in your head are in mine, i.e. "I know that I can never be the best, but why can't I make my work look as good as all the people I admire?" In my case, though, you are one of those people. I love your work and I love how self motivated you are. It truly is inspiring.
    I think design also comes with an incredibly amount of decision making. I suppose that's even life in general. I turned down RISD. I think I'll always wonder what would have happened had I not, but at this point, I'm confident that it was the right thing to do.
    Thanks for being so inspiring! I love seeing your work! And I'm attending RISD vicariously through you. :)