I regret not picking a better college/university to study for graphic design. If I had gone to a more reputable school maybe I would’ve had a broader exposure or internship opportunities. I also didn’t get to learn much about ux/ui, after effect, figma, premier pro, animation either because now that seems like a requirement everywhere
I regret being surrounded by ID107s, whose file preparation would surely earn the wrath of PrintDriver.
Becoming a designer
I regret this career choice.
I didn’t anticipate how quickly the industry would change for the worse. I would have been better suited to an industry that requires visual thinking and problem solving, but is somewhat exclusive because very few people have access to the tools. Carpentry, welding, machining, industrial design.
Ho ho … if hammers and blowtorches are only available through subscriptions.
That’s the way it used to be when I started. Like today, clients had awful ideas and naive opinions. What made it more tolerable than today is that they had no clue how to do anything, which made them more willing to defer to professional advice. That big technical knowledge gap served as a firewall to keep clients from meddling too much. Today, clients know just enough to assume they have some expertise in design they don’t, in reality, possess.
Back then, there were no computers for design or production. No one but working professionals had access to or knew anything about amberlith, chromecoat, proportion wheels, technical pens, stat cameras, specing type, non-repro pencils, mechanicals, stripping film, pica poles, or any of the other dozens of tools and processes. And there was no internet for people to look up these things and get a false sense of knowledge about them.
Today, every client has a computer, a smartphone camera, and a copy of Word, where they’ve learned the magic of changing typefaces, drawing colored boxes, and importing pictures. In their minds, they know the basics and believe there’s not much more to it.
Some even believe themselves to be art directors based on their experience of bossing around, critiquing, and supervising the work of cut-rate and obsequious wannabe designers on crowdsourcing sites. A growing number even view themselves as skilled designers since they’ve learned the do-it-yourself magic of Canva templates.
Of course, you already know all this, but I felt like a good rant because I’m dealing with one of these clients today.
I might do a few things differently, but I have few regrets about my career in design. I got in at the best possible time and will be leaving it at a good time. I’ve made a good living and enjoyed my work.
I went to a big university’s fine arts college with a design program. There were almost no production classes. Everything was about learning to see and think like a designer. We were expected to learn about the tools and processes on our own through internships, part-time jobs, or from mentors.
They reasoned that the school was not meant to teach a trade. It was a school to learn design. Unlike the principles of design, tools and processes change very fast. Half the tools and terminology you mentioned weren’t even a thing five years ago, and the others have significantly evolved. Ten years from now, none of them will be particularly relevant.
More important than learning specific software applications is developing the ability to constantly learn new software and new skills as they’re needed. Of course, if the job description says you need to know Figma, you need to know Figma (or whatever).
My biggest regret on my design journey was taking for granted how much I could learn more from the world around you.
When I find a piece of design I like, I stop and try to break it down what is it that makes it feel that way. is it the colour palette, the typeface, the tracking.
I now do this for non-graphic design things too, like architectual spaces, furniture, clothing, gardening, anything that requires design.
I love looking at things people have designed and imagining why it looks the way it looks.
Here’s an example :
Now imagine if the plant pot was crimson red, or if those books on the coffee table were some trashy magazines with celebrities all over them. Would it disrupt the feeling of the space?
It’s a new way of looking at the world where everything can be your teacher.
That’s a big one. And it’s not new. Even in the 1960’s when I started, clients often thought they knew more about design than I did. And the results were often disastrous. I didn’t keep these clients long, that is, if I couldn’t convince them that my ideas were better. I wound up being a Teacher as much as I was a designer.
The second thing is on a topic we recently covered on GDF—that is letting one client become more than half of your income. The answer is to try to never let that happen and try to keep your largest client at around the 25% mark.
I don’t have regrets, per se. I just have things I really dislike about the way the field of design has evolved – or, more accurately, degraded.
I have been very fortunate in the path my career has taken. It hasn’t always been easy and I haven’t loved every second of it, but those bits have always led elsewhere and for the most part, it’s been a fantastic way to spend my time. That’s not meant to sound as self-satisfied as it probably does. It’s just a truthful reflection of my, individual path to date.
That said, now I loathe the way everyone is a designer / photographer because they have a Canva account and a phone – and their mum said they were god at art in school. So much so, that I am gradually dropping most client work and holding on to only the ones I really love working for. Thankfully, these are usually the higher profile ones (with the odd small exception), because they tend to value what you do and know that it works any why.
The biggest problem with the industry that I can see, is that the Canva kids have devalued client expectation and knowledge so far that shoddy (at best) has become the norm, so the value of effective communication is diminished to the point of irrelevance.I do believe it will come full circle… I’ve seen it happen before, when DTP first happened, a lot of then corporate clients thought they could get serious collateral produced by Jean in sales. That soon fell on its face and serious corporate work came back where it belonged.
Now, the situation is far worse, but I feel it’s just a bigger pendulum swing. That doesn’t mean things will return to the way they were. They never will, but I think the value of creative thinking will return.
Going forward, I will be moving to more self-initiated work in the year ahead. My plan is to make client work take up no more than 20-30% of my time and then build a couple of side-shizzles that bring in some pennies and are more fun to do than work for half-baked clients.
I’m at a point in life where I don’t need to earn the same money I did a couple of decades ago, when I had the London mortgage and lifestyle with it’s ensuant money-sucking consequences.
Twenty years ago, I’d have still fought for it and I still believe there is a decent living to be made by aiming high and leaving the bottom-feeders where they are, but it takes a lot of effort and tenacity.
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
It saddens me that graphic designers don’t get enough recognition for their work as much as they used to back then. As much as I love being a graphic designer at this point and time. But as time goes on, I will eventually be burned out. I appreciates everyone here for sharing their ups and downs in this forum. It also makes me feel at ease knowing I’m not alone in feeling this way.