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What kept you in Graphic Design?



Many of us know, and have been asked, how we got into design but how many of you know why you're still in it? I'd also like to discuss how close people think they were to going down a completely different path in life.
Some of us were born with nothing, some of us were born with everything and others were born with bits and pieces of both worlds, all of which lead to people being at dramatically different points in their lives even at the same age as someone else. Personally, before I got into design I didn't really have anything to my name and I was very much content (or perhaps that should read oblivious to any other way) with my retail job. It paid my bills and gave me a bit of spending money, even with owning my own flat (No matter what anyone says, what ever the reasoning, 6 months is definitely too soon to move in with your partner! Yes, even if they have a pool table - or a pool) and having a generally worry-free life.
In reality, my job was terrible. There was no respect, between either the staff/management or the customers, or any sense of personal development. You were treated as a machine, expected to perform to certain levels and follow the order of people without education or even life experience a lot of the time. Pecking order was determined largely by your charisma and popularity, instead of ability to perform. I could spend the next week listing out bad aspects of that job but that is not the point of the post.
The point is that I was very close to succumbing to this life and fortunately for me, I had discovered the world of design. A world which gives praise to someone who can effectively draw a frog, or place a series of buttons and patterns behind columns of text, or even someone who can create a a gigantic, man eating, armour plated worm. This world where people respect each other and encourage them to achieve, support them in what they want to do and ultimately to be happy. In hindsight, I was very close to never discovering this way of life and I cannot put into words how immeasurably thankful I am to the series of events which led me to open my eyes to it all.
Were you always destined to be a designer? Did you have alternative paths laid out for you before you made the decision to become a designer? More importantly, were you "this close" to living a completely different, less happy life in something that you probably wouldn't have enjoyed doing?
I don't really believe in destiny and what not, but, I never planned on being a designer from a young age or anything like that. When I was working for my Aunts business, mainly as a shopfitter and repair man, I used to dabble in it which is where I got the interest. Never once thought that's where I'd end up.
I was quite happy working away at Coca-Cola earning my £200 a week without any worries or any cares in the world, but I decided to try and give uni a try (I only decided on this as I was chasing a girl I was besotted with).
I've been working for myself for a year now and I don't think I'll ever do anything else, or at least I hope I don't have to do anything else. I love the lifestyle of what I do, I love the types of people it allows me to meet and socialise with, I even sometimes love the uncertainty of not knowing where my next pay packet is coming from (sometimes).
As it is I'm now 23, living with my girlfriend, in a nice house, and there isn't anyone telling me what to do. I couldn't be happier really.


New Member
This is pretty interesting because lately I've been thinking about this. Being a graphic designer really is, when I think about it more, a very very broad generalisation. I originally got my first job as an animator, that's what I was interviewed for but for some reason I've been mostly doing web/graphic design, which I've always sort of loved anyway, its not a far reach from the more artistic side of animation and character design.
The problem I have is I do love graphic design, web design, all sorts of design, but my heart really is in animation and 3D work. I'm at a point in my job where I feel slightly bored by the work we do because its the same old branding guidelines for a couple of different companies. But at the same time I am grateful I have a job.
As it is right now, I truly don't know where I want to be. Is it possible to really love two different career paths? And even harder, is it possible to be able to do both career paths equally well. I'm dedicated to what I do and I cant imagine that changing, but I see a change on the horizon shortly for me, I just don't know the path to take.


