Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's a fun job, but it's still a job

I don't work in a design firm. My job resides within a small department of a financial institution - the creative department, a suburb of marketing.

I don't have the leisure of a jeans and a t-shirt atmosphere. One Friday evening I relived my 20s and shaved my hair into a mohawk, went to a party on Saturday, woke up late on Sunday, shaved the rest of my head that evening for my required clean-cut appearance on Monday.

My co-workers and I within the design department look like the rest of the company's employees with our business-as-usual attire, but those on the outside of our workspace know there is something different about us. No, we're not better or smarter or prettier...we simply enjoy coming to work.*

When you work in a nice, yet sanitized and stuffy workplace, you can literally smell it when someone in the building is having fun at his or her job. And there is the problem: in the eyes of many, if you're having fun at your job, then you don't really have a JOB job. If you're having fun at your job, then you are basically "goofing off".

We are in the department that gets to play with crayons, and crayons are for kids. Doing our little art projects for the company. Having fun. Goofing off.

I can't say I entirely blame others within the company for feeling that way. Every other department has sterile, clean walls and ours are covered with design trends, comic art, and posters. Every other department deals with customers in well lit offices. We work under dimmed lights and only deal with each other. Every other department has an iron clamp on their internet usage while we have unlimited access for research, tutorials, and, of course, stock photography.

I believe the perception of graphic designers as kids in the playroom is universal dogma to those not in the profession.

Once, after a particular stressful day, I mentioned to a friend that I had a tough day at work. He snorted out a scoffing laugh and condescendingly murmured, "Work." He went on to give me details about his labor-intensive job and told me that once I do something similar to what he does, then I can claim to actually work.


I can't apologize for loving what I do. I've worked many, many crappy jobs in the past before I became a graphic designer. In fact, it was working all those terrible jobs that made me want to go back to college and pursue something I genuinely enjoy doing.

Also, the fact that I am having a blast at work doesn't mean I don't take it seriously. I have handled million dollar campaigns, and there's not much "goofing off" when the company is fronting that kind of dough. If I'm NOT serious about my job, the campaign could flop, rendering me an unemployed designer.

I'm not about to convince anyone otherwise who believes my job is equivalent to playing on a playground. Heck, sometimes it is. I just thank God that within the marketplace there is a need for what I love to do.

*We are lucky enough to not work under levels of micro managing middle managers, angry co-workers looking to throw anyone under the bus, or power-tripping suits who see themselves as stand-in art directors. This is a rare thing within corporate institutions and we are fortunate and ecstatic to be where we are.

I know many designers who work in a worse environment than I, but even with all the corporate b.s., they are still happy with their chosen profession. It beats working as a roofer or a king's food taster.

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