There are a dozen reasons why I love doing graphic design – the first being that I get to do something I love and I’m passionate about every day. (I’m also passionate about wearing pajamas to work but this is for another time.) However, along with all of the perks that come with a great design career, there are some dark and scary factors (makes scary ghost noise) that can sometimes overshadow the things I enjoy about my job. With that being said, here are some helpful reminders and tips that I’ve picked up during my fancy shmancy design career which have been essential in my never ending quest to keep my head and heart intact, and to keep my wits about me while I do what I love.
- Familiarize Yourself with Your Creative Process
Everyone works at a different pace. Understanding your own artistic rhythm and gauging the time and energy it will take you to complete a project is essential to completing tasks promptly and ensuring that you’re not a pile of little graphic design pieces in the end (I’m talking to you freelancers). I know it sounds hokey, but writing down your creative routine will give you a clearer understanding of how you work (and to an extent – how you can charge your client). When you can recognize a pattern in your process, that pattern builds trust, and self-trust builds self-confidence. Who doesn’t need a little confidence now and then? Write that stuff down and give yourself a pat on the back!
- Surround Yourself With Inspiration
One thing I thoroughly enjoyed about most of my art and design classes was the inventive, inspiration aspect. I loved that my professors pushed me to grab a hold of design that inspired me and to learn what my strengths are by reflecting on the greats. I’ve definitely lost a little bit of that drive now that I’ve established a work routine. Maybe you have too? Maybe it’s time to peruse your favorite illustrator’s portfolio and purchase a print or two – hang them next to your desk at work! Get a tumblr and follow some up-and-coming designers! Be aware of how you are pushing your own art and design work in reference to how others may be using the tools they’ve been given. No more standing still for you (and me)!
3. Don’t Take it Personally
I’ll admit it – I cross my fingers when I send anything to a client. I think one part of me is hoping that this will be the “last revision” and another part of me is trying to remember if I used spell-check before saving. But there’s a third little part of me that gets zipped and attached with whatever I send. That’s the part of me that hopes the client will be totally floored by what I’ve created – and more times than not there will be revisions and more times than not they won’t be thrilled, but more times than not I’m okay with that because I’ve learned that although they may not be in love with what I’ve designed, I can rest well knowing that I put everything I had into making it look awesome. And I know that revisions can easily grate on one’s little designer-heart, but bear in mind from the start of a project that the client has the final say and they’re not really going to understand your perspective because they’re not a designer, and some things just can’t be communicated efficiently. The right perspective from the start can mean the difference between a workplace meltdown, and a less frustrating production experience.
- Find Some Distraction (The Good Kind)
In light of #3, I think it is important to have some sort of outlet that is not entirely work-related. Finding a hobby can be a simple distraction from the rush of the everyday office work. But more than that, I think what hobby you pick apart from design-work can really say loads about how you communicate and how driven you are during work hours. One of my favorite professors was obsessed with tennis. Her kids went to tennis camp, she would go to games during her sabbatical, and she would read tennis players’ autobiographies between classes. I thought it was a little odd, until she explained that the reason she enjoyed the sport so much was (a) it allowed her to really pull away from her computer and experience something at a much more interactive level and (b) because it physically mimicked the back and forth of the feedback one might receive from a client or coworker during the creative process. That is something that’s always stuck with me and ever since I’ve been aware of how my free time affects my work-time and vice-versa. If design work seems daunting then try your hand at illustration (and get away from that screen)! Maybe switching up your music selection during runs will help your designs find a new rhythm. Being a creative type can be pretty draining if you’re not distributing that artistic energy throughout other areas of your life.
If you’ve been stuck in an artistic rut, or feel like you’re about to blow your stack, then keep those pointers in mind. You’re definitely going to need your heart and your head in tact if you’re going to be one of the greats. Don’t let anyone shove you in a box or take away what made you design in the first place, and you’ll be on the right track.
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