Active Member
I've always loved art, and had parents that were willing and loved to foster that love. They always made sure I had the tools necessary to create paintings or draw (drawing was my favorite). This was because my dad was an artist growing up and to this day still doodles and as a dentist still uses those skills today in the workplace. My mom was a journalism major, but doodles all the time, mainly flowers on scrap pieces of paper. My grandpa was also an artist of sorts, he could build things like no one's business. He was a heart surgeon for a living, but in his free time built my dad and my uncle a bat mobile (kind of like the barbie cars and mini jeeps that were available to my generation as a child).
So in a way, it was sort of engrained in my blood.
In 9th grade I took a computer graphics class where I ended up being one of the best ones in the class. To my horror I found my old stuff recently and found I used comic sans for one of my projects!!! :wacko: But it was in that year that my dad said I could be successful in graphic design if I pursued it. Then I found my love of choir. For the rest of high school I took choir and IB art (international baccalaureate) where I realized in art I had nothing I wanted to say. I ended up doing portraits of my friends for my final project. Going off to college I was determined to study classical music and be an opera singer (6 years later I can still belt out opera when I want to, pretty fun actually and a fun talent to pull out at get to know you events), and because of opera I ended up meeting my roommate/closest friend of 6 years. We both auditioned for the program the same day, both got in, and by the end of our freshman years had both switched to a new major due to us both being sick all the time. The dorms were the nastiest places ever. No amount of cleaning could keep you healthy.
After my first semester I realized I was jealous of the kids walking around with the giant portfolios, sketching around the lake. I decided then and there I wanted to switch to the graphic design program. That meant a year of taking prerequisites for it and getting my portfolio together but my parents were behind my decision 100% (they were behind the opera one, too, because they knew I loved singing and knew I could have made a career out of it. Mom still says she misses me singing). I got into the program and was one of the stronger ones in the class. A month before I graduated I applied for an internship at a local design agency that has had the biggest impact on my career. I got to work with them for 6 months, and even though they didn't have the money or enough work coming in to hire me, they have kept me on as a freelancer for over 2 years now. It was at that internship that I got to work on a poster for an event that is still getting me work today. It was featured in the CommArts Typography Annual 2, as well as a few other publications, and recently a poster I lettered for them took 6 gold ADDYS (including Judges Choice and Best of Show) at the local level. I moved away for a job at an agency that found my work online, and that I left a little over a month ago because the vibe there was very strange and was very much a man's world there. Despite asking for help, they rarely gave much for me to go on, yet they art directed the guy there constantly. So I left and decided to pursue freelance, which my parents backed my choice 100% on as well. They know that I can make this work and are supporting me in my decision and are excited with every opportunity that has presented itself. :)
At this point in my life, I beat my 10 year plan. I was going to wait until I was in my 30s, married, and with a child before I ventured into freelancing full time, but the opportunity presented itself and I took it and I could not be happier. I'm less stressed than I have been in the last two years and I can focus my energy into hand lettering and illustration. And with the flu hitting me head on this week I was able to take yesterday off and sleep on the couch all day without regrets or worrying about missing work. Thankfully my client understood, even though we are on a tight deadline, I could barely sit up yesterday let alone work at the computer. My fever broke around 5am this morning, so I'm feeling loads better and can actually work today.
I'll end this with a quote I found yesterday that sums up my entire philosophy:
"I didn't really know how I was going to make money creating art, but I knew I was going to make it." - Jessica Hische
I've had obstacles in my way at several points in my life, either from other people/situations beyond my control or obstacles I've stuck in the way myself for who knows what reason. But I've always either turned back to design or pushed myself on to further myself, and despite having had jobs in admin & retail I don't think I can ever see myself doing anything that isn't design related.
The areas I've wanted to go into have changed several times over the years, when I was a kid I wanted to be an artist and would always be drawing on anything I could get my hands on. I remembered recently I always used to draw words, and now nearly 20 years on I still do that only we call it hand lettering! :lol:
I'm only just at the beginning of my career though so I can't say whether or not I'll have the same views should I answer this question again in 10 years time. I hope I will and I'm optimistic that if I work hard enough I can use my talents to build a healthy and enjoyable career.
I never wanted to be a artist when i was young, but yet i couldn't stop drawing. I use to be given old photos and in pencil redrew them for everyone,, In the 70s i was working in a shop airbrushing vans, cars and bikes for the detroit auto show. My love back then was my harleys,,, but that stopped suddenly when i couldnt ride no more. I started to draw more to keep sane and soon i was working out of my own tattooshop. I retired from that and i started to draw on the computor, did some magazine layouts, work for some clients but that took the fun out of drawing for me,,, So wife went out and got me a camera and i started to take photos and of course i started to draw the pictures lol.. Bout a month ago wife went out and got me a compressor, new airbrushes and tons of paint to get back to do what i love, free hand art.
Right now im drawing for me again, and it feels good, i dont have clients nitpicking at every little thing. I was getting burned out and not enjoying drawing, i figure in a year or so i will start picking up clients again, but for now im just painting the shit out of the world i live in lol..
When I was growing up I always wanted to be a sports journalist, then when I went to college I found I enjoyed studying Business more than I did English - I always did well in it, but the actual study of having to break down paragraphs and study phonetics and so on just drove me to sleep.
I had been self-teaching myself design for quite a few years and had picked up a couple of jobs in a design role that had helped me enormously, particularly one where I was also involved in helping out on the printing presses and seeing the whole production line from start to finish etc.
In the end, I actually got my degree in Business and continued to study design in my own time, working alongside it. I also spent the majority of my time at university on design work and design-related reading rather than my actual course, but picked up a very good degree all the same and have kept my options open.
I'm still not sure which way I will end up between designing or ending up in something like management consultancy in the longer-term, but I do enjoy what I do and really enjoy trying to learn more all the time for design-related things. So if I can make it work enough to pay the bills and provide enough financial security then I'm more than happy with how it's going, just hope I can make it work.

Tony Hardy

Bob, were you an actual tattooist? Or just drawing up tattoos? (not condescending here, just couldn't work out how to phrase it!) I have a friend who's a great artist and tatooist. Just wondered how different you thought using a needle on skin was to using a pencil on paper?
Yup ive tattooed for about 25 years, they make tattooing look so easy on tv these days but its not. You have to take in consideration the age of the skin, the texture, color, Older skin is harder to tattoo, than you have to take into consideration the client, can they sit through it without moving, or half way through they want something else added or not used, its a satisfying and unforgiving job. Most tattooist have bad backs from tattooing from different angles. And mistakes,,
Now drawing on paper is so much easier and relaxing,, you dont like what you draw you toss it lol. But on the final note, tattooing can give you a certian kind of confidance other forms of art can't. I do miss it though.
Well I've always been quite passionate about printing and graphics and always wanted to start my own business. Love graphics, like to play with it since I was quite young. :)