Friday, 2 November 2012

When all your friends are designers too.

The unavoidable part of becoming a designer or a politician or bricklayer even, is that your peer group will eventually be made up mostly of other designers, bricklayers, or politicians. Why am I insinuating that's a bad thing you might ask? Well I would have thought the answer obvious, but that doesn't make for a very good read!

Politicians are probably the best example of this line of argument because this is something that the majority of people have witnessed with their own eyes. Politicians on the whole, get accused of the same thing over and over again, and it is that of being self interested and out of touch with the people that they actually govern. They are purely in the business of making the country a better place for themselves and others like them. That is of course the generalized public opinion and not everybody shares this view but maybe there is some truth in it. Maybe the politicians have become so accustomed to the interests of their party and the company of other politicians that they have no idea what the people are really like. This happens in a number of instances when you think about it.  It has done throughout history. for instance in revolutions and civil wars across the globe. Stereotyping after all is not entirely fictional, or indeed fixed. The generalization must to true to an extent of most people within the named group, that's how it works. The problem is that the job is so all consuming. It is more than just a job that you do for money, it is a role within society that affects people and there livelihoods and it carries with it responsibility, and expected behavior, and so forth, it just so happens that it carries a pay check. What most people fail to notice is that all jobs are like this. Your Job isn't just a job, it is far more than that.

I think a great interlude to this line of thought would be for you to check out this site which elaborates on my point in a wonderful way.

Now coming back to what you do, it is going to affect affect quite a few things in your life and not only that but it is going to affect things for your close and even quite distantly connected peer group. You might be thinking don't be silly, I can see how a politicians decisions are affecting the wider population, but how is me designing holiday cards for "Clinton Cards" going to make a difference to anything. I feel this one is best illustrated with a little story.

Lets say for example you are in fact a freelance graphic designer. This allows you to work from home or from your clients office and at your own pace within reason. It also allows you to charge whatever rates you feel are appropriate, and generally avoid the day in day out monotony of the nine to five. Overall you are happy with your choice to do this but it does have its down sides. Some of your clients are not very nice people and they don't understand or respect what it is that you do. They call you up at all hours of the day expecting you to be fine with this because you are a freelancer, and they try to get away with not paying you wherever possible. Not only this but you often have periods without any work and you are in charge of supplying, maintaining, and updating, the very expensive equipment and software that is required to be a graphic designer. These are all things that affect you personally.

Now of course these things do have a bit of a knock on effect and bleed into your personal life. For example, your boyfriend/ girlfriend often complains that you don't spend the weekend with them as often as they would like because your projects sometimes run over and the deadline is the most important to you than quality time with your partner. You know all about computers and a little bit about programming and markup languages because its part of your job so naturally sometimes you just cant switch off and end up talking about these subjects to your friends. They know nothing about what you are talking about and have no interest in listening to it either, as it has no effect on there situation and subsequently avoid you when that's what you are talking about. In there eyes you are becoming more and more boring and they would like there less geeky friend back. On a more positive front though it also means that you can help with otherwise technical and daunting tasks that your friends may not be able to handle on there own so most people, (your mum especially) now assume that you are there own personal technician and treat you accordingly. Great news for a number of people in your immediate circle and perhaps a few friends of theirs that could sling you some work.

Now you can see where I am going with this but the last one is the more important aspect, and it is how you have affected the company, the employees, and the consumers, of the products via your actual work. Now lets not forget what you do as a graphic designer. You are a conveyor of visual information and a maker a visual reality that may or may not exist for someone other than yourself. In essence, you sell things to people using pictures and words. So where does all this affectation come in? I'm glad you asked! Lets say the Job you just did was a set of labels for a new cosmetic range that wanted to draw in a new younger audience as the company weren't meeting there profit target by only appealing to the over 25's. So you made some funky fresh design touting young faces Photoshopped to look as though they were wearing the cosmetics themselves and beaming with confidence about it. You have just given the company a much need facelift and they have therefore made a huge 23% increase in sales as a result of the new packaging, allowing them to take on more staff and produce more products. This has indirectly created jobs for some lucky people who were looking for work but it has also increased the workload of the lab staff who were already overworked. Because its such a specialist role the company could not afford to hire more lab technicians and just decided that the current staff members could handle it. A young girl who normally doesn't wear makeup passes this new product in the shops and has heard that its all the rage and growing in popularity among her friends so she asks her mother to buy it for her. Her mother who is against makeup refuses and this indirectly contributes to mean comments from those who do wear the product. I could go on but I feel that I may have got my point across with this one.

This story is of course all fictional and purely fabricated to make a point but the point is in how this chain forms from what you do. Your work has a myriad of unexpected chain reactions regardless of what it is you actually think you do, so it is important to remain rounded and aware of the wider audience and affectee's. This is why I think that it is bad to have only friends who are graphic designers. It blinkers your thinking into a mold of the political, ideological, and social, conscious of the design world. It just so happens that graphic designers and other creators can be quite progressive, but even though this is true it becomes easy to forget that there is a whole world out there who know nothing of what you do or why you do it. These people are still very much a part of your world. And there voice and point of view is still just as valid as anyone else's. The minute you stop listening to those voices you become the out of touch politician, and honestly nobody likes that person. So by all means have friends who are designers and do cool designery type stuff with them. We all need people with whom we share a passion because it gives us someone to bounce off of and spark creativity. Just try and make sure that you have a life outside of the design world with people that have nothing to do with it. You know what they say after all, "Variety is the spice of life".

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