I became a graphic designer somewhat by accident. Back in 1997, my original business plan was to be a writer for art publications and organizations online. I landed an assignment almost immediately and wrote a piece called “Colors of a Woman’s Palette” for an online art venue. It was fabulous little essay about Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Käthie Kollwitz, and Berthe Morisot. The trouble was that I don’t think anyone read it. I remember being quite disappointed because after having turned in the piece I found the presentation of it poorly laid out and lacking in any visuals that would have complimented the content. Even back in ’97, I just knew that an online presentation had to be effective. Feeling badly for the little essay, I decided to create a website specifically for that article to see if the reception would fair any better. Once nicely dressed up Colors did gain a readership as did my newly created website.
Dragonfly is now celebrating its 10th year in business. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about design, running a business, and like any entrepreneur I work very hard. Most of my clients have been with Dragonfly for years... some have been with me since I first opened my doors. Much of my work comes to me from word of mouth. I’m proud of this and believe it speaks to the quality of what I do and the sincerity of my customer support.
I spend a good amount of time looking at design. I can’t help it. I see it everywhere... on the road signs, in the grocery store, magazines, mail flyers, tooth paste tubes and wine bottles. And because I love design I go and seek it out... I read design magazines, books, and take tutorials and attend lectures to sharpen my skill set. Design for me is not a job, it’s my lifestyle.
Despite the recession/depression, DFB has been extremely fortunate and busy working for its established base of clientele and has even acquired some new clients. I worked hard to accomplish the work load but by the beginning of May, I felt like I hit a wall. A vacation was required... but I didn’t want a vacation from the design work. What I needed was a vacation from the business end of things.
The graphic design industry has been known as having an unusually high burn out rate. I’m not sure why that is and I hope to never find out. I’m pretty certain it has nothing to do with the actual design work. Almost on a daily basis I’m assaulted with new ideas and visions from my muse but rarely am I able to see these concepts come to fruition... I’m too busy returning emails and phone calls, going to meetings, providing customer support, and doing paperwork.
Let’s Consider Balance:
Yes, this is a term I’ve heard of before. Friends, family, associates, and fellow artists have spoken to the importance of balance. “Lisa, you need to find some balance.” I would generally respond, “Ummm... you mean balance in the composition right?” Not!
Ok, I will say to you, I SUCK at balance. I have always endeavored to make every client feel like my only client and sometimes I have been devastatingly successful at this. If a client emailed me at 7 am., I responded within a matter of minutes. Phone calls on Saturday evening during dinner... I took the call. My Blackberry would alert me to communications during my son’s school events, birthday gatherings, grocery shopping, evenings out with friends and during vacations. I ALWAYS responded to the client. God, I must be a total drag to hang out with on a personal level.
No doubt there are “red flag” clients. You can Google a thousand resources on how to best deal with this type of phenomena but I’m starting to wonder if as designers and consultants some of us just handle these folks badly. Are we not, after all, responsible for our own circumstances? There is absolutely no reason why a designer or any business person should respond to a client call or email at 7am. There must be a separation between life and work so that one can enjoy a day at the beach without a tide of emails following along via Blackberry. And there is no justifiable reason whereby a designer must be a clients “last minute gal” because that client consistently waits until the last day of deadline to call in a project.
I am always in awe of people who seem to accomplish so much during the course of their life. There are those professionals who design, teach, lecture, write books and blogs, travel, and are President of several design organizations. On Saturday you will find them passing out hotdogs at the little league game or planting a tree. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m thinking it’s because they are not responding to email 6 times a day 7 days a week. They have found balance and in doing so they are better equipped (mentally and physically) to pursue the things that are important to them and give them joy. They are also better prepared to meet the work week demands because they have made the time to devote to their own creative pursuits. Creative people, even those who work for others, need to find expression for their own creative ideas
I love graphic design but these days I’m much less of a designer than I am a business woman. This makes me sad. So, in addition to several other new office policies that I’m instituting, I have decided to hire a part-time assistant. Perhaps an Intern or college student who might help me out with some communications and production work. I’m thinking this might be the answer (I’m hoping) to enabling me to do more of the thing I love. Perhaps it will enable Dragonfly, now 10 years old, to develop into something larger.
If you are interested please email me at Dragonfly Blu. Send your resume and qualifications.