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Should i quit graphic design? Junior seeking perspective

Discussion in 'Design Jobs & Employment Forum:' started by Helpmeplz, Oct 24, 2017.

  1. Helpmeplz

    Helpmeplz New Member

    Hi guys

    So a bit of background.

    I gained a first in BA graphic design. Worked in house as the only designer fresh out of uni at a large chain of office supply companies for a year and was very well commended. There was a lot of repetition and the companies were in turmoil with poor sales managers, directors etc, my bread and butter work was small email graphics, and presentations. However I got the oppurtunity to aid a rebrand, various editorials, and a full website design (even though I had next to no knowledge of web design). I was bossed around and given poor briefs (or was a bit inexperienced at handling a briefing from non designers) quite a bit, however in the end i managed to build confidence and a reputation as the "expert" for the artwork, so in the end I had real ownership and could squash silly amends that derailed projects. But i felt i needed some assiatance and training on artworking, web design, larger projects etc that my own keen initiative and reading books/youtube couldnt provide.

    Now 2 years on (so i have 3 years experience now) i have been at a growing agency. There is a big team of seniors, project coordinators, and directors and only one other person at my level in the company. I thought this would be good. My artworking and print skills have improved quite a lot during the first two montha but now 10 months on are quite stagnant.

    Im feeling immensely frustrated about my chosen career path at this point.

    The job at the agency is very high pressure, quick turnover, i never know if i can plan anything in the evenings yet the utmost quality and artworking is expected even on tiny 1 hour jobs. I find the way of working and treadmill of scheduled work (30 mins for this, then 1 hour for that, 2 hours for the next etc) to kill creativity, accuracy and also not allow any room for technical errors or unforeseen issues. Add to this the work - it is exceedingly dull and dry for clients with quite outdated ideas. The project coordinators dont seem to fight to keep good design, and keep the goals of the project in mind (make the logo bigger, so bigger that the underlying marketing message is not conveyed , as a hilarious example) we then send this work back. Get told it looks rubbish (of course it will do when we take on board silly comments) by the client and then have to do it again, normally after work hours or in a hurry. This basically seems to happen all thr time.

    Also they hired me as a graphic designer, but the vast majority of my work is tracing supplied files, relaying bodies of text in booklets with predetermined styles, working in powerpoint with supplied messy decks to tidy them and chuck in icons (PPTs comprise of 70% of my work).

    Whenever i do get a vaguely creative project 9 times out of ten it will be "re thought" and essentially redesigned after i have done it by the project coordinators and non-designer senior management team. Even minor items like simple booklets. Most of the time the senior designers dont agree with this and turn around to tell me they thought my design worked, while then in the next breathe submitting to the comments of the Project coordinators. Ive also noticed that the senior designer could suggest one thing, if i suggested it it would be shot down. Even when i mimic his delivery of this message. Just because its coming from me. The other junior seems to experience all of this aswell. So not juat me neccessarily. Its gotten to the point where i expect this now and just end up as a default asking what my senior designer collegue thinks of the designs ive done at every stage of the game. No independence. Ive never had a long range project here. Never worked on packaging, i havent learnt anything on webdesign or ux despite saying for 2 years (and them claiming to put a training plan in place to facilitate this), I have virtually nothing for my portfolio that any other place is gonna care about apart from small things like tiny illustrations... the odd brochure. I had way more at my first job!

    I left my in house job as i thought i would get MORE ownership and less ruining of artwork from non-designers, but now i actually get more because of the hierarchy of different people who all desire an opinion. Im starting to get quite mad, im completely disengaged at this point in my work and i just dont care anymore. The project coordinators are all very young and less experienced than me even, i dont tell them how to do their jobs, but they tell us designers. Theres no quality to my outputs anymore. I dread going to work every single day but its hard to wonder if perhaps uni set me with too high expectations.

    I have been keeping an eye on the freelancers who pop in and even notice them talking about derailed projects. So i guess i have some questions below that i need help with.

    It seems i really like to own a project, and i do understand you are probably gonna lose many projects, most in fact hardly any will win awards, and yes as a junior you have to work to the top and maybe do the gruelling tasks. But i have three years experience now. I am goibg to look for a new job but this has me questioning my actual career choice.

    Shouldnt it be better than this?

    Should i have more ownership of tasks at this company now? My salary also hasnt gone up since being there even incrementally. I am struggling to live on my wage and when i look even at mid weight jobs it seems to be hardly much more than i am on now.

    Is it always like this being a designer?

    Is every agency like this or is in house better? Is freelancing better?

    Have you guys been though this?

    How did you cope?

    I didnt enjoy either of my jobs, but looking at it now my first job seemed more suitable and happier. Is there light at the end of the tunnel or as a designer am i destined to just keep being told the same repetitive stuff on a salary that doesnt even sustain me to live independently?
  2. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    • Should i have more ownership of tasks at this company now?
    No, you're a junior so your projects will always be overseen by a Mid/Senior.

    • My salary also hasnt gone up since being there even incrementally.
    Too be honest, if your responsibilities or position within the company haven't changed, there's not really much you can do about this. You could possibly ask for a performance & pay review?

    • Is it always like this being a designer?
    No. Some employers are twats some aren't. being a junior can suck being a midweight sucks a bit, being a senior has sucky moments.

