Tonight at my full-time job, (FTJ), I had the office to myself. I should probably give you a little background here and explain a bit about what I do, and why I work such odd office hours. I work as a graphic artist for a company that screen prints on drink-ware. Glasses, mugs, water bottles, beer steins, beer growlers, pretty much anything you drink out of.
Almost all of the work we do is with licensed art, so I can’t show you an exact example of something I’ve done there. If you’ve been to a major sporting event or pretty much any bar serving drinks in glasses, you’ve probably seen something we’ve worked on here. We print and design things for nearly all of the major breweries, professional and college sports teams, as well as lots of smaller things like customized wedding glasses, and pretty much all of the shot glasses or mugs you’ve seen in travel stores. Since the production team in the factory works 24/7, they need to have someone from the art department here too. When they can’t get things to print correctly, someone has to be here to adjust the art and make it work.
So, now that you know what I do and why I work odd hours, I’ll get back to where I started. Tonight my co-worker was off, so I have the office to myself. I don’t mind working alone, but working alone on the midnight shift can be a lot of things. Creepy, for one. The building here is pretty old, and makes lots of fun noises. It’s also usually pretty quiet. Although there are lots of people out in the factory working, unless something goes wrong, or someone wants to use a microwave that’s actually clean, I don’t really see anyone in the office area. Sometimes, like in the first quarter of the year, our department isn’t super busy. Someone has to be here though, if we have work to do or not. This happens to be one of those times. You might think it sounds wonderful to not have much to do at work, but when you work this shift, if you don’t stay busy you get mighty sleepy, even when you’re pumped full of coffee. The human body just isn’t meant to be awake all night. No matter how long you are on this shift, you never fully adjust, and it’s always a fight against your body’s desire for a nap. One of the things I like to do to fight this sleepy feeling is listen to podcasts while I work, especially design podcasts. (Oh, and blog on my lunches too!)
I think it’s important as a designer to have a mindset of perpetual learning. It doesn’t always matter WHAT you are learning, as long as you are learning. It helps keep creativity high, it helps keep your skills sharp, and sometimes it just helps your perspective. I think a designer that stops learning, will also stop being relevant in the market. For me, learning helps me to stay inspired. It helps me keep my big goals in my line of sight too, so I don’t get comfortable with where I am in life, and keeps me pushing for my bigger dreams, (like not working a corporate FTJ and working through Pink Glasses full time). Tonight I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts from Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative. In this episode he interviews Chris Michel, the creator of companies such as Military.com and Affinity Labs. The Accidental Creative always leaves me with lots of things to contemplate, but this particular podcast really hit home for me. One of the things they talked about was Compliance Mechanisms. For me this means, what makes me finish a project? There are lots of different compliance mechanisms, for school it was deadlines so you didn’t lose points, at the FTJ the art has to be done with enough time for the product to be produced and meet ship dates to meet to ensure the customer gets the product on time, and for Pink Glasses usually there are client deadlines. Then there are projects that don’t fall under any of those, personal projects, like building my portfolio or completing this website. There isn’t anything making me complete these tasks, nor is there a set timeframe. Often projects like this are being completed in my “free time” which is never the same and has to ebb and flow with the needs of my home life to ensure everything there gets done as well. Dinners need cooked, bills need paid, appointments attended, and days like today, driveways need shoveled before I can get the car out to go to the FTJ. Sometimes though, the things in my home life that I’m doing instead of working on these projects aren’t so vital (like using my “snow day” yesterday to watch The Interview and then half a season of Salem on Netflix curled up in a blanket with my husband and dog). More often than not actually, that’s what seems to happen. Since 2015 is all about spending my first full year not in school working to be a better designer and pushing towards my big goals, I realized that I need some compliance mechanisms for my personal projects. I need to find a way to hold myself accountable. I have a habit of starting a personal project, getting “stuck” creatively or getting more interested in something else new and shiny (I like to call this “Designer ADD”), and leaving that personal project half completed.
A great example is my portfolio. I have this magazine spread I’ve been working on. I started it at the beginning of my last year at Full Sail. The assignment for school was to lay out a feature magazine article. I completed the project but honestly I pretty much rushed through it and didn’t invest my all in it. I got a nice pretty “A” for it because it did meet all the objectives, but I knew it was not an accurate representation of my capabilities. I’ve redone the layout twice, and you can find the most recent version of it in my Behance portfolio, but I know there is still another, better, version rolling around in my head. I’ve started reworking the layout again, but then let myself get distracted. I also have a cover for the magazine started, because that’s what really going to complete the portfolio campaign. I’ve also started work on the logo for the magazine. Now I have 3 half started projects in this campaign alone, and you know what I was doing in my free time this weekend? Working on a digital watercolor painting. Remember me talking about learning that technique in the last blog? I think it’s super cool, and since I don’t have much in the way of traditional art skills (all my work is digital thus far), when I’m “painting” I feel like a “real artist,” whatever that means, haha. Want to see a sneak peak?
This is a great example of my challenge. After completing two degrees in design I now have a ton of creative ideas and skills to play with, but seem to be lacking some follow through. I need to employ some compliance mechanisms in my creative life or I’m going to end up with thousands of half started projects and not much to show for my time.
So my question to you, if you’ve actually read all the way through this post, is what INSPIRES you? How do you work on PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT? And I think my biggest question this week is what type of COMPLIANCE MECHANISMS do you use to keep yourself on track? Do you use any at all? I wonder how many other creatives out there experience something similar to my “designer ADD”?
Thanks for taking the time to read! Don’t forget to like this post and follow the blog. Hopefully I hear from you in the comments!