Dear Young Graphic Designer,
When I search for “young graphic designers,” Google shows me at least 5 articles on how cool young artists are—about how brilliant you are, about how much talent you have in you—all the glorification that will propel your ego. But when I search for “old graphic designers,” all I see are articles questioning our capabilities, our future, and our obsoleting skills. It leaves me wondering where I stand in the graphic design industry.
At this point in time, I can’t see how an old lad can win against you. You win this battle — at least for now. Your works are rad and your ideas are fresh. You’re hungry for recognition and starving for work. Any client would hire you in a heartbeat over me. You’re shiny; newly polished. You have your head in the game. Meanwhile, I am matte and in need of repaint. I’ve played long enough to memorize the game plan. But the thing is, I might have to make a new one because there are more players now — which is another win for you. I haven’t had a streak of wins recently but when I try to visualize what your future will become, I can’t help but write you.
The whiff of your tablet’s stylus does not scare me. When I was your age, we didn’t have CTRL+Z or virtual pen tools to draw shapes but we made them just the same. We didn’t have layers; we had to think of the big picture in order to calculate the stroke of our pens to avoid certain elements from overlapping. We did everything by hand with pencils and ink — you’re familiar with those, right, and you know that ink can’t be undone as easy as opening a new page? 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 only reason why I’m still doing this is because of passion. I love being a graphic designer. I’m good at this that’s why I never stopped even when my parents and friends have repeatedly put me down. 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. We can’t all compete with your new artist rate because most of us have been underpaid at some point and it’s about time we get what we deserve. And since we’re talking about age, you can assume that we have more mouths to feed and carpal tunnels to cure.
I am writing you not because I am threatened. Take this as a warning from one graphic designer to another. You may seem like the better choice now, but don’t forget that I have years ahead of you which equates to wisdom, experience, and a longer list of connections. I am not worried about getting ahead, all I think about is getting by which makes it easier for me to do my job. But you, you’re looking at years of butting heads with clients and graphic designers. You will revise an artwork more than twice. You will copy another’s work, change a few details, and claim it as your own. You will cheat and be cheated on. You will gain and lose friends. You will buy unnecessary sketchbooks you won’t use. You will overspend on art materials and international magazines. You will run out of ideas. And you will rethink your decision of becoming a graphic designer every Thursday.
There are a lot of things that I do know but there are also a lot of things that I do not know. Graphic design is continuously evolving. When I started out, gradient backgrounds were cool, Comic Sans was a default casual font for posters and we were free to pair pink with neon green. But now there’s all these different art styles and designs that only use words or geometric shapes and even a hybrid of styles. Honestly, it’s getting hard to catch up with all these trends and new practices but thanks to these techniques, design is more acknowledged because of your generation’s good work. The more impressive work you produce, the more chances there are for graphic artists, old and new. The death and survival of design lies in you. So technically, my future as a designer is also in your hands.
I’m not here to put you down. Old graphic designers are here to support you. We do not wish to take anything from you. Some of us have quit, some have chosen other careers while a few have remained hopeful that graphic design is a sustainable industry. 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. You probably know all these by heart already but it pays to be reminded every once in a while because you and I, we’re no different. 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.
An Old Graphic Designer
This is written for all young, new and up and coming graphic designers from the point of view of a graphic designer at his prime. This piece is purely fictional.
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