    • Is every agency like this or is in house better? Is freelancing better?
    I've worked in a few agencies as well as in-house and each one varies. Sounds like you've landed yourself in a bit of a s**t agency but having agency experience on your cv will stand you in a much stronger position when applying for new roles. Freelance isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when you're just starting out as a designer. This is because you generally don't have the industry connections and experience of managing clients that you'd need to be successful.

    • Have you guys been though this?
    Yes, almost everyone's worked for s**t companies, on s**t pay as a junior. It seems to be the norm that juniors get paid peanuts and work long hours.

    • How did you cope? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
    Decide where you want to be in 2,3,4,5 years time and Keep working hard towards that goal. Maybe speak to your current employer and ask if they feel you'd be ready to handle more responsibility?

    • As a designer am i destined to just keep being told the same repetitive stuff?
    A misconception of the design industry is that from day one it's all Saul Bass and David Carson, getting paid mega money, re-designing the world. The reality is that to start with 90% of your work will be updating advertising materials for estate agents for peanuts.

    • On a salary that doesnt even sustain me to live independently?
    One of my tutors at art college said "If you want this bad enough you'll give up everything to make it happen."
    Even now I'm not sure if I fully agree with him but you do have to accept where you are and what you need to do to get to where you want to be. My first job paid £10k a year and I was sacked after 12 months. It took me 10 years of changing job roles, getting sacked, quitting etc... (including 2 years self employed) to get a decent job in a decent agency.

    In all that time it's only in the past couple of years that I've seen any real improvement in my salary. And I can put that down to me now having valuable experience and skills to bring to a company rather than relying on them to teach me something.
    Wardy likes this.
  3. Jri

    Jri Member

    And there it is, the industry's unrealistic glamour distilled down into a sentence that should be embossed in bold letters across the cover of every graphic design degree course handbook.
    bigdave likes this.
  4. scotty

    scotty Well-Known Member

    Hey Help. Welcome to GDF. :D

    I've been there and it's a bit sh@t isn't it?

    I got disillusioned with it all to the point where I actually quit design for about six years before returning to it.
    Like bigdave, I have my own line of burning bridges in the past. ;)

    Many designers think that working at an agency is going to be full of creativity and exciting projects but from what I've found... it's not.

    I was reading another Designer/Illustrators blog recently on her views of creativity and working at an agency.
    She started off with the same notions and found that working for bigger agencies and bigger clients meant less creativity.
    Things get so 'on brand' that there is little or no room to be creative and none of actually owning a project.
    She eventually left and started working as a freelance Designer/Illustrator/Typographer and was very happy but as much as she disliked
    her experience of working at an agency, she recognised that she had learned a lot from the experience.

    It's not always the case but I often think of agencies as design factories churning it out.
    At one company in Sheffield I heard a guy saying they churn ad's at at a rate of one every 20min and this was expected. o_O

    It's also hard to listen to non-designers (like Account Managers) telling you how to do your job.
    Design is subjective which means everyone can have an opinion even if it's total bullshite.

    As far as coping, I'd do what bigdave says.
    Sit back and think about where you'd like to be or doing in the future and work towards that.
    Taylor your portfolio with side projects doing the things that float your boat and you'd like to be doing.
    See what you are doing as a path to getting there. "Wax on. Wax off".

    There are many different ways of working in design and they are not all the same.
    I found freelancing was my thing in the end.
  5. Jri

    Jri Member

    More wise words there.

    Here's my two pennies worth*:

    At a low level (roughly from junior level up to lower middleweight, probably beyond), it's often easy to get caught in the rip-tide of: 'you're a designer, so you can A) do any role that can have design shoehorned into the title and B) operate all forms of technology meaning that you know how to constantly show the cretin on reception how to work the printer'.

    At the time this may seem like a petty annoyance, but adjust your career course by one degree early on and you'll end up a mile off course in later years. Getting dragged into being the office IT technician can lead to you stagnating and getting no professional portfolio work done (preventing you from moving on in the process).

    *Disclaimer: I'm still in my career's early stages, but the above attitudes have been obvious for the last couple of years - and from day one.
  6. scotty

    scotty Well-Known Member

  7. Helpmeplz

    Helpmeplz New Member

    Interesting what you say about agencies and probably so true. Why then do so many designers believe and espouse that agencies are the be all and end all??

  8. Helpmeplz

    Helpmeplz New Member

    May i ask after all thr struggle and hard graft what was the light at the end of the tunnel? Why did you persue and why is graphic design so rewarding bearing all thats previously said in mind? Or were you simply too far in and couldnt turn around?

    I ask this in the hopes it may reignite my spark, or be food for thought.

  9. Helpmeplz

    Helpmeplz New Member

    This is very true and currently what i feel im experiencing. Especially with ppts.
    I have two years and next to no work to show for it... on the surface it may at firdt appear as tho im being grumpy about the level of grunt work. Im infact very worried as 2 hears is actually a long time in the scheme of new grads the pace of the industry and expectations to have nearly nothing worth showing.

    As i work long hours its also hard to find time, motivation, and recover from the eye strain at the end of being on the computer for 9.5 hours to do side projects which may be more rewarding


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