Working for people who don’t appreciate what you do or what you add can feel terrible. I almost lost my sanity recently from working a series of jobs where I felt that my ideas weren’t really wanted, they just needed a body to get their ideas done no matter if they’re right or wrong. I went through a depression during this time — I was full of doubt and anger about a situation that I was in.
I spent most of my teenage years making things in photoshop for friends and making mixtape covers for local Toledo artists. I thought about how cool would it be if I could design stuff for a living. I believed that I could change the way people look at products and services. And most of all I couldn’t wait to get the resources to build cool shit. In reality, I was about to begin a career journey where I was building dumb things with good ideas and bad intentions from stakeholders at companies who could care less about my ambitions.. The job was to get the work done. Capitalism for better or worse is the purpose for most of these bad intentions everybody has to eat and provide and it’d be naive of me to think anything less than that. When some bad intentions do arise it usually comes from people wanting to put their fingerprints on a good idea with out any context to why the idea was a good one in the first place. Sometimes people don’t honestly don’t believe in you to get the job done.
Knowing about how bad intentions can lead to sub-par design left me stuck in a rut and feeling like maybe I needed to start reconsidering what my career path would be. There’s only so much hitting your head on a glass ceiling a person can take before you crack your skull open and are just numb. I ended up making a playlist to motivate me to get my ass up every morning, hop on the train, and deal with office politics. That playlist helped me figure out what my next step was, to help me get my groove back. It took 15 mins to design a cover for my playlist, and I felt good that whole time, bobbing my head and singing loud and out of key to what I was sure to be the best music for me to get my shit together. I realized midway through my walk to the train after I made the playlist that I was actually feeling good. I felt like I had designed an experience that meant something special to me, and that might feel special to other people if I shared it with them.
When I was in my mid-twenties I would design posters and have small shows for people to come see what I was up to and buy stuff. I took some of the money I made and donated it to cancer research. As a cancer survivor, I wanted an opportunity to give back.. But all I was really trying to do was make artwork for friends who got my sense of humor, and have fun. The older I got, the more time I spent chasing full-time design jobs so I could pay back student loans and survive — you know, things adults tell you to do in order to be an adult. While I was chasing the dream of stability I forgot how much fun it was just to design things that felt honest to me, that felt like a release.
Making that mixtape helped me feel that again, like I was designing and curating things that felt like an honest extension of myself, that I could share with my friends and that my friends could share with me. I came up with a year-long project to design new cover art for Spotify playlists that I make, or playlists that my friends make and post them out to my social network. I love receiving a playlist from friends because the music they listen to says a lot about them.
Now all I want to do is make cool shit that feels like an honest extension of me.