A Note from the Management

Human nature is a fickle thing — we often want what we can’t have, and the gravitational pull toward exclusivity, luxury, limited editions, etc. is so strong it bypasses logic. Sales works in a similar fashion. We want the thing that’s in demand, often simply because it’s in demand. And if the thing isn’t in demand, well, why? What’s wrong with it? Why is no one choosing it? Social proof helps us filter the good from the bad, and (hopefully) make better choices.

Is that a little too macro for a normal Tuesday? Ok, here’s a micro outworking: I’m looking for work. Paid design work. People tell me designers are in demand. That sounds great. Sign me up.

The Long, Long, Long Night

To be honest, I haven’t had much work lately. And I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating, wink wink sort of way — I mean 2019 has been utterly, completely flat. You’re not supposed to say that, at least not outloud. But here we are. You know the hockey stick bar graphs startups want to see? Imagine that in reverse.

I think I’m 0-5 on bids this year. It feels like I can’t give design work away. (When I started feeling that, I just started doing it. I’ve stayed busy with pro bono design work for some amazing local organizations, which has been very fun and fulfilling, but very… for the good, not for the green.) Apart from some small initial success with LogoLand, the bank account is a rocky place where my cashflow can find no purchase.

It’s not a power move to admit that you need clients. But I’m not particularly interested in projecting an image of a successful, in-demand designer. I’m interested in paying the bills by being a good designer.

One of my favorite design contemporaries is Bethany Heck, and this tweet resonated with me when she left her last full-time gig:

I know it’s always encouraged to present yourself as untouchable when looking for work, but that feels like a disservice to others who might find themselves in this spot: I expected to be at my last job for as long as the company existed. Needing to move on has been devastating.

“Encouraged to present yourself as untouchable…” If that’s not the best description of the pressures independent designers feel (real or imagined) I don’t know what is. When we sell our services — our “brand” — to the outside world, we aim to present an image of total competence, unique talent, and near-superhuman abilities to pull great creative endeavors out of chaos and nothingness. We’re “supposed” to express success, even if we haven’t been very successful lately.

At the end of the day, design is a trade. I think I’m pretty good at it, even if the market hasn’t shared that opinion with me this year. It happens. I’m trying not to take it personally.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

We have a very bad collective habit of comparing ourselves and our successes to other people. Social media hasn’t done us any favors. It’s a non-stop curated highlight reel beamed directly into our heads. But what other people are doing doesn’t matter apart from what we can learn from them. Other designers are having success, and that is awesome. I want to push them forward, help where I can, use whatever meager platform I have to amplify their voices and work.

It’s just been a meh first quarter for me.

So… a couple of things: