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?