Day in the life of
Graphic Designer – Faye Klein
My Typical Day
You never know what your email holds for you. Whatever long jobs are in the queue (like brochures, books, and logos), the day is always peppered with “little jobs” (or so they are viewed by clients) that have to be strategically inserted into the day to meet deadlines. Advertising and marketing never sleeps. And everything is hot — deadline driven, often due the same day. Then there are changes, changes and more changes after a flyer or banner is designed because much of the time, the client does not thoroughly review copy points ahead of the design. And wedging more words into a project that has been finessed to both communicate and be visually appealing is a trick that graphic designers have to learn to master.
Some days it is a pinball machine of work, bouncing back and forth as one-line email revisions cascade in as client’s run the work by co-workers, legal departments, or COVID affects the timelines such as event dates. When the “final” production in CMYK with bleed and crop marks disappears from my outbox, I know that 90% of the time, that is the end of a particular project.
The pros of being a graphic designer are many. First and foremost, it is creative, colorful and there are so many ways to express an idea graphically. No two designers will come up with the same thing. The job knows no time constraints with the exception of hard deadlines. I can work day or night, whenever inspiration hits me. I enjoy the challenge of taking the criteria (copy, images, charts, opinions) and whipping up various ways of “solving the problem” of integrating the puzzle pieces. And when a book, brochure, logo, display is done, there is a tangible product that is very rewarding. I sometimes look back at items I designed 30 years ago and still feel a sense of pride in a job well done.
On the con side, there are times when traditional non-work time is interrupted by client requests. There are sometimes expectations that the designer is master of all software applications and you have to figure things out and learn on the fly how to achieve a requested result. Software updates throw a monkey wrench into smoothly working operations particularly when tools are moved around in the interface. Quoting on projects is tricky because you might not know all the details and under-quoting means you lose money and over-quoting means you may not get the job. The most difficult issue to digest is when a client says “I just don’t like it.” Design is very personal, kind of like pizza, and it takes some practice to please a client and to swallow such vague criticism.
Also, being a sole proprietor (an independent designer) means that you must tend to “the business of the business” above and beyond performing the function that you are hired to do.
Advice to aspiring Graphic Designers
If you have an imagination, arrange things in your house ergonomically without realizing it, and are driven to create stuff and solve problems that’s a great start. The downside to the advent of computers and graphic software is that it gives “wannabe” people the inflated idea that they are designers (and writers!), but if you plunked a saxophone down in front of them, it wouldn’t make them a musician. They would just blow! Studying design definitely provides the underpinnings and principles that apply no matter the tools, but I think that the creative spark has to be inside you.
I cannot emphasize enough how the 3 Rs still impact the job, so that is the first thing aspiring designers should know. Reading, writing, and communication skills are invaluable for working with multiple bosses (clients), instrumental in noticing typos, grammatical errors, and copyfitting on the fly. Basic math is fundamental for this world of bouncing back and forth in inches, points, picas, pixels, dpi, and percentages as well as for the day-to-day accounting aspects of running a business.
I can’t necessarily speak to how to break into the business since I have been on my own for so long and so much of seeking a job and career have changed. But EVERYTHING is designed so there are lots of opportunities to improve on not-so-good ones. I do recommend that aspiring graphic designers volunteer somewhere and offer their design expertise to those organizations gratis. I still volunteer at 2 non-profits and my skills as a designer has been very helpful to those organizations. Not only will this avenue provide opportunities to pack a design portfolio, but the networking can also be invaluable.
Design anything! Even when I don’t have a client-driven assignment, I am always doodling on something. I have designed crazy masks, have designs on Redbubble, a line of Real Life Rescue greeting cards, and created a game called The Final Word in my (ha!) downtime.
design or create graphics to meet specific commercial or promotional needs, such as packaging, displays, or logos. May use a variety of mediums to achieve artistic or decorative effects.