October 19, 2007

Why Graphic Design?


In college, I studied fine art (drawing, painting and literary journalism). All my life, both Dad and Mom whined about what they could have done artistically with the right encouragement. I didn't want to inflict such rants on any future children, so I decided to see how far I could go. I found out that I'm good, but I don't have the drive to be a fine artist. I like structure and deadlines.

As graduation loomed, I thought about what I could do for a job that would let me get my fill of people, yet not be so draining that I wouldn't have energy to paint. Throughout high school I cut my family's hair, in college I cut all my friends' hair--so naturally, as a college grad, I went to beauty school. That is a WHOLE 'nother post. Just visualize this: two white women in a mostly African-American scene. Doing hair. I can straighten, wrap, weave and finger wave, girlfriend! (snap)

After graduating from beauty school, I worked in my college town in an Aveda salon. I always felt like I was playing an extended game of dress up, but it was fun. Poor Jrex, though. He started dating me at this stage. Not only did he have to tell his Mom he wanted to date a white woman, he had to tell her she was a hairdresser. She felt a little better when she found out my Dad went to Harvard Law and my Mom had a Masters in Theology, but still...

I usually don't tell people about the hairdressing. Not because I'm ashamed of it, but because then I have to do a hair consultation. Being a hairdresser was great training for becoming a designer. It's the same emotional arc, but compressed into 30 minutes: client's dream countered by a diplomatic reality check, intelligent/artistic interpretation, happy ending.

After a couple years of hair/dress-up, I needed to figure out what to do when I grew up. I knew I was great with kids and had always wanted to do foster care. I figured I should get training in the field, so I volunteered my way into a job at a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed kids. Also another post.

When Jrex was going to start residency I knew it would be a good time to go back to grad school. I thought about doing family therapy or social work, but Jrex said, "I keep thinking you should do graphic design." Inside me something clicked, "You mean I can have fun? As a career!? Cool!" I talked my way into the core curriculum for graphic design at Rochester Institute of Technology and then did a one year Masters in Printing with a focus on Graphic Arts Publishing.

I worked in a printing company for a year after graduating. I'd intended to do 6 month at the printer and then do 6 months at an ad agency. However, 9/11 happened and the advertising industry collapsed.

When we moved to Baltimore I did an info interview at a small company that produced large format digital printing. The owner kept suggesting jobs she heard about and then decided to create a design position for me. I got to do all sorts of fun, crazy assignments there. She just assumed I could do anything, so she would have me doing restaurant interiors one day and then exhibit design the next.

Here in the Bay area it's been a bit strange since the overall scene is contractor based. Through a visual placement agency, I had three long-term contract jobs: a pharmaceutical company, a scientific equipment manufacturer and a game design firm. This job as an 'experience marketer/designer' came via a headhunter who found me through my portfolio on creativehotlist.com. I still love design and still cut Jrex's hair though I don't have many occassions for doing physical restraints...

Are there any other questions you want me to answer?

11 comments:

Inkling said...

Wow. You are even more versatile than I realized. So, you can do my hair while giving me an Aveda consult while designing the logo and brochures for my husband's ministry/business, and can even step in and help out when he works with the troubled kids from a local program, taking them climbing and caving. And of course, in your spare time, you can help me literally make a book. I'm impressed. =)

Snickollet said...

I love these posts. I love that you went to beauty school. And worked at an Aveda salon. I love Aveda! (This comment is filled with love.)

Thanks for cheering for my Sox. Two game to the World Series, baby.

Everblest said...

Now I remember why I haven't enjoyed a haircut in too many years! Sigh!

I need to grow up soon, as my baby boy will be graduating this next spring. I still don't know what I would love to do.

Got any good ideas?

Sandra said...

I've been debating on whether or not I should do something like this on my journal, what do you think?

OTR sister said...

Why are you a Christian? Why do you believe as you do?

Where would you like to be in five years? Or is that even a fair question?

What do you want your obituary to say?

I always enjoy what you write about our family because you give such a fair and accurate portrayal. So tell us more about Dad's dad.

bg's Little Sis said...

Love it! and WOW, can't wait to hear about your work with kids. Any hair disasters that you had to fix? We have a friend that is a "stylist" and she gets folks all the time that have been damaged elsewhere to fix, those are great stories, they always leave happy!

Beloved said...

I very seriously contemplated going to cosmetology school after I finished high school. I was burned out on academics (and didn't realize just how academic "hair school" really is), and took a year off before college. I realized after a year as a bank teller that my dreams of being a teacher were still very much alive. I think anything would have looked pretty good after the bank, though. :)

Sunny sunny SUNNY said...

"Are there any other questions you want me to answer?"
Yes, Are you a member of the Yahoo group of Western Women Married to Korean Men? If so, which one are you? If not, interested in joining?

OTRgirl said...

Had no idea such a group existed! I'm intrigued. I may not have time to add any other on-line elements to my life, but it would be cool to check it out.

Could you email me at OTRgirl at gmail dot com?

Mama Nabi said...

LOVE Aveda... as well. My sister's been wanting to attend Aveda someday for the longest time - but yeah, it sure IS quite academic and she has a hard time finding time for it.
I love how you came by Graphic Desigh... I came by English major the same way: "What, major in something I enjoy immensely? Is that allowed?"
You really are an onion... (the tearless kind) - every layer you peel away, there's a newer and more brilliantly shiny surface...

Anonymous said...

OTR Girl wrote: "I don't have many occassions for doing physical restraints..."

Well, I witnessed one time when she did.

We were at a Family Reunion in the Great Smokies of Tennessee. One evening, one of her teen cousins began getting physically frisky in a way she resented
and -- WHAM. He suddenly discovered that he
couldn't move.

I suppose he and I had the same astonished expression on our faces.