I kept looking at the images he sent me. One in particular was strikingly different from all the others. In a Dropbox file of chrome and motorized vehicles, I found a black and white image of a bird, flying upward and to the right into frame. Confined in the cage of an image meant to be a symbol of freedom. The bird looked peaceful. Natural. Doing precisely what it was supposed to be doing: flying. Wings outstretched and talons hidden away. Beak pointing ingot he source of light that was guiding it.
Oh how I wished I had a light to guide me.
I have worked with this particular client before. He was a machinist. He was creative with metals and engines. Things of a nature that I would probably never understand, and was grateful I never had to. Our first design project together was for an idea he had with a hovercraft tour business in our local area. One that would be utilized both summer and winter to take full advantage of the amphibious attributes of the vehicle. However, one fateful meeting with a “hovercraft pilot” (if that’s even what they’re called), caused him to determine that the limitations of that kind of vehicle couldn’t stand the harsh winters we get here by the Great Lakes. His dream died peacefully, only to return to life in this new venture. A vehicle he designed himself with every intention of producing it.
I was at a loss.
He isn’t a difficult client. Just one who isn’t sure he knows what he wants. This time he was given a logo option by another designer that he was satisfied with…somewhat. It just was “missing something” as he told me one morning when we happened to bump into each other. I told him I would write up a contract and get to the project as soon as he signed off on it. As i began to collect research about sun vehicles, and to find inspiration, my laptop pinged announcing I had received an invite to Dropbox from him. From it poured out images that “inspired” his ideal for a look and feel for the logo. Of all the images, he drew my attention to that one. Claiming that the image “had an essence” that his logo was missing.
I must have stared at the image for hours. Jotting down notes. Trying to take in the interesting…and not so interesting aspects of the image. Having known this client’s tendencies, I was attempting to try to see what wasn’t there. He doesn’t like literal representations. He doesn’t like things that were photographically based. This thing had to go on shirts, bag, cards, and pamphlets. Potentially on the front of the vehicle he was creating also (of which images were also provided in confidence, and it looked like a pretty cool toy). It had to be chromed. It had to be digital.
That image though. There had to be something there.
I spent most of my afternoon coming back to it to stare at it. Looking throughout the folder to take note of the other images he sent me. I wasn’t going to cop out of this one. I wasn’t going to take someone else’s work and slap a little more onto it. I have a code of ethics. I don’t do that. I had to come up with my own design. Something fresh in comparison to the images he had, while still having the vibe the previous logo had…while also adding whatever the image of the bird had that I wasn’t seeing tonight.
I have never been able to please this client before. Why the does he keep coming back to me anyway?
I closed my computer and laid on my bed for a time. I felt lost. Totally lost. Creatively. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Everything. I tired to think back to my time in college. I tried to think about what made my designs good then. Why did people see me as talented? Probably because the design program was just starting. Maybe that’s why I felt overwhelmed? “I’m not sure we prepared you enough.” My mentor’s words haunted me. Now he was deceased, and I had no mentor to lean on and ask the questions that I usually asked him. I felt like I was floating adrift at sea. No. More like stranded in a dessert, where creativity was running dry and no one was around for miles. Not accurate enough. I felt like I was in free fall while that picture of that stupid bird was taunting me, flying to freedom, while I fell like stone to the impending halt when I hit rock bottom.
I’m not talented. I am not good enough to be doing this. Why the hell am I doing this? What makes me love design? Why not a psychologist like I had originally planned? Why not a writer? Why not a penniless sitar player? Why wasn’t I just dead if I feel so useless? I have so many questions, and no answers to pay the price they are asking.
So now I write my feelings. I know I’m not completely useless. I know I am talented. I guess this is just growing pains. A not-so-midlife-crisis caused by the self doubt of a relationship ended, and limitations reached. Just because I have a client that I cannot please doesn’t mean I haven’t ever pleased a client! I have pleased many of them with my work, and they have loved working with me. Even still, I have talents in photography. I have talents in jewelry making. I’m crafty. I do pretty well with floral arrangements what I dabble in it. Just because I have a degree doesn’t mean it is my everything. Perhaps I am merely in a dry spell. An inconvenient one, but one that will pass eventually. Maybe I need to take a break instead?
After this project. After this project I will do something else for a while.