I’m just doing my job

“Are we having a meeting about how big Emily’s file sizes are?” 

“What?” 

“Emily sent a huge file through WeTransfer the other day. It’s too big. People don’t delete things off their computers and it takes up a lot of space. I’m not making fun of you for it. We just need to send lower res files to China.” 

I refrained from rolling my eyes.

“Oooookay…whatever.” Our Director dismiss him and with a hand wave sent him away. 

Design files can be large. We send large files all the time to our team in China via WeTransfer that are high quality in hopes it doesn’t cause any more barriers in communication than there already are. Our Director wasn’t going to sweat it. Still, the fact that this Engineer came down to the first floor and interrupted our meeting to “not poke fun at me” really upset me. Were we not clearly talking shop in a meeting? Was I supposed to respond well to that? Was I supposed to be offended? What was the point of making an example of this? Why bring it up? 

He happened to be CCd on one of the e-mails I sent to China two weeks earlier. It was a file full of warning labels to go on a newly manufactured product. He sent me a private e-mail saying:

“Thanks for your work on this. This file size is huge!” 

“Yeah, it is. Design files usually are when you drop more files into them. Would you like me to send you a smaller low res one for your records?” 

“No, that’s okay.” 

Literally the entire thread of e-mails. The last I had heard of the whole thing, up until this meeting when he so rudely let himself in and announced it as if it was some kind of ongoing problem. Ignoring that he spoke over someone. Ignoring the half closed door. 

There are very few times in life that I can count, where in the moment of conflict I felt very personally attacked and offended. Most of those occurred with my brothers who know how to push my buttons just right. I take what I do seriously, but I don’t take myself very seriously. So things even out in time, or I just push it down passive aggressively and deal with it on my own later. But in public, and in general, it takes a lot to get me offended. Though, lately with how anxious and hypersensitive I have become, it’s happening more frequently that I’m minorly offended or bothered by something in the moment and I express it but after a couple days it goes away and I can get back to my life again. 

This for some reason brought that offense up a notch. I was livid. Embarrassed to be made an example of over something I knew no one else could care about, but for some particular reason this Wednesday at 10 am….I cared. I was being called out over something trivial…no…less than trivial…something down right stupid. After all, why was it my responsibility to make file sizes smaller for people who forget to delete them? There is something called “in window preview” that allows you to look at the file online and never need to put it on your computer. Also, is it not the computer users job to be responsible for their own divice’s data space? Why is that my responsibility?

It’s not. It’s not my responsibility. I just need to let it go and let it die. No one else is bothered by it. I shouldn’t be either. Besides, I’m new. I’m still learning. I ought to give myself grace, since others clearly are not. I’ll get over it. I know I will. It just pokes a little bit more today. 

Great Creative Expectations

https://embed.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius

I keep forgetting this TEDtalk exists. I had seen it first when I was in college learning to cope with the high expectations of creativity: that you have this creative resivoir that never ran dry and always pumped out good ideas. I had been taking 22 credit hours to graduate at the time. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing semester. My boyfriend had gotten kicked out of school and had to head back to California while I navigated my final semester on my own. I felt abandoned. Unsure. And all around used between my relationship that was long distance, and the demands of being a graphic design student in her final semester.

I had logged on to TED.com and just went to the category “Creativity” and just let it play through the videos randomly. This particular video had struck me so deeply that I remember feeling a sudden and complete sigh of relief. Going to a Christian school had its benefits, and the source of my creativity was one of them. God was the Creator who made me creative, and all my creativity was a source from Him. What a wonderful and reassuring affirmation.

I had forgotten about it, as I often do in my humanness. 

I was at work today when I heard it again. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing Tuesday. My creative juices exhausted as I attempted to come up with more and more variations of a package design for a product just new to the market. “A culinary innovation” I had thought, but then rejected for its cliche nature and discarded with the rest of my bad ideas. I needed feedback from our marketing director, who, of course, had blown me of for the past few days, and I was sure would do so again. 

I turned on TED.com for some videos on food. A desperate attempt to come up with some kind of revolutionary idea. Of course, I didn’t come up with anything. Instead I sat staring at the screen in hopes something would just come to me. A couple adjustments and mistakes were corrected, and as the talks kept speaking, I found myself less working on the project and desperate to be doing something else. The videos were relevant to my job after all, so who could really yell at me? Eventually I started clicking on videos in the side bar, craving information that was outside of my usual everyday, and looking for a challenge. Looking to learn something new.

I was about 5 videos into my listening when I played the video, and about five minutes into viewing it I had recalled having heard this talk before. As she spoke that sense of relief came over me again, but not in a religious or supernatural way (though that is still largely a part of my life), but in knowing I was one of a collaborative team. 

Collaboration is another buffer creatives can maintain to protect them from the stress, high expectations, and struggle of creativity. Being one of a group of people working towards the same goal certainly takes the pressure off. It makes sucesses more fun. It makes losses less burdensome. It makes the artists more humble knowing their work was part of a contribution, and it gives the artist an awareness that full credit cannot come to them for each success. They were part of a bigger story, a contributing part, but not the only contributing part. 

So as I sat in my chair, fully aware of how far behind this package design was, hearing my e-mails chime as they came in from the factory in China wondering how all that is going…I realized I can only go so far as my contribution allows. If we as a team are working together, I had to wait for the together part of it. I have exhausted my resources. I showed up for my part, and my marketing director had a lot of other parts he had to show up for too. So my job was as done as it could be until I got feedback. The pressure was off. I had done all I could do, and I was so thankful to find this TEDtalk again. 

