Most of you know I’m a designer. I split my working days 30% W&S business to 70% freelance design work (roughly on average). And although I’ve been a designer and art director for what seems like forever, it has never been something that I truly and absolutely loved. I am not one of those graphic designers who love love love to design (and there are quite a few designer friends who fit this description quite well). If you were to ask me then, what it is I love to do, I wouldn’t be able to give you a definitive answer. I think that this has always been my “problem”. I never could commit to a major in art school and so I floated aimlessly around for 3 years before I finally decided that it was enough. Interestingly, when I went back to college to study music, I was focused again and prolific and excited like my high school days making art. My family and friends didn’t understand why I left art school (and my parents never took an interest in any of my music stuff), but what they may never truly understand is that if I had stayed, I may have never regained any inspiration or motivation to do something creative again. So to me, there is great irony in the fact that I make a living doing something that I actively avoided while in school – graphic design.
Although I did have many solid years of fine art education, I guess you can say that like Mark, who never went to culinary school, I learned how to design on the job and from mentors. I first learned about typography from a job in the beauty industry when I moved back to NY. My creative director boss was a real kook – emotional, irrational, disorganized, impulsive, tardy, but super stylish and immensely talented. When I applied for the job, I knew nearly nothing, but she took me in on a risk and we would sit together and work on layouts and type for cosmetic and perfume clients. She once frantically told me that I had to board a plane to Paris in 2 hours and take her place at meetings because she had been feverishly looking for her lost passport that morning and couldn’t find it. At times her impulsive nature terrified me (no, I didn’t go to Paris that day) and on one particularly emotional afternoon, she quite suddenly quit. My new boss, a copywriter, was the opposite of my former boss – older, level-headed, petite, shortly cropped silver hair, usually dressed in black suits with custom made ballet flats, arms dressed in multiple chunky bangles, and always a fabulous Chanel handbag. She could probably make any kid cry with just one look as she was very severe looking and no nonsense in personality, but she was also very generous, endearing and we developed a great friendship. So why am I remembering these people from my past? I’ve been struggling with a design that I’m working on for a client (hello design angst!) and it made me think about the origins of my design journey and how I ended up here. Even after having spent a few years at that company, I realized that I didn’t possess a strong passion for graphic design, so I left and went to grad school at NYU to study art and technology. I saw it as a chance to do something different, but you know what? After I graduated (and this was when the web really exploded) I just ended up designing for a different medium – the web. So here I am, still plotting my escape from graphic design 9 years later.
Many years ago I realized something about myself that was interesting. I was a really focused kid in high school and spent all of my time painting, drawing, sewing and playing music. But that summer before college I suffered a breakdown. I had worked really hard for nearly 2 years to compete for scholarships and so when I had achieved those goals and got into some of the best art schools in the country with full scholarships, I was suddenly left with nothing to do. Being a goal oriented person, I didn’t deal with that well. When I got to college my interest in making art just disappeared. I think this is why I couldn’t focus while I was in school. I STILL haven’t painted anything since I left Cooper almost 17 years ago. Sometimes I will draw, but there is no real desire or inspiration to draw with any regular frequency. I am not one of those “I carry my sketch book wherever I go” type of person. I don’t have this compelling need to make art. It is rather strange, no? Considering how I spent the first part of my life drawing all the time? So I’m still trying to figure that one out. Trying to figure out what it is I want to do. Trying to figure out what I like to do and what makes me creatively satisfied, but excited. Despite working on some very interesting, high profile projects, I know that it’s not this…but, what then?