Customer Service Needed in the Career Department

This probably won’t be a surprise to many people who spend their days with me (whether it be online, offline, married to me, around the house, or just merely having to pass me by on a busy street) that I haven’t been consistently happy in quite some time.

And once a week, or once a month, sometimes (during good spells) once or twice a day even, I have these blinding moments of clarity: Get back in shape. Become healthy. Learn how to do all those things you have always wanted to do. Get yoga certified. Make a difference for someone. Have a baby. Find that something, anything, that has consistently made you feel happy and grab onto just that. I mean, why not? This doesn’t seem hard, right?

Then why is it?

The past week, I have spent a lot of time searching myself (again), wondering just what it is I really want to do with this life. As much as I once loved graphic design and as good of a designer as I genuinely believe that I am, as much as I once totally dug milling over ideas in school or while working (a few) jobs, and as much as I absolutely loved teaching, overall, I am not sure that graphic design, and what it has become, (computer usage is a constant, get the job done as fast as possible, who cares if it means anything, and working for people who are far less qualified than I am) is something I would have signed onto had I known the truth. (How’s that for a sentence? Holy crap).

I haven’t been excited about a job in quite a number of years (besides teaching, I really truly enjoyed that). I have adopted new hobbies to fill this void—and that’s a good thing (things like pottery and yoga come to mind first). But overall, I sit entirely unfulfilled within my field, and totally frustrated I don’t seem to have the strength or clout to change any of it.

I guess that means I’m the one who must change, right? I’m 30. If you were to have asked me not 5 years ago where I wanted to be when I was 30, I would have told you something like “I’m going to have it all figured out by then. Now, I may not, but by 30, it will all make sense”.

I so don’t.

While I love graphic design-figuring out how to create something fatabulicious and solid and totally independent in thought from anything else ever created-the money making side of it, the career part, just isn’t like that, (generally speaking of course). I am sure there are jobs out there which are exactly what I long for. I am willing to bet that most of these jobs are either never vacant (for reasons which are obvious) or are so few and far between one has to know someone, have a name that goes well beyond anything my name has met, or a person has to be willing to take a pay-cut and then hope for the best at that big break, freeing oneself from the ego of an under-qualified Art Director.

I’m just now figuring out that there’s a good chance I may never discover that dream job I always imagined I’d have by 30.

And that’s ok.

Since moving here, I got a job working for a dotcom that didn’t dotbomb a few years back. With the help of about 25,000 really horny gay men, this place is doing wonderfully. And that’s great for them. Really. The thing is, the advertisement I responded to was for a Senior Designer/Art Director. They wanted someone who could conceptualize. They wanted someone with agency experience. They wanted someone with excellent design skills (and Flash). So they hired me. And things were only ok (at best) right off. I was doing an intern’s work. I did anywhere from 15 to 35 banner resizes daily, featuring half-naked men covered in sweat. Sometimes, they would have their hand down their pants, sometimes I would spend hours air-brushing out pubic hairs and party trails, or a stretch-mark some previous laser surgery had missed. There were days I spent hours looking through pictures of naked men in search of that “sexy” photograph guaranteeing us 3 billion new horny subscribers. (If this photograph actually exists, please let me know, because I will use it for gaining meaningful employment. I am not sure how, but I will).

In summary, the job I applied for and got was not the one I was going to every day. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was going in reverse.

So I quit. (Yes, again. mihow the flake, quit her job again).

My new job-these days-is trying to figure out how to make myself happy as well as trying to figure out if I DO actually want to make money creating “graphic design” if said career involves creating banner ads (that no one wants to see or click on anyway) or really pointless landfill stuffing such as two-fold brochures (no one reads or picks up for that matter) I don’t think I have it in me. I don’t want to create Web sites because the marketing department needs to put their 2005 budget someplace. I don’t care about how many clicks a banner ad gets (though, I’m willing to bet most of those clicks were accidental). I don’t care how fast you need an HTML email that will get lost beneath someone’s spamgaurd. I just don’t care about that sort of thing. Do you?

I expected more out of me for my life.

