When I first started working as a junior designer - I really sucked and I couldn’t wait for things to get easier ( Read my article here if you’d like the back story ). Everything was new and difficult and I was stressed. Eventually I got into my groove and things become a lot easier. I had gotten what I'd wished for and it was great for a while…until it became so comfortable that I stopped learning. They say be careful what you wish for.
Fast forward 3.5 years and I was now a mid weight designer. I was getting my work rejected by clients and after major rounds of revisions my work was still getting turned down. It was gut wrenching, I was stressed out and nervous again. But I got through it. Eventually clients stopped rejecting my work and as we moved towards a more effective and collaborative approach – full comp rejections never happened anymore. It became more of an open, organic and iterative process. The output was great but that too became routine after a while. It was all too easy again as there were no longer highs or lows just a steady flow of getting things done.
When I became an Art Director I came to see these challenges that appeared as things that were great and to be a part of. Yes I still felt butterflies in my stomach when I presented work but I took it for what it was, I recognised it and embraced the moment. I realised then that the victories felt great in these moments because of the obstacles that I had to overcome. It gave these wins substance. Like hiking up a mountain to see an amazing view, overlooking every little bit of terrain that you had just trekked. The sweat, the commitment and the conviction it took as you ascend and feast your eyes on this amazing view that you had earned. Sure you could've driven up, and the view still would've been quite a spectacle but it wouldn't have been the same. There was no substance, no adversity. It's like in Rocky, you need the back story, the training montage and the relationship with Adrian for the victory with Apollo Creed to mean anything.
When I eventually became a Creative Director I received a massive pay rise. And it wasn't the money that was great. Way more than that it was the obstacles and experiences that had come before it that made it meaningful. The recognition for all my efforts and hard work that I put in to get me to that point. The whole journey of the highs and lows. It was a pat on the back for doing something that I loved. And this was the destination. It was then that it became crystal clear – I realised it was always about the journey. The journey to put myself in the deep end and to discover new ground, to continually learn, fuck up, brush myself off and keep going. Get these little wins and to enjoy it all, to be in the moment and to soak all of it up. The journey to work with a team of like minded individuals, to help clients I gave a shit about and to see the delight in peoples eyes as they used the work we were creating. That was the substance.
Below is a video that I truly love by the late Hillman Curtis. Just like him if there was ever to be a theme to my work and career I would like it to be continual reinvention – to go on these different journeys.
FUN FACT: In 2003 I was doing forum “gfx” for different message boards. Some were digital arts and some were gaming related. It was when pixel art, light beams, tech lines and micro text were all the rage. (I’m not sure if any of you will even remember or even know of this time) But it was fun to create things and learn things on the fly. 12 years later that little seed of passion and intuition has lead me to this point and here I am having made a career out of it.
Being a designer is about seeing the problems and pain points that others can not see, and trying to solve these problems. Going to a parking lot I see a lot of people trying to figure out how to use different ticket machines. Which ones are good and which ones are bad. I see a lot of people wonder how to use the darn thing, they have the ‘what the fuck do I face’ as they poke, prod, read and get frustrated. And I think to myself that's just bad design, they could've fixed this by doing x, y and z. And ran multiple usability sessions to a least satisfy 99% of the population. It is this empathy and ability to objectively think that we can take the skills we have and spread them across various mediums.
And now as I begin to start a new, by working on Verse and starting from the bottom again. I pour my energy into writing and creating products. I'm reading so much and realising how hard it all is. Every new subscriber, comment and email is super rewarding because my words and work is resonating with others. I take a deep breath and think to myself damn this is good, here I am...on another exciting journey.