Or, “Why I’m only a graphic designer in theory, not reality.”
Over the summer of 2018 I started a new job in a library, and it was really quiet. “But…libraries are quiet by definition, surely?” Not when it’s a university library it isn’t, and like I said, Summer. This equals a very small number of students on campus.
So imagine me, new to the job, interactions few and far between, with an entire library catalogue at my fingertips. If this isn’t an opportunity for learning, I don’t know what is.
I typed ‘Graphic Design’ into the search box. I already knew about the wealth of print material on this subject, but what about online? Sat at the desk, with a few hours to fill, I began reading Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. With 704 pages, I figured I would never run out of something to read.
Each night I’d pick up where I left off the night before, and learn a bit more. I mean, of course I was learning about my job too, because there was actual work to do. It’s not like I was getting paid to sit there and read or anything.*
Most importantly though, why did I choose that subject? The answer is because I’d spent far too long flirting with the idea of learning about it, and now I had the chance. I didn’t read all of the book, but I did get as far as page 151. That seems like no progress at all in the grand scheme of things, but summer only lasts so long you know.
Since then, I’ve also read or part-read: Thinking in Type: The Practical Philosophy of Typography and Thou Shall Not Use Comic Sans: 365 Graphic Design Commandments as well as resources on letterforms and book design. I’ve also currently got A Smile in the Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design borrowed from the library.
But none of this actually makes me a graphic designer. That’s not my job. I just know a lot about it, but not necessarily how to do it. I’ve dabbled, because being a website editor in my freelance jobs inevitably has some crossover. Try building a website without having some kind of graphic design input, or an eye for typography, I dare you. The two sometimes go hand in hand, so I’ve picked up things on the job, as it were. So naturally, I thought I’d better teach myself some of the basic fundamentals. And here we are.
Design is fun. I love making things and using my creative mind to try and design something that is exactly what I need it to be. But I haven’t said why I’m only a Graphic Designer in theory.
Let’s define that term:
“what is supposed to happen or be possible, usually with the implication that it does not in fact happen.”– Result from searching ‘in theory’ on Google
Like with a lot of things that I dabble in, I do them on my own terms. ‘Graphic Designer Extraordinaire’ will never be my job title, mostly because I find Photoshop impossible despite having had two full training sessions on it, and when faced with the idea of more complex requests I’m like a rabbit caught in the headlights. So although I can create simple things that serve a purpose in the short term, I can’t necessarily add it to the list of things I offer in my freelance work as a whole. I can do it when it crops up, but if the entire job is a graphic design one, then it’s best to ask someone who actually does that for a living.
Having said that, if you want a romantic soppy poster designing so you don’t have to buy one online, then hit me up**.
I’ll keep learning, doing, absorbing, creating and having fun with design. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to this sort of thing, and I do cringe when I see bad graphic design (See: Examples in Thou Shall Not Use Comic Sans and a pub sign where every. single. word. was in a different font.) So I do have faith in myself that what I create is at least passable in the real world.
P.S. I do all my designing in Canva. Including the above. This is super easy to use, and it means that you too can become a baby graphic designer. Give it a go and surprise yourself.
Next in this series: Why it has taken way too long for me to start making zines.
*I was getting paid to sit there and read.
**Terms and Conditions: You have to be my sister. I don’t do soppy romantic designs for anyone else. And even then it was based on an already existing design. But personally I think I made it 100x better. This doesn’t make me a graphic designer, just the “best sister ever”.