Doing Things I Hate – Graphic Design

Doing Things I Hate - Graphic Design

[Wow! I’m not the only one who hates graphic design… This post is #2 on Google for “I hate graphic design”. Soo I’m curious to learn more about you folks. Tell me about yourself.. are you a student or professional? What type of art or design do you do? What drew you to graphic design in the first place and what drove you to profess your contempt for it in that sharp lil search box?]

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a lawyer. I’d previously wanted to be a rock star, painter, and astronaut, so this was a step up for me and my parents. I knew it’d be a lot of schooling, but I could make a lot of money down the road, and the court room seemed exciting. In eighth grade we had career day, and we could pick and choose who we listened to. I went to see the Physical Therapist, Artists, and Lawyer. The physical therapist was an athletic trainer, and he did a cool presentation that got us involved. The lawyer was a tax lawyer and he bored me to tears. The artists were a ceramicist and a graphic designer. This was 2002 and I’d never really considered that artists designed packaging and websites and all that bullshit, until now. I was forever changed for a few years.

I went into high school and joined the Internet Development Team. I knew a tiny bit of html and css, and I wanted to learn photoshop. I met my friend Jesse and he pushed me down the path of a graphic artist. I stayed on the path through early college. I always did well in all my graphic design classes, and yet I hated it all the while. Graphic design seemed soul-sucking, lacking something that was essentially “art”.

goldies paper
envelope

It’s a cute design. I kinda feel like I’m swimming in a vanilla milkshake, up to a soda bar. It’s good design, at least by mine and Thom’s judgement. Yet it kils me to produce this shit. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s just… ick.

I mean, I’m typing this with purple, silver, and gold paint on my hands. I’ve often found that I don’t like art unless I can get messy while doing it. I judge the quality and my enjoyment of my work by how messy I get (my hands were stained black for days after printmaking). You don’t get that with computers, they’re too clean.

I broke from the graphic design program just before I graduated in ’09 with an AA. Yet I still took graphic design classes, I don’t know why. The funny thing is, even after I graduated I still took classes at community college, but I was free to take whatever I wanted. I took mostly fine arts classes and produced some of my best early work during that extra year. Unfortunately, Columbia College’s Illustration program pushed me right back into graphic design, which I was pretty upset about, so I switched into Art + Design, which was more open about the classes I took.

I like digital art, not graphic design. The pieces I’m most proud of from those classes are definitely more “art” than “design”, like my Sphinx and my Dragon and my abstract Triceratops Eye. And every so often, somebody asks me for a design job and I reluctantly accept and produce something halfway decent and way too colorful. I make some good stuff but I always feel like I’m beating the program and my art into submission. Too many times has the program crashed on me, sending me into a horribly frustrated and paranoid state. What the hell art? No. Just no.

I wanna go back to the times when “artist” was synonymous with “painter”. Too often people find out I’m an artist and assume I’m a graphic designer, because that’s all anyone is anymore. I always say something along the lines of “Well I know how to do graphic design, but that’s not what I do.” Whatever, I still get stuck designing logos and flyers for people. The problem is convincing people to pay for my work. It may just me pixels on a screen, but I made those pixels damnit.

No matter. As long as I’m stubborn and keep using labels like “Fine Artist” “Punk Surrealist” and “Meta-Renaissance” people will eventually get the hint.

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7 thoughts on “Doing Things I Hate – Graphic Design

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  1. Perhaps things have changed since I was there (around the time you were born) but CCC used to have an excellent fine art department. The school has always been interested in getting its grads to jobs and perhaps that has taken an even stronger hold now.

    It sounds to me like you need simply to learn to say ‘no’. At first I empathized. I’ve felt a career path “push” in a direction I didn’t want to go and it is indeed soul-killing. But when you complain about not getting paid for her work, it makes it clear that in my opinion you simply ought not do it.

    You need to get something out of your efforts: if it isn’t pride and love for your art, it ought to be money. If it isn’t money… I don’t know, because it is a cause you love or a chance to help out your best friend. Otherwise, “nope, that’s not really what I do. Here’s the card of someone who does that sort of thing, but that person probably won’t do it for free.”

    Looking at your work, it seems you are beginning to find your voice; I heartily encourage you to keep progressing. However, until one is fluently speaking and shouting and singing with that voice one cannot expect to make a living just from one’s artistic vision. Until then it’s really more about what sorts of skills can be used to trade for money.

    Different people have different experiences with this. Some love doing work that is similar in some ways to their art; they become graphic designers and commercial artists and continue their own art while using their professional assignments to hone their skills. Others find that doing this sort of work saps enough of their creative energy that they no longer have the vital essence needed to do their own work, and find some other way to make a living. I’ve been on both sides of that particular fence and they each have their drawbacks.

    All that being said, one thing to understand, to really and deeply grok, is that graphic design is not so much about creating pieces of art where your own essence and vision shine through; it is about creating work where your client’s vision shines through. Graphic design is as much about getting to know your client as it is about knowing the craft. Then it is using that craft to tell their story, not your own. It is somewhat more like being a translator than a novelist. You may in fact have to be a better writer and a better linguist to be a translator, but the novelist has to be a storyteller.

    So in the end, perhaps you can be “messy” and non-digital and still tell the stories of your clients, but you have to know why those are the techniques you use for them.

  2. Hey ! Am so glad to see there are people who feel this way too .. Gah i hate choosing what colour would go with what font, coz i just dont give a shit ! I really am the ‘art’ type too, its been a while for this article, i would love to know what are u doing now? Would love to stay in touch
    I just graduated, and am confused about what to do ! I hate sitting in front of the computer ! I love my messy paints and canvas !

    1. Currently I decorate cookies at a bakery that does cookie bouquets. Its mainly copying designs out of their book, but I occasionally get to do custom designs.

      I would suggest looking into theater or film, depending on where you are. Live performance and independent film especially. If you have a knack for realism, you can work for museums creating backgrounds and displays.
      You can also “hand make” certain things that are now in the digital realm, such as posters and album art.

      The trouble is, a lot of art-related jobs are notoriously low-paying (though I did get paid $15/hr to build props for a short time), you will likely want to have a “regular” or “side” job that is stable enough to pay the bills, but I promise it doesnt have to be in front of a computer.

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