On this day, ten years ago, I started my career as a graphic designer. It hasn’t even remotely gone the way that I thought it would, but it’s been an interesting ride, to say the least.
I started out as a production artist, with the exciting and fulfilling job of…changing rent prices on thousands and thousands of rental ads. Back in those days, we were still printing out reams of paper to mail to the markets for them to actually write their changes on them, and mail them back. We might as well been monkeys flinging feces via FedEx compared to the streamlined way things work now. Still, I was out of the retail life that I despised, and into the field I had dreamed about since I was a kid. I knew I had a ways to go, but I felt like I was living my dream.
I worked the hell out of that job. Everything we did revolved around those damn error rates; that is, the number of errors that needed to be changed before the book went to print. Those were costly changes, and the markets didn’t want to pay for them, so the tried to pawn them off on us, and since error rates were what drove us, we wanted no part of it. It was a sick game of ping-pong we played. But I prided myself in having next to no errors, and even better, finding errors during the production process that would inevitably lead to last minute errors, and let the market know so they could be corrected. That attention to detail I bring to my work today. I often say I design like a production artist, because I was so familiar with getting files from agencies that were so ass backward, we had to spend a bulk of our valuable time fixing them. I remember what we used to say about those guys, and I don’t want anyone ever saying that about me.
I loved that job, though. The company treated us well, we were insulated from most of the overarching company drama, and we had a tight-knit group of artists. We lived together, we hung out together-it was a really good time. Whenever I get back to Atlanta, which is sadly fewer and fewer these days, I always look forward to getting together with those guys and catching up.
After a few years of that, though, I was starting to hit a wall, and wanted to move on. The company had these satellite art director positions scattered around some of our larger markets. For us lowly production folk, that job was the Holy Grail-or it was to me, anyway. So I nosed around, and as luck would have it, the artist in Las Vegas was looking to move back to Atlanta. Las Vegas? I had two words: Hell, and yes.
But fate would intervene, the Vegas guy stayed put, and I was told about a position in this ominous-sounding area called The Puget Sound. I’m not ashamed to say I had to look it up. Hey, I’m an East Coast kid. The only time I had any interest in anything west of the Mississippi was when Ohio State was playing in the Rose Bowl.
So instead of Vegas, I found myself in Seattle, and, well, the four of you who read this regularly know the rest of the story. I sometimes wonder how my life would be if I had stayed in Atlanta, or wound up in Vegas. Or made one of my many attempts to get out of Atlanta stick. Would I be closer to my dream job? Would I be staring a career reboot in the face like some of my former colleagues?
I try and take something from all of my jobs-no matter how mundane. This job gave me my start, but it also got me my first taste of working with clients, learning how to compromise, the technical skills I’d need to build my career, and the importance of a good iTunes playlist. No matter where I go in my career, I’ll always have those tools with me, and I’ll be forever thankful for that first opportunity to start living my dream.