Long time reader here with a request for job advice from people who know the industry
My question is: I am very unhappy in my career choice of ID. Is it me, (my experience level, my skill level) or is this just what the job entails?
I graduated in 2011 with a BFA in ID from an art school. I got a job right out of school basically heading up a design department for a very small local manufacturing plant that made mostly metal and graphic POP displays. Their original job post was for a draftsperson, but once they saw my resume they hired me to do designs, renderings, engineering drawings, graphics, redesign their website, IT, project management, etc… basically anything that involves a computer. Business started booming and I was soon managing the development of 15-20 projects at a time. When it came to new projects I never had time to get creative–although the clients and my employer encouraged me to. Between 60hr work week and $15/hr it was too much. There was just too little creativity to be worth it – especially coming from an art school type of environment. I decided to jump ship.
Pretty quickly I got recruited to a “high-end” POP design firm that is on contract with several major retailers in the US. I have been here for a total of 6 months and have been incredibly unhappy. They hired me specifically because I came from a manufacturing background so I had some insight versus a fresh graduate. When I first started I got a handful of fun/cool projects that seemed like the design mecca compared to the slatwall and peghooks I was doing before. They’ve since hired 3 new entry level designers and I’ve been stuck with just revising everyone’s work (there are 6 of us in total). When I do get a chance to work on a new project, the creative director pairs me up with a sr. designer who doesn’t give me any say in the design. We will both sketch, and because he is senior, he chooses his own sketch, and then I model it, and then he tells me to change nearly everything, and then we send it off to the client. Sometimes he even lets me have a say, and then photoshops over my changes without telling me – not even giving me a chance to learn what I am doing wrong.
To top it off, the other designers do a lot of blue-sky, out of the box, crazy concepts that I don’t feel right about presenting. After a client brief, it seems like they ignore 9 out of 10 of the client’s design criteria and just kind of do what they think will look good. Even when that means ignoring a client’s branding. And then when it comes to the client feedback and editing their blue-sky stuff down, the revisions land on my shoulders as it moves into production. I have to somehow force those 9 other design criteria back into a project that didn’t really fit their brand to begin with. To top it off the marketers, visual managers, buyers, everyone else on the client side then emails me to change the color to this, bold that, shape of this, material of that. When all is said and done, the fixtures always turn out to look like Frankenstein and I embarrassed to have my name on it. I feel like I am on salary to give my design expertise and so far have not been allowed to do so. Whenever I speak out or try to add in my own touch the sr designer shuts me down or comes behind me with his secret photoshop eraser.
I have never questioned my skills until recently and have never felt so disheartened. I know I am learning and young but I question if these are the people to learn from. I honestly feel like if my new job gave me the time of day to work on a project from start to finish that I could pull out something that looks good – that I can combine my creativity and manufacturing know-how and create something that will look good in concept AND production. I feel like maybe I don’t get assigned new projects because my ideas aren’t creative enough. (I figure it can’t be seniority thing as there are other entry level designers getting the new assignments) Is this just how design is? Is it always going to be like this?
I am thinking of maybe freelancing or changing fields but am worried it will be the same situation. I never really meant to end up in POP design and would love to get into accessibility products or UX. I would love to create something that isn’t going to be in a walmart dumpster after 6 months. Do I need to learn more from this job first? Or should I just get out of here before I waste more time being unhappy?