Saturday, April 21, 2012

Smiling All the Way Home

Website design is one of the few professions that requires its followers to move back and forth quickly and easily between their left and right brains.  This is necessary because a successful design should be both aesthetically pleasing and technically sound.  Of the website designers I've met, most were either techies who searched for their inner artists as an afterthought, or photographers or illustrators who had decided to use the Internet as a marketing tool and then struggled with the technology.  Almost none grew up equally comfortable with art and science.

Although I enjoyed drawing and painting when I was younger, I didn't become seriously interested in commercial design until after I finished my master's degree in IT.  Once I decided to try to make a living as a designer I embarked on a crash self-study course in the principles of design.  I spent two years reading everything I could get my hands on about layouts, typography, color theory, and sub-categories like icon design and accessibility, and practicing with Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and a graphics tablet.  By the time I did an internship with a real web design firm I was a fairly competent journeyman designer, but I was blown away by the artistic talent of some of the other interns.  Fortunately I was able to trade technical tips for design criticism, and I've continued to learn and improve ever since.

My main strength as a designer has been the ability to really listen to my clients' wishes.  One of my proudest moments was when a woman told me the logo I designed for her firm "spoke to her soul."  However, the client who gave me the bulk of my work over the last few years was a very critical person, and rarely satisfied with my designs even when his clients loved them.  I suppose this kept me humble (and prevented me from asking for a raise), but it left me totally unprepared for my current contract.  So far all of the design work I've done at my new workplace has been greeted with unadulterated praise.  Even when someone has asked for a design to be tweaked, he or she has hastened to assure me that what I've already done is great.  One associate said I have a real designer's eye.  Yesterday three of my client coworkers descended on my cubicle to tell me that the latest project I did for them was "awesome."  To be on the receiving end of this kind of feedback on a daily basis is a novel and pleasant sensation. 

I really hope this company considers hanging on to me for the long term.  I'm getting to spend all day every day doing work I thoroughly enjoy, getting paid well for it, and being patted on the back to boot.  I am self-motivated enough to jump through hoops for any employer, but I'll jump through flames for unconditional praise.

"There is no charge for awesomeness..." Po in Kung Fu Panda

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