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  • In-House Designer - Question About Coworker

    I am an in-house graphic designer at a small business. I have a coworker that thinks he/she knows how to be a graphic designer (without having any training or art background). I have surprisingly run into this problem twice (once at this job and once at a previous job) and it is beyond frustrating and really awkward. I am the only graphic artist at this small business, so I don't have the support of a design team around me.

    Let's call the coworker Susan. Susan knows the very basics of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Susan consistently oversteps boundaries and creates designs for the business we work at. We rarely use Susan's designs. I get the feeling that Susan thinks she is good at graphic design. I feel so uncomfortable because I don't know how to respond to Susan when she excitedly shows me what she has created. She is always saying that she coming from a place of "helpfulness." "How can I help you?" she asks. To which I reply, "I don't need help, thank you." But this doesn't end the conversation. It always picks up again. We work closely at this business so ignoring her attempts is not possible.

    I honestly don't know what to do. I don't want to be mean. I don't want to leave my job (that's how I solved my problem the last time – I found another job). I don't want to tell Susan I like her designs when I don't. And I don't want to feel how I feel: upset because I think that Susan thinks her flippantly thrown together creations are comparable to my designs that I work so hard on.

  • #2
    Hi Gathy and welcome to GDF.

    "Susan, please don't do my job." It'll sting, and she may get pissy, but so what. Or go to your boss and mention that Susan has enough free time to try and do your job, too, so maybe she needs more to do.

    We ask all new members to read very important links here and here. These explain the rules, how the forum runs and a few inside jokes. No, you haven't done anything wrong, we ask every new member to read them. Your first few posts will be moderated, so don't panic if they don't show up immediately. Enjoy your stay.
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    • #3
      I had exactly the same situation where I work. 'Prepress' person of some 20 years, the owners thought since my coworker (who knew what she was doing) was leaving and the 'prepress' person 'knew' computers that moving her up to help me was a no-brainer.

      I quickly learned that despite some pre-press knowledge she didn't know much about what I did or the programs. She had the luxury of sending jobs back to the client to fix. We don't. We have to take the garbage clients give up and turn out decent at worst newspaper ads.

      It took her three years before she accepted that I knew more than she did. It took her five years to get the basics down and it took her until 2015 before I finally got her to stop devoting so much time to insignificant things when designing ads.

      I am STILL cleaning up her poorly laid out ads when I have to go back and pick them up.

      My only suggestion to you is to not break. If 'Susan' is seeing herself as a good designer treat her like one. What I mean by that is speak to her as if she is an equal, using the terms of the trade and expecting that she will understand.

      If she tries to be 'helpful' start explaining the steps she is showing you in designer terms as if she is showing you something new.

      Throwing terms at her she is expected to know (but really doesn't, because she ISN'T a designer) will prove embarrasing. Being unable to speak to you on your level in the terms of the trade might prove embarassing enough for her to back off. It shows her you know what you're talking about while also showing her that she doesn't.

      Treating her as an 'equal' in this way can't be construed as an insult.

      However, only you know your situation so based on her personality this may not work at all.
      Erik Youngren • Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
      2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

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      • #4
        We'll be waiting for the post from a new sign in that asks what a whole bunch of technical terms mean.

        The internet is everywhere.

        Comment


        • #5
          Gathy, I think a lot of us here can empathise with your situation, having been in similar situations ourselves.

          It's been a few years, but I remember a woman who worked at the same company I did (a daily newspaper). She was in charge of her own program, and proceeded to design (I'm using that term loosely) many of her own flyers, newsletters, promotional items, etc. She viewed me, the paper's design director, as the person to assist her from time to time when she was too busy to finish her awful creations herself.

          I struggled with how to deal with this situation until, one day, I reached a breaking point where my desire to confront her outweighed my desire to be nice. Right in the middle of her instructions to me on how she wanted me execute some monstrosity she had dreamed up, I asked what design program she graduated in and from which university. She seemed a bit taken aback and didn't say anything. I proceeded to calmly tell her that she had no education in design, no experience and, as far as I could tell, no aptitude for it. I didn't stop there, and went on to tell her that her attempts at design were amateurish, looked horrible and were an embarrassment to the professional reputation of the newspaper.

          Before I could move on to what I was about to say next, tears began rolling down her cheeks and she broke out into a series of loud sobs. She hurriedly grabbed her things and ran across the newsroom to the exit door, wailing and sobbing every step of the way. She didn't come back to work for two or three days, but when she did, she never bothered me again. I felt bad, but I can't say I regret it.

          Somewhat related, but off on a small tangent...

          I've worked several design jobs -- both in-house and at agencies. One of many differences I've noticed between the two is that upper managements of most companies with in-house creative/marketing/PR teams know very little about the subject. Worse is that they don't know what they don't know. In the most dysfunctional situations, not only do they not know what they don't know, they think they're experts. When it comes to the company's core products, these company leaders might be geniuses, but their genius typically eludes them as their egos take over when it comes to matters of design.