Deadlines, Assembly lines, and Waistlines 

Since starting my full-time job as a graphic designer, I’ve found myself relying on reading energy. The energy of people, the energy of a room, the energy of collaboration. Trying to gauge how much energy people are investing into projects. Much of the energy of my investment, has gone into cooking with my team. Yes. Cooking. I work for a company that manufactures and sells kitchen appliances. Lots of them. Under several nameplates and in many different stores internationally. 

Today we spent the afternoon going over the care and use guide (also known as a CUG in our line of work). We have an air cooker, which is basically a table top oven of sorts that works best when trying to make frozen foods like fries, nuggets, egg rolls etc… anything you could bake or fry, but without the oil. The collaboration was simple. Get the manufacturing specs together and the engineering notes, throw in (or make up) the names of parts, act out the step-by-step of the process and write it out, throw in the warnings as you come across probable and improbable issues, and hit the ground rolling. Then you eat whatever you make while you type up the findings into a cute little booklet that gets revised 50 times in multiple languages (in our case English and French) before getting mass printed well after the deadline and stuffed into a box for absolutely no one to read. Because who really reads the CUG? 

The food is pretty much the only incentive of the process. Of course, that doesn’t help my waistline. What also doesn’t help my waistline is the fact that I now work a desk job and eat food at work. On top of that…all employees of the company get to check out a product from the product library fresh off the assembly line and available to the public or not. True story. So say…I want to borrow the top selling company dehydrator from the product library. I just go to customer service. Fill out the paperwork and say….I want it for three months. Just put in the date three months from the day I pick it up…and there you go. I have a dehydrator for three months so I can interact with the products we sell without having to purchase the product unless I want to. When I’m ready to purchase the product? I get a discount. A steep discount. 

All this, paired with me trying to take more insulin unlike before, has made me gain ten pounds. I can’t say I’m very happy about that. My weight has been something I became more and more conscious of in college, and now that I’m out of college, it’s become something my attention fixated on, especially since I had lost so much weight due to diabetic complications. I liked being smaller. I liked people noticing how much I lost. Even if I didn’t like how I lost it, I liked the result…..a little too much. Now, I work in a food oriented business, and while I’ve never considered myself fat….I know I am a person who enjoys eating. A little too much. And since eating a little too much and enjoying being skinny a little too much,  I find myself fixated so stupidly on my weight, and wanting desperately to go back to “forgetting” to take insulin and lose it all again. 

When did I get this shallow? There are worse things to be than fat! What is wrong with me!?!? When did I focus my own energy into something so silly and superficial as my weight? How did I get so good at reading the energy of everyone else, that I failed to read my own? 

Wayzgoose 2016

“Wait…what?” 

“You can have it.” 

“I don’t even own a press.” 

“Just take them anyway.” 

I nearly cried. I held him and hugged for probably an awkward amount of time and kissed his cheeks multiple times. In his old age he smiled and jokingly tried to convince me to come home with him. He did what he could to help me get everything to my car, but he was tired from the long weekend and his age was catching up to him. He knew it. That’s why he was passing it all on. Because he knew soon he would be too. 

I gave him a check anyway. 
“Please. Take it.” 

“I’ll take it but I won’t cash it.” 

“You’re allowed to make your decisions, but at least take the check.” 

“Do you have a press?” He asked already forgetting that I had mentioned I didn’t. 

“Not yet.” 

“Well if I had one I’d give it to you too.” 

“You’ve done so much already.” 

He kissed my forehead and hugged me. 

“If I wasn’t married I’d fall in love with you.” He said with both my hands in his and his wise old eyes gleaming with delight. 

David Peat, designer and letterpress printer extraordinaire, gave me metal type. I was in awe. In complete delight. We spoke a little about life. Told me to let my fiancé know he was a very lucky man. Told me to take good care of his type. I promised I would. 


As the afternoon was coming to a close I heard a shout from across the room. 

“EMILY! Come over to my table and take whatever you want!” 

I never question renown designers when they shout at me. Especially when they’re Rick Griffith. I scooted immediately over and found my poster love. As I collected myself Rick ran over with a pen and autographed the poster. 

“Now go. Have adventures. Get out of the tri-state area! You’re already so special. Go be special out in the world. Stay lovely and talented.” 

We hugged tightly and he ran to pack up his wares. I’d never forget our lunch together that Saturday afternoon, before my high blood sugar made me super sick. He was an absolute delight. A lovely weirdo like myself. A heart to connect to and be deep with. We added each other on Facebook to keep in touch. 

I collected all my things as well. All my business cards were gone. All my posters had been swapped for other work. The work of friends and other lovely humans I had the pleasure of meeting. I met some beautiful people. I worked along side Alan Kitching, Jessica Hiche, and Erik Speikermann. I listened to their lectures. I spoke with them. They spoke with me. It was like we were all friends. It was amazing. I was awestruck and humbled all at once. 
It was one of the most amazing weekends of my life. I wish it had never ended. 

Hamilton Wood Type Museum

I visited the Hamilton Wood Type Museum (http://woodtype.org) today. My very first time ever. Which is odd. Because I’ve lived near there practically my whole life. I’ve also been a freelance Graphic Designer for three years and known about it’s … Continue reading

Client

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.