Having doubts about GD, input greatly appreciated!


New Member
Hi Guys,

I'm a member of another GD forum so I thought I'd post here instead as the content is somewhat negative towards what we all do here, though I'll elaborate. I graduated with a first class degree in Visual Communication in 2009 and since then, I've not obtained the continued success that I thought I would.

For the last 2 years I've been in a job that is mildly related to GD and I really think it's starting to have a negative effect on my creativity. I know I'm very talented at what I do, but I can never muster the motivation to sit down and design for hours on end. When I do, I love it and the majority of my work I'm very happy with, and I've always given my freelance clients what they've wanted, and they've been happy with what I provide. I'm just worried that my lack of motivation will be detriment to me being a success in this profession.

I've dealt with depression in the past, and I feel like it's starting to creep back into my life again which DOES effect my mood. I'm currently in a job for the past 2 years that doesn't have much to do with GD and I think it effects my creativity as it's fairly straight forward and not that challenging (Senior Digital Editor for a photography company). When I look through say, Computer Arts magazine and see the amazing designs contained within, it makes me cringe as I know I can achieve the same, but in my current mental state, I feel like I can't achieve that level.

I'm sorry if this comes across as a pessimistic way of thinking, but I'm really stuck in a rut and I'm finding it hard to see the light. I'm starting to wonder if GD is the profession for me, even though when I do apply myself to it, I enjoy it. Graphic design is a design medium that requires constant honing of skills and being diligent. I feel like I'm being left behind and that it'll get to a point where I'll be too old to really make a stamp in the design community.

To add some context, I'm 28, going on 29 and I feel like I should be further along in my career than I am. I've a portfolio that for the life of me, I still haven't finished off which is putting possible interviews for design jobs on the long finger (yet again that lends itself to the lack of motivation). I'm in a vicious circle that I'm finding hard to get out of.

If you've stuck with me this far into the post, I commend you! I know a lot of this sounds quite negative but I would like your input to perhaps advise what my next step should be. Has anyone here been in the same boat? Have any of you really struggled to break into the design world?

Any advice will be really appreciated. Thank you for reading this.

Hey Ted, sorry to hear you feel this way. It's easy to be de-motivated in the busy, ever-changing design world, especially if you spend a lot of time looking at the work of others. I often doubt myself, as I'm sure most designers do at some point, and you can bet even those people in the creative magazines do too. Everyone looks up to someone else, even those we would consider to be at the 'top' of the design pile. Much of the work we do as designers is actually pretty boring and not as glamorous as it's often made out to be. You have to please your clients, which often means sacrificing some of your better, or more fun ideas for the sake of a budget or pure practicality.

Also, much of the work in those magazines isn't always for actual clients. A lot of the time the work shown is just experiments or personal project the designers have been messing around with in their spare time. Do you design or experiment at all in your spare time? If so, perhaps another hobby you can just focus on the enjoyment of will help. Film-making for example, or painting? Paula Scher spends a lot of her spare time in isoloation painting typographic maps. The intense concentration they require are almost a form of meditation for her. Or maybe a break from design entirely will do you good? It's easy to become stifled by the amount of information we have to take in each day, and sometimes we just need to switch off and 'reboot' if you like, clear our heads and start afresh.

You should definitely build on your portfolio. It might even be worth while applying for interviews even if it isn't ready, which will give you a kick up the backside to get it sorted. You will never 'finish' it per se, as it's a reflection of your skill and experience, and should therefore be constantly improving and changing as you do. Refresh it with some personal work. Much of the work I've shown at interviews and reviews has been a mix of client work and personal stuff, and the more creative, kooky stuff is normally what interviewers are drawn to. Show you like to have fun and have creative, weird ideas. People hire people, so show some personality.

28 is no age really, and it's just not worth spending the rest of your life in a job that you don't enjoy and offers no creative challenge, especially if it's having a negative impact on your health.
Hi Paul,

Thank you for that well thought out reply, I really appreciate it. You're right on so many points, that I often just get bogged down in requirements and procedures that I often don't see the wood for the trees. I've been told time and time again that I'm a good designer, yet I think it's my self belief I have an issue with. I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to being critical of my work, as the second I have it completed I'm picking it apart and soon not liking it. I'm a perfectionist and always have been, which lends itself quite beneficially to GD, but like most people know, it can lengthen the time it takes you to complete a design job.

I think if there's one word that I've an issue with most, would be "motivation". I always thought that if you're not completely passionate about something, that you're in the wrong field of work. I'm passionate about 20% of the time, which does worry me. I know this is all in my head, so at the end of the day, I'm just disagreeing and fighting with myself which when said like that, sounds pretty silly.
Do more of what you enjoy. If you're a gifted designer who's also lucky enough to get a big kick out of the thing you're best at then the way forward is obvious: designers design, writers write, doctors doct: a+b=c.

With regard to so-called 'perfectionism', it's just the by product of not knowing when to stop which, in turn, is a habit you develop when you're kept busy with new challenges - and that's all it is: a habit. If a piece of work is completed, move on to another and learn to rely on your critical faculties during the creative process rather than giving them free rein once the work is done: creativity has unlimited outcomes so finding tiny faults is always going to be easier than finding elegant solutions and it's inevitable that you'll end up playing that game if you've got time on your hands. Don't give unwarranted attention to some of the choices you've made and maybe do things differently next time - you're defined by a body of work, not this one thing (and every classic song in your favourite band's repertoire exists against a backdrop of album fillers and iffy b-sides).
Hey Andy,

Thanks for your input. Thank you for the link, I'll be sure to watch it when I get home from work. I know that I'm supposed to be in the creative field as I'm definitely a right brained person, not so much a left. I just feel like time is passing me by and that my work isn't measurable to the time that I've invested in this field. My mindset can get quite self-defeatest when I start to think of the situation as a big problem, and that in itself can act as a barrier for my motivation to flourish.

