A dear friend of mine recently asked me, “Are you bored?” We’ve known each other for over 15 years and I knew she was asking herself the same question. The word “bored” caught me off guard. No, I wasn’t feeling bored, but I was feeling something. Malaise had been affecting me for a while and I’m guessing that it was starting to show.
Graphic designers are a weird class of people. We can get obsessed with the smallest details of our work. I personally have spent many hours of my life setting and resetting folios, running heads and footers, and loved every minute of it. We don’t like it when people we deem as outsiders (clients? shhhh) start questioning our ‘vision.’ Some designers have a hard time sharing concepts or ideas because the process of creating them is so personal that you end up feeling naked or on display when they are presented. So I find it curious that we have committed to a profession that at its root is about connecting – connecting with each other, clients and potential audiences – yet sometimes we can be the worst at doing it ourselves. Maybe that is just the complexity of being a human being.
I think that as a citizen/person first, and a designer second, we periodically struggle with and question our career choice. I know that most of my close design friends have on numerous occasions thought, ‘Why am I doing this and what am I adding to the world?’ We are a very privileged group of people, at least I think so. What I do on a daily basis has been a dream of mine since I was 14 (yes, I knew that young). It seems natural to me that almost (cough, cough) 30 years later, I might be questioning my commitment to graphic design, so when I was asked if I was bored, I needed to step back and think about it.
What was causing this latest reflection? Was it that I was feeling put upon by some of the client requests I was dealing with? Was I struggling with my own capabilities? Was I longing for the days of ‘just’ designing? Was it me trying to find my footing as a Creative Director? Was it looking at my Experimental Typography class and wondering why we are saturating the market at the expense of some of these students? Was it looking at a never-ending feed of design on Pinterest and watching trend after trend roll by? Was I just tired? The answer to all was yes.
After months of thoughts and second thoughts, the conclusion I have come to is this: There is no conclusion. By that I mean that I still love what I do passionately. We have all been asked the question, ‘If you weren’t a graphic designer, what would you do?’ I know that I have a hard time with that question for two reasons. 1) I worry I have NO other skills, and 2) I can’t think of anything that I could be more obsessed about (other than maybe music, but I have yet to create a way to monetize ‘avid listener’). I know the greyness I have gone through will visit me again. There is no doubt. Probably yearly. But I have come out of the end of this rather long phase in a positive frame of mind. I feel that this struggle shows that I care and question what I am doing as a citizen, a husband and father, and a graphic designer.
Any of you that started to read this column have maybe wondered where it went for the past three months. To the credit of Jef and the Designedge Canada team they gave me a bit of breathing room to consider my headspace. It can be pretty debilitating to consider writing a column about the unbridled energy you have for what you do when you have momentarily lost that passion.
So, what is the future of Love & X-height? I think it is going to be quite bright actually. I have spent the last little while considering what this column means, not only to me, but also to you. It might seem a bit glib to say this but I equate what I just went through to an ice cream headache. You know the feeling. That immense pain that comes with that deep-freeze after too many bites of your burnt marshmallow double scoop. You quietly freak out wondering how long it will last and then as it starts to subside there is a clearing. Then that sudden feeling of great clarity. That is where I am right now and I think that Love & X-height will help me focus that energy.
[Image via joshme17; Creative Commons license through Flickr]