The (Not-So) Perks of Being a Designer
Written by Nathalie de Guzman
Perhaps one of the most underrated careers in the corporate world, a designer is no foreigner to being under a whole lot of unnecessary and sometimes unrealistic requests, projects, and deadlines. And contrary to popular belief, they, too, are also subjected to a whole lot of myths and stereotyping–so much so that these are also contributors to their daily frustrations in the workplace or even in the classroom. As a graphic designer, allow me to walk you through a few challenges which I have personally experienced both as a student and as a freelancer.
For designers, one great way to start off is to build a portfolio containing all of your creative works and projects—either personal or for a client—for showcasing to potential clients and/or employers. Unfortunately, building up a portfolio mostly consists of having to work for free—if not for an unreasonably low fee. It is a bit of a price to pay, but it does not only help out in having more creative works to showcase; it can also serve as an opportunity to practice and to learn new skills. A small sacrifice can eventually lead to bigger opportunities when taken advantage of properly.
A Lot of Room for Improvement
Even if designers and/or design students are not yet used to dealing with clients, they are surely used to receiving revisions. Although revisions are already commonplace for us, they do get frustrating—more so when these revisions contain inessential downgrades and a mouthful of pseudo-constructive criticism that clearly has nothing to do at all with even the very basics of art and design principles. Now, don’t get me wrong. Designers need regular doses of constructive criticism since these aids them in knowing which key areas of their design process can they improve on so that they further refine their craft, and eventually, their outputs. Receiving and taking criticisms into consideration conversely, lead to revisions. Otherwise, they are perceived as insults which can definitely test almost any designer’s patience. Personally, I have experienced working on a project that took quite a number of revisions which really tested my patience. But to be honest, I don’t think I would’ve made a much better output if it weren’t for those revisions and criticisms.
Apart from the revisions and oftentimes pseudo-constructive criticism, there are times when clients just simply like to assert that they know what they want; particularly when it comes to the output that they want. Unfortunately, this is another patience-tester for designers because more often the not, a number of unreasonable clients really seem to be fond of the saying “the customer is always right” in such a way that even if they are not knowledgeable in the basics of art and design, they would oftentimes still make sure that they get the last say. This, for me, is definitely excruciating because being the designer who has to cater to the needs of the unreasonable client, there is no other choice but to “suck it up” and simply follow the requests—even if it means risking my own eye and standards of aesthetics and functionality. The client wants an informative website that is a winning combo of many different websites, and an awful UX? I got no room for complaints even if I tried.
Staying a Step Ahead
Another challenge which a lot of designers face? Constant demand despite high rates of competition. It’s a complete paradox! Lots of industries are heavily reliant on creative teams in order to get their brand or business to reach audiences as wide as possible, but this does not mean that a lot of designers are guaranteed stable jobs. In fact, even if there is a constant need for creative outputs, the competition amongst designers is big; mostly because designers are expected to be versatile and skillful enough to produce high-quality works using different media. Basically, the more creative and skillful the designer, the better. And where does this leave those who cannot keep up? Well, it’s going to be an entirely different story.
The list can keep on going since these are just some of the almost never-ending challenges which frustrate designers, but nothing can beat the frustration of being belittled by a lot of people. As an artist and a designer, I admit to the fact that I do enjoy what I do. Having to make creative outputs and seeing people appreciate them is something that gives me pride in what I do, but that does not automatically mean that I “have it easy”. I believe every designer can agree to this. More often the not, having your passion as your profession is an awfully bittersweet thing since your profession can either make or break your passion for it. And it doesn’t just stop there. Even the experience of having a lot of people belittle your profession is another frustration. “You’re just a designer. Anybody can do it”, “You have it easy ‘coz making ads is so simple”, “Art and design are for stupid people”, and so on and so forth. There is an insurmountable load of negativity and expectations being placed at designers and even if people are starting to acknowledge their value and worth, the fact remains that the negatives outnumber the positives so far. Still, despite all of these—despite all the possible chain of curse words that can come out of a designer’s mouth due to their daily challenges and frustrations—the rewards reaped are truly priceless; especially when these aforementioned frustrations are translated into something more positive. Personally, I am proud to say that I am a product—and is still in the middle of being a product—of unrealistic demands, tough competition, pseudo-constructive criticism, et cetera because if it were not for these, I simply cannot imagine if I would be the designer that I am right now. After all, learning is a constant factor in any person’s life. And as the saying goes, “Diamonds are only made under pressure. But never forget that they are not formed overnight”.
Nathalie de Guzman or “Nath” is an incoming senior taking up a bachelor’s degree in Applied Arts major in Visual Design at Miriam College, Quezon City. Apart from being a graphic designer, she is a constant learner who is always willing to expand her competencies that can supplement her field—and to share them with others. She has recently finished her internship at BPO Career Hub where her significant contributions made a lasting impact on its operations. Visit www.bpocareerhub.com to learn more about our vibrant team.