Saturday, September 1, 2018

How and why am I a Graphic Designer - Story time!

Hi everyone!

Another quarter of the year has passed, blog-less. I'm really going to try and change that habit, and do more creative things that feel good. Writing about my life and current projects is one of those things. 

I want to write about my Day Job today. My J.O.B. My 9-5. If you follow me here and not in real-life, you may just know me as a muralist/art teacher type. But I am also a Graphic Designer. This is the story of how I became one.

Looking back at my life, as soon as I discovered that you could create art in digital spaces as well as traditional analog ones, I was IN TO IT. When I was a kid, I would get on our little box-y black and white mac computer so that I could play Kid Pix, and drag around those digital brushes that would paint different patterns onto a blank canvas. It was so fascinating to me. I was a teenager in high school when I began (wildly... WILDLY) experimenting with Photoshop. I made a fake magazine about the pop-metal and alternative rock bands I was into at the time - complete with multi-page articles and music reviews (written by yours truly) and ads for fake products. All in Photoshop, with roughly 1 MILLION layers (cringe). As an angsty 16 year old, it was my digital masterpiece. In college, I took a few introductory graphic design and pre-press courses where I learned layout softwares like Quark Express and InDesign. I took a digital illustration class which opened my eyes to the complex world of Adobe Illustrator (and the pen tool I dreaded so much) and Corel Painter. It was incredible to me to be able to zoom in 200% and correct such tiny details in a piece of art. It was magic.

Despite all of that early interest, Graphic design was something I came to fairly recently in my life. A few years ago, after growing tired of the less-than-lucrative hustle of freelance and short teaching contracts, I came to Graphic Design in pursuit of a "safety net" during a move to the Big City. I viewed Design as a creative, yet reliable means to support my life and side business as a muralist. It was a practical and deliberate decision, satisfying my Taurus need for some desperately-needed stability. 

Being a Taurus also means I am stubborn, strong-willed and independent. Those traits have been both strengths and weaknesses in my life. Looking back, I think they kept me from pursuing this career as a younger adult. See, my Dad was a Graphic Designer. In college, I didn't even see that path as an option. I wanted to explore a path that was fiercely, uniquely, MINE. I chose my college major quickly, and stuck to it: Illustration with an Emphasis in Animation. I liked the idea of working at a Pixar-type studio, and making character designs and backgrounds (everything BESIDES actually animating, which I soon discovered I did not have the patience or passion for.) After graduating college, I put those plans on hold and joined the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps consumed my life for a good 3+ years. I was only actually living in Madagascar as a Peace Corps Volunteer for a total of 27 months, but a forced evacuation paused my service for 9 months of chilling on my parent's couch. I then went back to complete year 2 of my service. After coming home finally, I found myself reeling mentally and emotionally with the struggle of re-entry to life in the U.S. But I needed cash. Immediately. I went back into food service (sigh). I then worked my way into a sort-of-kind-of-regular job contracting at different K-12 schools, teaching kids art and making murals with them as an Artist-in-Residence, with commissioned mural jobs on the side. I took stock of my career goals and did some deep soul-searching. I reached out to a former professor for advice, and learned I needed to narrow my focus. Trying to keep ALL of the doors open, was preventing me from walking through any of them. I made a pro/con list, and a priority matrix (a tool I learned in Peace Corps. Need to decide something? See p. 43 of this document.) I entered so many interests and options into the matrix: Illustrator, Muralist, Tattoo artist, etc. Graphic Designer? Still not one of them. I decided that being a Muralist was what I really wanted to focus on. That hustle was HARD for me, and I soon realized I could not support myself that way full time, in that size town. So, a move! And then to facilitate that move, a job! What kind of creative job could be so "normal" that I would have it by the time I arrived in the city? Graphic Design finally appeared in a real way. 

I spent a few months refreshing and re-learning design skills and software I hadn't used since college. I watched hours of online tutorials and made myself a little web portfolio. That finally landed me an entry-level design job at a non-profit in Portland. From there I moved into the private sector, and now I've landed in the public sector. Working as an in-house designer has lead me to learn in-depth about industries I never would have otherwise: religious private school, fitness facilities, "green" and "eco" conference and event planning, aviation data sales, and now, criminal justice and community supervision and treatment. I have learned to code a bit, and so many new tools and programs. Graphic Design has lead me places I never would have imagined for myself. And I still have my other love on the side - murals. It's so satisfying to be able to pick up a brush, after days of clicking a mouse. It's the same creative drive - the same language, but a different dialect. 

Now that I'm in my 30's and doing this work, I realize that Design was always something I loved. Like that Taylor Swift song about her unrequited love story. Graphic Design was always there waiting for me, she just needed me to grow up and into myself a little more. Thanks Dad, for the genes. 

graphic design, portland designer, portland mural, portland muralist, portland mural artist, portland artist, graphic designer portland, art career advice, art career goal setting
My Dad's book of Pantone swatches from the 1970's.
I have it on my desk at work as a reminder of where I came from.

xoxo, Corie


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