I do believe that your own personal happiness gets reflected in your ability to create, and the motivation to do so. I can't say that I'm happy in my current situation so perhaps that needs to get a knock on the head?
I would like to do the same Andy, but I think I know myself too well and that I'm more of a social person, needing the interactions of others around me to generate my concepts and have other opinions to bounce off.

Speaking of working from home, there's a great article in Computer Arts at the moment, give it a read .....Time to work from home? | Feature | Computer Arts magazine

It explains a bit better as to why working at home wouldn't be a great move for me. It would also be beneficial for you as you're working from home.
Working from home is damn lonely. That's the first thing I discovered about it. And it's easy to become disheartened by your own work when you see it constantly. This is something I constantly struggle with, sending designs to clients with doubts in my mind about their quality, only for the client to love them.

I'm not entirely sure if this is relevant to your dilemma, but if you're looking for a challenge in your spare time, take a look at Good For Nothing events. Basically, you get together with a group of other creatives from a range of backgrounds and industries and work together for two days on a project for a good cause. The aim is to have a finished outcome at the end of the time that the charity/organisation otherwise would never have had. I did one last year and it was a great boost to my confidence, as well as letting me meet some great people I still see regularly.
I completely agree Paul, it would be lonely and I know I'd end up procrastinating and relaxing too much, then freaking out that I've not enough time left to finish off the work! That website looks great! Is it only based in the UK or are their events in Ireland?
Working from home can be difficult but, when you're the boss, you sometimes have to act like one. It's ups and downs (not unlike going into the office every day) and having more control over your working pattern is a good thing in the end... also, when I think of some of the choppers I've shared workspace with in the past, I count myself lucky most days.
Working from home can be difficult but, when you're the boss, you sometimes have to act like one. It's ups and downs (not unlike going into the office every day) and having more control over your working pattern is a good thing in the end... also, when I think of some of the choppers I've shared workspace with in the past, I count myself lucky most days.

It's highly dependent on the sort of person you are Dave, that much is true. If you're a self motivator and can focus for lengthy periods, you'd be fine. However, if the situation was more strained knowing that this was my bread and butter financially speaking, I'd imagine that motivation would naturally occur. The threat of eviction would get anyone's ass moving :icon_biggrin:
^ Quite: if you're not a self-motivator, you need to source your motivation elsewhere. I'm no kind of a self-starter and the only reason I'm in this situation is because I was made redundant from a cushy in-house position a few years back and quickly worked out that I'd have to take a significant cut in pay and conditions to slot into a similar job on account of the highly competitive and down-sized nature of the jobs market and the loss of all the pay progression and general goodwill I'd built up when the company was booming (I was looking at around a 60% drop in salary - for basically the same job, mind - which would have set me back about ten years or so in lifestyle terms). Once I'd readjusted my mindset (from 'woe is me' to 'I'm buggered if I'm having any of that'), things rapidly started to take on a life of their own and took me with them.

I'm a very pessimistic person by default (even in the good times: the glass may be half-full but it's half-full of hot piss), but I've learned that it's a lot easier to get yourself out of a hole when you're presented with a good enough reason for trying.
Well said Dave, I couldn't agree more. I think with the right guidance and discipline I could work from home, but I can't see that happening in the next year or so atleast. I think I need some decent time in-house so I know how to conduct myself, even though I've been doing freelance for a while now, no doubt I've so much more to learn still.
Oh man - I wish I was still 28... *sigh*

Tedster if you stick to your guns and make a go of what you want to achieve you can - take the knocks and go with the flow and learn as you do so. Like Dave L (I agree with everything he has said above) I was made redundant, hit depression and spent 3 years staring blindly at the ceiling. Eventually when I got back on my feet, things started falling into place and continues to do so, even as a home worker that can't stand the thought of getting back into a corporate environment (believe it or not, but I even go to interviews occasionally for humour's sake to keep myself ticking over). I also know that staring at the ceiling these days doesn't do me any favours (even though I still go through periods of doing it). I don't even earn a fraction of what I earned before, but it is improving and I hope it continues to do so.

Don't blame depression, get up and do it. My staring at the ceiling days only happen when I don't keep myself motivated with any goals. I started out by teaching myself to broaden my knowledge base, took manuals out of the library and ploughed through tutorials to keep my mind occupied - in fact these days work deadlines are like the drug that keeps me going on the average day - I forget to go to bed and feed the family and I thrive on it. Make the move yourself and follow through.
Tedster, I feel your pain dude. I hopped around from design firm to design firm after graduating from university and I was totally underwhelmed with the work I was doing, I had very little personal creative control over my work and it was very frustrating. The best thing I ever did was to break away and become a full time freelancer, for sure there is a lot more day to day stress of keeping the work coming in but I now have complete creative control and the time to work when and how I want which I think is the most important thing. It seems like you really like most aspects of design work so don't give up, just your ties will all the negative elements and you'll be much happier.