During the 37 years I spent in the graphics industry I learned quite a bit. I have been fortunate enough to work in many facets of the industry before and during the age of the Mac. I would like to share some of this with you as you navigate along your journey. What I am offering is food for thought—some ideas and suggestions to make your own.
So much of what we read in regard to being part of the creative industry is about how to keep our creative juices flowing. All of this is very important and helpful. Equally important are the life skills needed for maintaining a healthy, satisfying, productive, and engaging career. So, let’s dive in.
Embrace the process. Over the years, one of the most important lessons I have learned is that when we become attached to the pieces we create, it leads to considerable frustration and angst. This is because, like so many creative things, art is subjective. Realizing this helped me understand that embracing the process of creating is much more productive and rewarding. Quite often, you find yourself creating stronger designs as a result, and more importantly, it becomes easier to let go of a piece, whether accepted or rejected. When rejected, it is not taken personally. Because, after all, it is not personal.
Understand business. Unfortunately, creative people tend to be terrible business people. Whether your decision is to work in-house or become a freelancer, consider taking at least a basic business course. Understanding how business works as an in-house creative will allow you to understand why certain decisions are made from those responsible for the wellbeing of the company. Of course, if you decide to be a freelance graphics professional, it will help you run your business in a successful manner.
Accept change. Change is difficult, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. As the old saying states, “The only constant is change.” By embracing change, we might find that the changes being made open new opportunities, or offer different and more interesting ways to approach work, personal relationships, and life in general.
Allow “not knowing.” Sometimes, we simply do not have the answer to the problem. We stare at our workspace without a single decent idea coming to mind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It is part of the process. When we accept that it is okay to not know the answer, we can step back, move on to something else, and try again later. If you’re still hitting a wall, try collaborating with others to come up with a solution. Know that it is also okay to go with someone else’s idea. Be sure to acknowledge those who helped you, as you may find they will need the same from you at some time.
Be honest. Being honest and truthful with clients is one of the most valuable lessons I can pass on. If you do not feel confident taking on a particular project or your workload is too great, let your client or your manager know. As a freelancer, nothing can be more harmful to your career than missing deadlines. Your client will appreciate your honesty and not hold it against you. As an in-house creative, any good manager will understand and either help you prioritize your workload, or give the project to someone else on the team.
There are numerous other examples I can give. The long and short of it is, being honest and truthful in your career, will lead to much greater success. It is not necessary to say what you think others want to hear.
Humility. Yes, you were given this fantastic gift of being able to artistically create. Try to remember, others were given talents that you do not possess. Everyone has worth and value and each person’s talent is valid and important. There is so much to learn from others’ talents and experiences. Allow that learning to happen. It is one of the greatest gifts you can receive.
Finally, I would like to offer this. There is so much that goes on around us each and every moment. In the workplace, decisions are made that can upset us greatly, if we allow them to. In an uncertain economy, we may find ourselves unemployed. As a freelancer, we may find the amount of work dropping or budgets decreasing. Try taking the attitude of whatever the circumstance is, whatever is happening, it is not happening to me, it is happening and I am part of it. What will I do with this? How will I make it an opportunity for my own growth?
A very wise person once said to me “Our work is what we do, it is an extension of our lives, it does not define us.” Remembering this has helped me tremendously throughout my career and hopefully it will help you through yours.
About Steven Stave
Steven Stave coaches graphics professionals and others, drawing on 37 years in the graphics industry. In his longest-standing role, Steve was the design manager for Reed Elsevier in its Philadelphia office. It was during this period, as Steve grew and learned in this position that he began to understand the importance of helping those on his staff to find their own way to grow and develop their talents further. This involved asking the right questions, so that each staff member could recognize their unique strengths and talents and how to best apply those talents within a rapidly changing work environment. This led to a great desire in taking this beyond the workplace and helping others reach their goals, particularly those in the graphics industry. Steven left the corporate setting to pursue this and is now coaching full time.
Steven graduated in 1977 from Hussian School of Art located in Philadelphia, PA. He has worked in the graphics industry in many capacities, from illustrator, production artist, designer, to manager. Artistically, Steven is now pursuing his love of printmaking and painting. He is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and is currently enrolled in Coach University earning his ICF certification.