Every time I come across a weird label-block, I always feel like I should see it coming. I mean, in one of the high school’s I attended (I went to 4 different ones) I was told by the guidance counselor that I would never amount to much, so why even bother going to college. During my stay at Seminole college, I was told by my painting teacher I would never be admitted into art school, and during my senior year at Ringling School of Art and Design, the selected juror for the best of ringing show (a mr. David Samata) had the entire graphic design staff held up in the judging room for well over two hours, debating whether or not I was a graphic designer, an illustrator, or a fine artist.
Of course this trend tinged my employee record as well. My first job outside of college was a disaster because the creative director I worked with “couldn’t decide if I was a fine artist inside of a designer, or a designer trapped inside of a fine artist”. Yet here I am, working as a creative director in graphic design in a small company that’s all mine– well mine and my fiancé’s. Coming from the person who can never quite just “be”, it’s an entirely frustrating situation. How come I can’t just, you know, exist as I am? Unlabel-able, but just as hard working, talented, and all of the rest of it. Happily working successfully as a designer, letterer, illustrator, writer, strategist and all around thinker of things great, deep, and ridiculous.
Now the tide has shifted from design to writing as I become more comfortable seeking out opportunities that flex my verbal muscles over my visual ones. While attending the 3% Conference, I found myself taken aback by just being represented by “Writer”. Whenever someone asked what I did, I found myself quickly adding in “Oh I’m also a designer”. It’s what I’d been attaching myself to for the past 9 years, I’m not ready to let it just GO, I thought. But here I was, working as a writer– a journalist even, but not a designer.
Six years into my career as a graphic designer, and I can already tell you that I am an outsider within this industry I love so much. For starters, I love math. For seconds, I love writing. I have never had a visual sketchbook. I have list notebooks. When I started the GIC (graphic & interactive communication) program, I genuinely felt at home because design seemed to encompass everything I loved inside of other subjects. I could explore the idea of dialectics in opposing modes of philosophy, use algebraic statements to visually organize characters in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie (Magnolia, and yes, it was amazing), and the list goes on. But it was only my list that went on and on. My teachers openly told me how they did not understand my concepts, or what I was trying to achieve, and it was only until I had finished that they “got it”. They just always went along for the wonky Jenny ride. Now that I’m outside of college, my interests vary far from my associates and collegiate peers. I find so many visual executions irritating and ‘arbitrary, a train of thought that sounds similar to one you’d hear in an elderly home, but here we are. I finagle and noodle kerning and type treatments in my head, but the things that have had me ooh-ing and aah-ing at creative talent lately has been copywriting. Playful takes on words, phrases, and comfortable ideas. Old Spice’s “Believe in yoursmelf” is a sentence of freaking hilarity.
It’s taken a bit of a schlep to get here, but I have begun to really love being un-labelable. It keeps me completely free and open to continuously question, explore, make mistakes, and then bumble right along. It’s who I am, and what I’ll do in any field I come across. I might as well venture onward and just see what happens, that outlook has served me well so far I figure it’s got a few miles left in it.