How Do Designers Survive?

I have been doing graphic and web design for 5 years. In the past while my passion and creativity has dwindled due to the disrespect for this profession and too many of the same issues. I would get hired for my portfolio and then get told to do something that I know is wrong and does not follow design standards. I have tried both defending my designs and just doing what they want. Neither one of these things works or makes them happy. Furthermore, don’t forget to maintain office etiquette and a smile at all times while they sh*t all over your work that they claimed to love so much in the interview!

I find most clients think they know what they want already and expect you to carry out that vision. How is that design??? I am a button pusher who takes the blame for the end product; which of course sucks under these conditions!

My friend recently came up with an analogy that is pretty funny. He compared this type of work to going to cooking school and becoming a pretty good chef. Unfortunately, the only job you could get is at an average restaurant where the food is not very good. Furthermore your boss is not a chef but makes you cook the food that he learned from a recipe online somewhere (with his own twist of course) and don’t forget to cut the vegetables into perfect squares! This restaurant “has a reputation to uphold”! Trying to make a suggestion as a chef will get you labelled as “hard to work with” or kicked out.

So I ask, what is the point exactly? I have run into this situation over and over and am seriously considering quitting. I truly love design, but I can’t remember the last time that somebody let me do it. I’m 31 now and feel like I have to start from scratch in a different career. Do you have any advice? Inspirations? Your own rant? Thanks for reading.

From Nadia, LinkedIn Group In-House Designers

First of all take a deep breath Nadia. I quit once, but design isn’t just what we do, it’s a part of who we are. We may not need to be a designer but we do have to have a creative release, and preferably one that makes us a living.

I’ve been doing this a long time. Many bosses/clients just have a hard time telling us what they think. They’re afraid they’ll hurt our feelings, or don’t understand the design process. There are some that know why they hire a designer and let the designer do their job and appreciate what they do. Those clients/bosses are why we keep doing it.

There are always going to be those that don’t appreciate what we do. They don’t appreciate talent and the value of it. They download music for free, they use pictures off the web with no regard for where they come from or the time and money that went into creating the song, image or design. Best we can do is try to educate them and hope they learn.

Right now The Web, Crowd Sourcing, and Social Networking are changing the way we work. Let me tell you a story. Go back in time to the early 80s. The Mac was a new shiny toy and every corporation had to have one. Thing is they just assumed that by having a Mac and giving it to their administrative assistant they could get great designs. They would push the design button and beautiful design would come out of it. Well it took a little while but after a time they realized the Mac is a Pencil, it takes a designer to make the design.

Crowd Sourcing (i.e. iStock, Stinky Logo) is changing the way creative people work. We will adapt and people, the smart people, will realize that there is a designer behind that webpage. Social Networking is cheap, free even, so everyone is doing it, and doing it themselves. After a while there will be so many people pushing crap on Twitter and Facebook that it will take creative people to push the good stuff to the top and the junk will settle to the bottom.

My advice is be picky. I know it is hard in this economy; you want to take what you can get but only do what you feel good about. Then explain your process to them, don’t let them think design is about your mood, tell them the science of color psychology, the research that goes into design, why things are on the page to lead the eye, that logos are designed to elicit the desired response from potential clients, not just look good on a business card. The people you want to work for will understand, the ones that don’t should go to the nearest Crowd Sourcing site and they’ll get what they want, cheap designs they lay on the page.