It has been 6 years since I started working as a graphic designer. It was in this time of the year when I was still confused on what I want (I’m torn between animation and print design). That time when I wondered if I can make it through the industry since I didn’t see myself as a creative person. But who would have thought? Here I am now, grinding and consuming my creative juices on a daily basis.
So, in this blog post I’m sharing the things that I’ve learned in my 6-year hustle in this competitive industry. Some through the hard way, but most of them the good way.
Never ever ever use magic wand.
My first gig in the industry was from a real estate company. I literally just finished school and have no idea what’s ahead of me. So there I was, in a really corporate setting where the employees wear long sleeves and slacks; in an office where all you can hear is a silent murmur and a lot of telephone rings. I was the only graphic designer in the company that time, and my line manager isn’t actually from a design field.
Then I got this project where I need to take a photo of a family and put it on another picture. So there I was, becoming completely bonkers, used the magic wand tool instead of using the pen tool. Sent it to the supplier to print it billboard size. And then the rest was (dark) history.
Don’t trust anyone fully.
2 months after that magic wand incident, I felt like I wasn’t learning anything. I was an entry level designer and all I wanted was to learn from the pros, which unfortunately, wasn’t possible in that company. Then one ordinary day in the office, my manager suddenly asked me if I could design a brochure for a company he’s starting up with a colleague. He offered a good professional fee so I accepted it. It went well and then the next thing he offered me was employment. To make the story short, he stole me for the company he’s about to start.
You might be asking, did I accept? Yes, I accepted the offer. So I resigned, effective immidiately. Reached out to my manager and then all of a sudden, he’s in some place God-knows-where, and cannot be contacted. Then I was like ‘Hell yea, now I’m part of the thousand jobless professionals’.
Composition, hierarchy, and contrast.
It did not take long after I got hired again in a new company. It was an outsourced company by a US based outdoor advertising agency. We basically did billboard designs for their clients in the US. I admit that I have learned a lot more in this company than school. This is where I improved, as an artist and a designer, and a huge part of it I owe to my manager and team leader, and to some of my senior designers too.
It was in that company where I learned a lot about design, especially about composition, hierarchy and contrast, thanks to the US based art director who guided us through the daily jobs we were working on.
(Shout out to my awesome team!)
Some people don’t give a shit about what we do.
I spent 1 year and 10 months in that company before I moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE. I was afraid at first because I completely had no idea how it was in the UAE, and I was a bit paranoid about arabs because of what the west always feed on our brains. It took me 2 weeks before finally getting a job.
I got the job as a graphic designer in a production company. And hell, this was where my skills became rusty. I always do awesome designs, applying the things I learned in the Philippines, but the managing director just don’t give a shit. He always make me revise the works I did to the point that the design really became shitty.
But there are some that do.
There might be some people who don’t value design, whether about work, or about it’s price tag. But there are also some people who are willing to pay for a good design.
While I was working in that production company in Abu Dhabi, I did some freelancing at the side. This was where I met my very first freelance client, a very generous UAE local named Aziz.
Aziz has a start up boutique design agency but he has no designer, that’s why he hired me. He simply can’t afford a full time employee so he just calls me whenever there is something that needs to be designed. Making it short, he pays good, he pays more than what was agreed (lucky me!), and he likes to go out. We even had dinner a couple of times, talking about random things except work.
Less is more.
Gone are the days when bevel and emboss were such a thing. Design trends evolve, moving to a beautiful minimalistic approach where the message of the design is clear.
At first I was worried about all the negative spaces on my canvas. I still remember when I was still in the university, one of my instructors said that all the negative spaces must be filled. So from that moment I tend to fill every negative spaces I had, which is now, obviously, isn’t true. I learned to value negative space to make the overall design look neat and beautiful. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
No work = no job ; more work = good job.
At first my attitude about work was too immature. I always find it annoying when I get a lot of works in one day. It exhausts me and makes me feel so drained after. But I learned my lesson the hard way.
I moved to another company in Abu Dhabi, an events and advertising agency. We were doing good during the first months, but the shit hit the fan. Suddenly our clients left one by one, leaving us nothing but unpaid works. This is when I realized that having a lot of work is actually a blessing, and I should be happy about it.
Attitude > skills.
It did not take me long to decide to resign. No one wants to get stuck in a sinking ship, right? And luckily I got a new job the next day.
The company is a PR and Branding agency in Dubai. A multinational company where you can have your creative freedom. Everything is perfect except for one – the Creative Director.
I am not saying this because I think I can do better, no. It’s just that this guy isn’t a team player, and everyone in the team agrees. A cocky, all-knowing creative director who thinks he can run the agency better than the managing director. He says a lot of bad things about our MD to the point that it gets so toxic in the office. But of course it’s not always like that. Our MD, being an understanding person as he is, decided to fire him. He said, “Enough is enough. Even he’s the best creative in Dubai, if he can’t work with a team properly, he’s nothing”.
Lastly, learning never stops.
If there’s one lesson that my mom told us that I value most, it’s that the process of learning never stops. Whether you’re an industry expert, or an amateur, we always learn something new. Be open to new knowledge, and accept that we don’t know everything, even if we think we do. After all, it will benefit us in the end.
Have something to share? Tell us in the comments!