          As a result, absolutely the wrong people are often hired to lead the in-house creative efforts of many companies. I can't even begin to count the number of utterly unqualified posers who have hoodwinked naive upper managements with smooth talk and BS that hides their ineptitude. Ad agencies have their own problems, but very few are as dysfunctional as the in-house teams who attempt to create good work in a company that just doesn't understand good design.

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          • calebninja
            calebninja commented
            Editing a comment
            Amen!

        • #6
          Originally posted by B View Post
          It's been a few years, but I remember a woman who worked at the same company I did (a daily newspaper). She was in charge of her own program, and proceeded to design (I'm using that term loosely) many of her own flyers, newsletters, promotional items, etc. She viewed me, the paper's design director, as the person to assist her from time to time when she was too busy to finish her awful creations herself.

          I struggled with how to deal with this situation until, one day, I reached a breaking point where my desire to confront her outweighed my desire to be nice. Right in the middle of her instructions to me on how she wanted me execute some monstrosity she had dreamed up, I asked what design program she graduated in and from which university. She seemed a bit taken aback and didn't say anything. I proceeded to calmly tell her that she had no education in design, no experience and, as far as I could tell, no aptitude for it. I didn't stop there, and went on to tell her that her attempts at design were amateurish, looked horrible and were an embarrassment to the professional reputation of the newspaper.

          Before I could move on to what I was about to say next, tears began rolling down her cheeks and she broke out into a series of loud sobs. She hurriedly grabbed her things and ran across the newsroom to the exit door, wailing and sobbing every step of the way. She didn't come back to work for two or three days, but when she did, she never bothered me again. I felt bad, but I can't say I regret it.
          Perhaps somewhat insensitive…but perhaps not as well. Your point was made and while you felt bad about it she left you alone after that.

          I would only say that this was probably a truer test of her lack of authenticity as a designer. From the moment you enter design school what you create is under constant critique. Good, bad, mediocre we are judged. If you want to succed in the industry not only do you become good at what you do and gain experience you also learn to devlop a thick skin.

          You criticized her work. She chose to interpret that as personal criticism. Non-designers tend to attach themselves into the 'work' they create. It becomes personal and so criticism of it is direct personal criticism of them.

          But as designers we understand that it's the work that is being critiqued. And our skills, or lack of them. Which is not a critique of who we are as a person but simply a valuation of what we produce or how capable (or not) we are at it.

          So, the fact that she took that as personal criticism only proves the lack of training she had. Not that you didn't know that already, but professionals don't act this way in response to criticism.
          Erik Youngren • Pueblo Publishers, Composing Manager
          2.8Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro | InDesign CS4 | Suitcase Fusion 5

          Comment


          • #7
            It was insensitive, and I did feel bad about how I made her feel.

            A better way to have approached it would have been the way you suggested in your previous post about gradually and consistently demonstrating my education, professionalism, experience and abilities in ways that made her realize for herself that she was lacking in those areas and that my expertise could help her achieve her goals through collaboration instead of viewing me as an assistant.

            Tact, unfortunately, isn't always one of my stronger attributes. I have a tendency to hold things in, then when cracks appear in the dam, it breaks and everything comes flooding out. I definitely don't like making people cry and injuring their self-esteem, though.

            Comment


            • #8
              In my experience it has usually been a supervisor who has assigned them the task of designing pieces. Almost always as a filler activity because they have temporarily run out of work for that person to do. They don't want the person sitting at their desk doing nothing for a couple days, so they tell them to make ads in photoshop or publisher. I don't get mad at the person. The supervisor is the one I have issues with.

              Comment


              • #9
                I had the same issue about six or seven months ago. Luckily the individual ended up quitting, but while she was here she made her presence known.

                Something B alluded to with the in-house comment about being hood-winked, that was definitely the case. For example, she owned an old camera so apparently this deemed her to be the company photographer and an expert of photography.

                This woman, who had a degree in something other than design, knew some photoshop and enjoyed making birthday invites for her kids. She thought that birthday invite experience gave her superior knowledge over me. She constantly criticized my work and would go over my head to make it known that I was "messing up".


                But it wasn't only my designs she would criticize, she would consistently bash previous designers' works. Heck, she would bash anyone because she always thought she knew better. She thought she knew more than her car mechanic because he was taking so long to fix her car, she thought she knew more than her doctor because he didn't give her the diagnosis she thought she should have.

                One time she was complaining about her wedding photographer and saying that she could do a better job.
                I'll never forget it, she said:

                "I hate it when people think they are a photographer just because they own a camera"

                To which I fired back with...

                "Yeah, just like people who own a copy of photoshop and think they are a designer"

                She went silent for awhile after that comment.


                I addressed this issue with my superior several times and stated that there was a lack of respect for my education and experience every time I am asked to change a an element of a design because "They think the logo would look better if it was larger". Unfortunately there was little resolve while she was here, but thankfully she quit and the person who replaced her is nothing like her.

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