Dear Hot Shot Young Designer: You’ve Got a Few Things To Learn

grumpyoldmanTechnology has radically changed the work of graphic designers. It doesn’t seem all that long ago some of us were working with typeset copy, waxers and razor knives…and no, I’m not old enough to collect Social Security.

So this open letter from a self-declared “old” designer to the younger generation is especially poignant.

The challenges of being in the “mature” phase of a design career are not that uncommon from any industry: The battling with uninformed clients, the struggle for fair pay, the days when your creativity leaves you hanging.

Layer onto that the immense change in the graphic designer’s toolset – from pen and ink to stylus and screen – and the angst is palpable.

“The kind of patience and drive that we have can only be attained with all the years of being underpaid and overworked employees, oftentimes second-guessed by clients,” the letter notes.

Yet what’s also clear is the passion and commitment to craft, regardless of the challenges, and it is this advice that is so desperately needed by a generation of young designers who are struggling to find their niche.

“You’re young. You’re lucky that more people understand that graphic design is a legit job and not just a hobby for the lazy. So don’t sell yourself short. When you work for free or charge poorly for your work, you’re not only hurting your wallet but also every other designer’s because that would mean we’ll all have to adjust our rates to compete with yours.”

And finally, the letter comes full circle, after beginning with a bit of a whinge.

“Stay afloat. Love what you’re doing. Keep yourself busy and inspired. Draw. Erase. Draw again. Choose unique color palettes and uncommon fonts. Modify the effects you apply on your work. Use the pen tool instead of brushes. Arrange your layers. Save your work.

“We play for the same team and we use the same weapons. Use your talent well to inspire and breed a future generation that will continue what we have hand in hand started.”

Everyone should have a straight-talking mentor like this, who pulls no punches and helps us see our place in the grander scheme. Enjoy.