Confessions of a 30-Something Industrial Designer

I have a confession. I’ve been in a rut. Hopelessly stuck in that space between owning a relatively successful business and endlessly wanting more from my life but not having the energy, motivation, or even the knowledge to do anything about it. For that matter, I can’t even define the “more” I want from life. I know I just want it.

Many of you who have been around these board may have noticed. I haven’t really posted for close to 6 months. I’ve slowly relinquished attention and control of the 1HDC to the point that I was called out on it by the Core77 admin. I own my rut. Some days I even revelled in it. Wore it like a badge. But, ultimately, I own the fact that it is my responsibilty to do something about it, not just complain and whine.

“I’m just getting older and jaded”, I would say to myself.

Other days it was, “I work my ass off and I have naught to show for it”. More of a morose resignation of the monotony of life.

Then, suddenly, the phone rang. A long time collegue, and I would now qualify as good friend, called me up and admitted that they were there too. Misery loves company, I suppose. For several days, I kinda let it stew. It appealed to my inner demons that others like me had moments of frustration bordering on despair that they wanted something more from life, but hadn’t a clue how to achieve it.

Then, because of that phone call, the darkness changed. The rut didn’t feel quite so rutty. There was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that gave me a wee bit of hope that the end of the tunnel was approaching.

I don’t really have a reason to tell anyone this. It is cathartic to vent, and admit it to the world. I’ve never been shy about stuff like this…its how I operate. What I do know, is that by opening up to this fact in a forum like this, I know I will find others that have been, are in, or will be in this same spot at some point in their life. Again, misery loves company.

I hope this admition…this public display of being human will give me the kick in the ass that I need. But, I do hope you will see more of me around here again…annoying many of you with my point of view.

Oh goody :slight_smile:

IP: I went through the same thing at 30. It’s normal.

I spent more time looking at what I had done and that made me feel a lot better. It also made it clear how much I’d grown and how great my current possibilities were in comparison.

Welcome back (I hope!)

IP I hear ya.

I am going to be 30 in May and I am right there with you. Everything is pretty great in my personal life, but I feel a serious rut in my career. I have been doing the same thing for the past five years, gotten small incremental pay increases and more responsibility, but nothing huge and career changing. I would like to move on but the economy sucks and there is no where to go. And I now am pigeon holed into a small part of ID that I have to constantly fight to show value in. I come to work everyday do what I do and then go home, come in the next day and do it all over again. I have gotten a bit tired of constantly having to show the value of my services to corporate business only for them to tell me after 10-12 months of development that the item no longer fits their marketing plan for the year and then not being able to show that to anyone. I also have to say from working in the seasonal candy packaging business that there only so many times you can draw Bunnies, Santas, and Hearts before you start to go crazy.

I agree with 914 though. When I look back on all I have done, it really is great. I have had the chance to work on some amazing brands. I have met some really great people. I have learned a ton. I have been through some really tough times and worked out of them, and when I see this it makes me proud of where I am.

Very timely discussion. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; about how much I really like design, or designing (been mulling over a hamburger metaphor post for that thread) and how much I dislike it sometimes. I feel guilty sometimes when I know there’s tons of kids out there who are really talented eager and I’m just like, meh. When I look back at what I’ve had the opportunity to work on though, I’m really happy with it, but there are definitely days and weeks where it’s like on a treadmill in a tiny sketch and rendering filled room.

I know all too well from my career in sports that every boost in performance is preceeded by a plateau, if not a dip, in performance.

My rut has far less to do with not feeling good about what I’ve done…in fact, I’ve never questioned that. It has far more to do with an inability to be happy with Today. Constantly wanting more, constantly wanting better, constantly thinking and believing that my life is destined for something bigger. It leaves a void in the here and now.

I envy people who can settle their mind and be happy with today.

PS: I’m 39 in May…I don’t know if that is encouraging, or discouraging for those who are saying that they are 30 and in a rut :slight_smile:

Also been there, done that. I’m 32, so maybe it really is an age/ 10 years into the career sort of thing. My advice - nothing a good scotch can’t fix :slight_smile:

Seriously though, maybe we could start some sort of club. You register and when you hit the wall (age 30 +/- or anytime after a minimum of 10 years working experience), you have an opportunity to switch jobs with a fellow club member who is feeling the same thing for a short period (say 1-2 weeks), to get perspective on things. Sorta of like an internship for professionals.

Plus if it was an overlap situation (ie. the other guy is still at his job while you are there also working/shadowing), you’d have the opportunity to show the other guy the ropes and explain what you do. This I find often actually helps you realize how good things are. I know myself, even in periods where I’m not that keen on things, if I explain what I’m doing/working on to some random stranger, family member, I actually realize how great things are. Partially from just hearing myself say it, and partially from the reactions of others “wow, you XXX?”.

As an added benefit of the overlap, you also have someone to go out, drink and bitch with for extra catharsis, since you are both feeling similar things (nothing worse that drinking/bitching with someone who is in a great mood when you are down).

…this idea actually started in this reply as a bit of joke, but actually now, as I type, I think it is a really good idea! Am I crazy? Why not internships for professionals? Are there such a thing? Who wouldn’t want to learn something new, experience something different even if they are pro in one area? Change is good, no?


