Graphic Design Myths

I’m a graphic designer, which really, has to be one of the worst office jobs in the world and here’s why.

I could design that myself.

People think that if they can make a lolcat or an invite to little Timmy’s 5th birthday party, they know all about graphic design. They are wrong. Most people are under the delusion that the only reason they are hiring a professional is because they don’t have the time or just don’t feel like doing it themselves. They think they know all about it, but they haven’t got a clue as to what’s really involved.

Imagine walking into an emergency room because you just got shot. You tell the doctors and nurses that you could have removed the bullet yourself, but the only reason you are allowing them to do it is because you don’t feel like bothering with it. You had a sprained ankle once and you know how to put on a band aid so you have tons of medical experience. Just this once, you are going to let the lowly little medical professionals remove the bullet for you. Aren’t they grateful?

Design is free.

Computers are not free. Adobe charges a shit ton for its crappy software that, even after twenty years of tinkering, still refuses not to crash. Their full software bundle costs $2,599 and that’s just the applications, not including the computer to run it on and all the peripherals like a monitor, printer, scanner and if you’re fancy like me, a Wacom tablet. That’s a lot of money. My set up cost roughly $8,000. Granted, I didn’t pay nearly that much for everything, but that’s how much it costs to have the proper tools to be a good graphic designer.

To go back to the emergency room analogy; that’s like a paramedic having to supply their own ambulance, gas for the ambulance and all the supplies inside of it like the gurney, those electric paddle things where they yell “CLEAR!” and all the rest.

Design takes microseconds.

It should only take a day to put together a whole marketing campaign, right? When I design a logo for a company, it’s done by hand. The lettering is custom, the logo is custom. There is no worry about font licensing or clip art usage because there is no font or clip art usage. All of my work is custom made and hand-drawn just for you and yours forever. Yes, hand motherfucking drawn. I tell my clients this up front, but they don’t seem to get it. They seem to think that creating a font from thin air is easy as typing on a computer.

Why is the surgery to take a bullet out of my chest taking so long? It’s just a bullet. It’s not like it’s very big or anything. It’s small, therefore, it’s not complicated, right? It seems like I should be in recovery by now…

The customer is always right.

Because people think they could do it themselves, they’re very free with their opinions. People will tell you all the time how to do your job–the job you’ve been doing for years and are qualified to do. They will stand over your shoulder, like the worst back seat drivers in the world and micromanage everything you do. And most of the time, their input is godawful and looks like crap.

You’re not going to use a 20 gauge needle are you? I think it would be much more effective if you used a 22 gauge. That gauze is way too flimsy. Can you get me some better gauze? I don’t like the look of this scalpel.

Time is not money.

People seem to think that the time graphic designers spend designing something isn’t worth a thing. People only want to pay for the final project, not the thirty different versions that it took to get there at their behest. Because people think they could do it themselves and that it’s free, when they do hire you (only because they don’t feel like doing it themselves), they don’t want to pay what you ask. You will send them an estimate, to which they will agree, and then a week later, they want to reduce the price.

Doctor, I know you just pulled a bullet out of my chest and all, but I think this price is a little steep. I’m only going to pay you for sewing me back up, not for removing the bullet and all of the other things that happened before and during the surgery. I’ll write a check for one third of the fee three months from now.

Graphic Design is a creative job with good pay and lots of freedom.

If you think that sentence has an ounce of truth to it, do not do this job. If you are an aspiring graphic designer, I’m here to shatter your fanciful fantasies about what the job is really like. It is not a glamorous, creative profession. Yes, some freelance designers manage to get paid well and have enough work to do freelance only, but that is the very slim minority. In order to be in that minority, you have to have excellent people skills, promote yourself and manage a business; most graphic designers don’t have these attributes because we are creatives and creatives are notoriously bad at all of the above. It takes a special kind of person to be able to run a business and be creative. Most graphic designers will end up having to take a steady job to make ends meet and work freelance on their own time.

Some truths about the industry… There is very little creativity involved in graphic design; most of it is just production. Very rarely, sometimes never, will you ever be allowed to design whatever you want. The world is already flooded with designers and competition is stiff. It’s one of the few jobs where people want to see your work before you even get an interview. You will get paid nothing with no benefits. Forget about health care. You will be overworked and constantly under a deadline. You’ll end up with carpel tunnel and bad eyes from staring at a computer all day. You’ll drink too much coffee and still never feel awake. That said, all in all, it’s not the worst way to make a living. It’s better than digging ditches.

General public, if you ever need to hire a graphic designer, remember how much work this all is. Be kind to your graphic designer.

This post is part of the On Being Series.