So unless some amazing job I have always dreamed of comes along, unless someone hires me to be a fulltime graphic design professor (which I absolutely loved doing-if you take anything away from this, know this), unless I can somehow make ends meet working from home, and at the same time NOT be forced to give up the hobbies and the things that keep me sane, if none of these things come to be, I think I might just be throwing in my towel-a designer hand-towel, but still.

With all due respect to the career I married over 13 years ago, I think we might need to take some time apart. It’s just not the career I once fell in love with.

Ideas? Inspiration? Punch in the face? Anything anyone might have to say, good or bad, please by all means let’s hear it. Because I think this might be the beginning of the end of me and my career in Graphic Design.

Here’s to chapter 431.


  1. congrats, I say take time off and then do the teaching thing. on a similar note, I officially submitted my resignation to the grey-walled association today.


  2. heh “the grey-walled” association. Awesome.


  3. Mihow the flake? The flake thing would have been to stay in a job you hate doing work you don’t care about. Mihow the brave is how I see it.

    I’d write more but I’m at work and have to churn out some more crap before I can go home.


  4. I have to agree with Don. It takes a brave person to do what you did knowing the situation you were in in that job. I am very happy that made that difficult decision. You seem so much happier now that you are no longer being tortured by your previous job. As far as what is next….I say do what you love. You only live once, why waste it on doing something you hate? Just go for it, what ever that dream maybe! What have you got to lose??


  5. I think the word you wanted was ‘freespirit.’

    I’m turning 30 this year and I recently quit my job after realizing I could never go anywhere in that company and the work was tedious. I panicked, but I’ve done ok with Temp work. I’ve recently stumbled into a job I love, but it’s nothing I would have saught out. Here’s the wierd thing: I interviewed yesterday for what would have been my dream job right out of college, doing graphics and research for a museum. As cool as that job is, I feel like it’s not really where my life is heading anymore. I think if you let go of one thing, sometimes you find something better that you didn’t even know existed.

    Happiness is worth so much. You should take some time off and find what it is you enjoy.


  6. I was in the doctor’s office yesterday and read an article about Ideo—a design company that is starting to challenge more traditional management consulting companies and their business school logic. Anyway, I was reading it and I thought “I bet mihow would love working there” because it’s not a bullshit “design a brochure” design house: they use design to help companies understand consumers and people.

    And then I come to work today and see this post. Weird.

    Check out


  7. GotJesus, thanks. I’ll read it with my morning coffee. Mr. Senior Pappas, might you know of a school in need? I should probably go and get my masters. Maybe that’s the next chapter; Get My Masters. Yes. :]


  8. heh that would be insane, wouldn’t it? Plus, I think they might have someone already lined up. Maybe I’ll teach Art Directors how to not be totally craptastic with their design staff. Not that I have that power, but still…


  9. I second the teaching commenet.
    If you love it, you should do it!

    Lately I have been feeling very much the same way. I truly love what I do, but I detest the people I do it for…and I think that may never change. I have decided my only real remedy for it is to just do it on my own.


  10. Andrea, Toby and I had a very lengthy discussion about this very topic last night. At some point he said something like “Well, what are you going to do about it? Sit here and bitch? You’re better than that. What can you actually do to change this? How will make it so that you can work for a studio that DOESN’T run their business the way you have metioned—the way you detest? What can you do about it?” And it was decided that I could (should) start my own design business. I could begin my own thing (as I did back east). It sounds so simple, yet it’s terrifying. Need a partner, my dear? :]


  11. I think that one of the most annoying things about our field is that there is no RIGHT or WRONG way of doing something. Which is fine-that it be based all on someone’s opinion or whim. However, the problem arises when he or she confuses their OPINION with it being RIGHT. That’s where I become annoyed. It happens all the time. I wish designers and art directors needed a license (like architects) to practice graphic design. I guess this is why my original stance on (if I should ever run my own studio) only hiring people with an degree in graphic design. I could seriously write for hours on this subject (perhaps I will). I probably should just for the hell of it-keep my thoughts a bit less tangental and a bit more composed before speaking my mind.


  12. mike lent me a book he had called “the business side of creativity”….definately get it. it’s totally spot on, and i think will help you decide.

    do i need a partner? well yeh, but your on the other side now! :}


  13. Yes, but that just means they’ll have nowhere to run.


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