I was originally going to write all about how awesome it is to be hired to write articles for this Australian design blog– and while it’s still super awesome– I stopped writing my article on color schemes for said design blog to read this other incredible article on the amazing need for perspective with the ad agency setting, you can check it out here.
and then of course I had to talk about it, duh.
I don’t know if I would have had the chutzpah to be as candid as this gentleman is about his experiences in advertising, but what I do know is how happy it makes my heart to read someone else’s take on it–– especially when it’s pretty close to mine. I graduated art school in 07 and ran straight up to NYC to get my hands on the sweet money cake that is design life post graduation (oh, the sweet naive me of 2007). I didn’t really want to work in advertising– I didn’t like making commercials when I was doing it as a kid, I don’t like watching ads now, I didn’t expect to like making the ads either– and you know what? I hated every minute of my life working in an ad agency. And I even worked at one of those “un agency agencies”.
Yeah, they make those, and I still don’t really know if there’s any true differences between the two.
The article written by Mr. Redding describes what I found all too soul-crushing, “…But what I didn’t do, with the benefit of perspective, is anything of any lasting importance. At least creatively speaking. Economically I probably helped shift some merchandise. Enhanced a few companies bottom lines. Helped make one or two wealthy men a bit wealthier than they already were.”
This paragraph sits at the end of a long, gorgeously written essay on the trials and tribulations of working as a cog in the mechanisms that is agency life, but that reality described by Mr. Redding was not lost on me during my stint in the day to day trudgery. I did not need to spend 30 years trying to convince myself that this is what I was born to do, it was an existential struggle to last six months. My problem was the complete and utter REMOVAL of perspective within agency life that caused me to feel as if I was a foreign animal on display in a strange world. The jargon made no sense to me, the actions of those around me made no sense to me, and I, in turn, made no sense to anyone else. For years this really affected my view of my work, how I felt about myself, and it washed away any belief that MY perspective on this whole thing could actually be the right one. If this was design, I thought, I want no part of it.
Five years after that ridiculous through-the-looking-glass-esque experience, I believe I’ve finally come through the other side. I run my freelance business in a way that counters all of the discrepancies I felt while working in that ill-fitting establishment, and I focus my attention towards small businesses and other like-minded humans– not piece-meal conveyor belt style set ups. While some people snub their noses at the fact that I don’t really strive to work with Fortune 500 companies (oh the SHAME!), I very much hold my head high in creating work that is completely aligned with my ethos as an artist and designer, along with the knowledge that the work that I do is for the betterment of another individual’s hard work and at the heart of the realization of their goals. It may not be perfect, but it works so much better than banner ads for T. Rowe Price. Just sayin.
While my experience may be subjective as all get out, there is a recent hiccup that would have benefited from a healthy dose of perspective. Case in point, the Homeless as Hotspots. No matter what the company’s PR driven explanation is, it just irks me. The stench of pretentious under the guise of altruism is so strong, I can smell Austin all the way from my apt in Hollywood, and we gots lots of homeless here. Problem is, copy like “My name is _____, I’m a 4G hotspot” isn’t written with educating hipsters on the life of the homeless. It’s aimed at getting people interested in using mobilized hotspots for their 100% completely necessary iPad/iPhone/Macbook/smartphone/gadget/whatever it is taking you out of the present moment. Oh excuse me, my sarcasm was showing.
Subject matter and execution such as this is absolutely going to be a sensitive issue, so why not filter out your ad agency buddies for advice, and look towards social workers, psychologists or anthropologists to see the best way to fix a social problem. It’s not a damn advertising campaign, it’s someone’s quality (or lack there of) of life.
Whew, sorry. I guess blatant exploitation really gets under my skin.
In any case, perspective, both of yourself, your work, and the driving force behind it all, is an invaluable asset to be nurtured as well as kept in check– especially when considering input from an obtrusive, heavy handed outsider, no matter who or what they are.