I owe much of my ascent as a graphic designer to my high school web design teacher. It was a class most people took because they thought it would be an easy A, but for those of us who actually took it seriously, it was a peek into the real world that most aspiring designers could only hope for. My teacher would consistently bring in real client projects for us to work on.
As arrogant high school students, we would often whine and complain about the client’s requests and revisions. Didn’t they know that we had been in this class for a whole semester? We obviously knew what we were talking about.
My teacher would say, “If you want to have feelings, go down the hall to the art rooms, we don’t talk about our feelings here!” This is what separates the artists from the designers.
If you’ve ever seen the image of what an artist’s brain looks like while they’re creating, it’s not hard to imagine why artists crave to practice their craft. While designers are often just as committed and also love what they do, we’re in the game for an entirely different reason.
So, what’s the reason? Money. Cold hard cash. … I mean, our clients. We’re totally in it for the good of our clients.
The phrase “starving artist” has haunted me ever since I told my family and friends what I had chosen as a career. I can hear them now, “Are you sure that’s going to work out for you?”
What they didn’t understand is that I wasn’t becoming an artist. I was going to be a designer. This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to make a living as an artist, because it’s not. It’s just a lot more difficult.
Designers may sit at their desks drawing and playing with colors, shapes and images on their computer screens, but at the end of the day they’re only doing it for their clients. We don’t spend our free time laying out brochures in InDesign and thinking up the next great e-newsletter template. We focus in on those things, and do them well, after the client asks (and approves the budget).
If you want to be a great designer, you’ll have to take my high school web design teacher’s advice. There is a place for emotion in design – evoking it in your target audience. But that’s where it has to stay. If you can’t pick apart the pixel-perfect design you’ve been working on for weeks and make it entirely unrecognizable without flinching – you won’t make it in the world of corporate design.