EDIT - hey, maybe this could be something for IDSA :wink:

R, I really like that idea. More of a professional exchange than in internship though.

Would you enjoy it as much even if you were being paid minimum wage to do it? If the answer is no, then maybe you aren’t destined for something bigger or better after all, just something different.

Good question, Greenman…one that I was going to give a quick answer to. But, it actually requires more thought…I have to consider this one.

I’ve thought about that quite a bit lately. Obviously there’s a lot to be depressed about today, and mid-life crisis is something we all have to deal with. But I think one of our uniquely modern problems is that I think we’ve become addicted to greatness and it’s making us depressed.

I heard a psychologist say that the #1 pathology is related to the disconnect between our idealized self and actual self. It turns out that a majority of people consider themselves above-average in both intelligence and beauty. Therefore there is only one population of people that have an accurate view of themselves: the clinically depressed!

A good friend of mine has suffered from this lately. As I considered why, I realized Facebook was one of the instigators: she was constantly seeing all the ‘great things’ but tuning out the bad (plus I think most people self-sensor the bad…there’s a reason Facebook doesn’t have a ‘dislike’ button after all.) Then I asked her “would you want to switch lives with any of those people?” She paused and then realized, no, those people have plenty of problems. It really helped put things in perspective.

Yes. That’s me. Right now. And, my 30th birthday was Monday. I’m tired of where I’m at, and don’t know where to go.

Can we start a support group? I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Thanks for starting this thread IP.

30…then 40…then 50… now59… and counting.

There’s always tomorrow folks. If we’re lucky.

This summed up my post. I love what I do and could never see myself doing anything else, but I feel that I too feel that I am stuck in a rut with the career. Corporate job, with corporate politics, and really no where to go. There are no jobs for us out there and I fear that when the economy does pick up I may get passed by because of my situation.

I have been meaning to post a topic on when a designer switches from hands on design to design management. Maybe this is the issue with us earlier 30 year olds. We want to stay in design, but struggle when it comes to giving up the day to day design work. I know myself that I struggle with either looking for a senior level design job or take on branding and packaging design management. Do these jobs no longer make us IDers?

Edit: I know that last question kind of stupid, but one that I think many of us have going through our heads at one point in our career.

So I said I would write something after more consideration. Doing what I do and loving it, but only getting paid minimum wage is actually a moot point. No, I wouldn’t. I can’t think of anything I would do that for.

Would I do what I do and make enough to stay comfortable and allow my kids a good education, etc., etc. That’s effectively what I am doing right now…the cost of living in Vancouver is pretty absurd. I remind myself almost daily that I traded corporate life for my own company for “the lifestyle”. It was the right choice for me…it would be virtually impossible for me to go back to working for someone else.

The end result, I DO love doing what I do. I am needing more meaning to my work. Not just a paycheque. Not just creating another product for someone else to go make millions. I am starting to begin thinking that I want to learn how to turn my ideas into something bigger.

Although Im not quite old enough (26) or experienced enough to be part of this thread, I just thought I would add myself to the ‘younger’ side of the mentoring program…Especially for you PackageID! I recently had to switch departments to a season team, and went from designing products and rhino work to making seasonal (easter, holiday, halloween, ect) patterns to later be applied to all sorts of things.

I feel ya Brother, and know all too well how those damn easter bunnies can effect a person. If you ever need to vent about spending 8 weeks making nothing but ghosts and then have them all dropped for some terrible generic clip art piece, Im ready.

When talking about financials, I think the key here is to truly remember what it felt like to not have any. To me, it is easy to say that yes, I would do this job for minimum wage. It was not that long ago that I remember saying ‘it doesnt matter what the offer is, Im gonna take it.’ The fact is, the ability to get the assignment and be able to work on projects and constantly have that design process in my life is a huge payment in itself. When i was unemployed, I was missing that ‘full’ design process. Working on projects without critique and real world constraints gets old fast.

Hey J, on the contrary, I have always considered this mindset to be a virtue! I’m totally right there with you, though. Whenever I go through my roller-coaster ruts (eh, once a week!? :slight_smile: my wife reminds me that this attitude of constantly being dissatisfied, always looking to the next thing is what makes me good at what I do. It isn’t in my nature to be complacent. I think that we’re looking at ourselves and our lives with designer glasses- always seeing room for improvement.

And here I thought I was the only one looking longingly at the fat, unwashed masses, stumbling merrily through life!

I would love to have a greater impact. Use my skills to do more than shuffle crap through tunnel.

I am 44 so I have gone through what you are talking about. To start with I decided to shake things up by moving out of the US. Fortunately I had the chance to teach at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, with the understanding that it would only be for a few years. Being thrown into a new culture, both ethnically and professionally gave me chance to rethink what I was doing and gave me opportunities to try new things.

This has helped me come out the other side with new experiences, skills and ways of thinking. It has allowed me to take a new track in my career but not come in at ground zero. I have been able to use my past experiences, crafted in a new way to go in a new direction.

So I have both the comfort of my past but also the giddiness of a new area to explore.

Thanks for that Tim. Good words of wisdom to guide some of us on the other side of the 4.

My confession is the guy on the other end of that phone was me.