cigar-tin stories number 31 / how to die from graphic design (in ten easy steps)
by Darryl Joel Berger
This weekend was my daughter Oona's sixth birthday. I say "this weekend' because that's what it was –– a party (with twelve friends!) on Saturday, then Sunday it was off to Disney on Ice. All in all it cost roughly twice as much as any car I had in high school, and we haven't eaten at the dining room table for two days because it's buried under gifts. This morning I tried to raise the spectre of excessiveness with this whole business, plus a certain fruitlessness regarding the birthday girl's behaviour, but that went nowhere fast. Kind of like federal elections, we all just shrug and say what can you do.
Well, at least there's work.
Just last week I was saying to a colleague that the key to happiness is low expectations; fresh-faced on a Monday morning, I now consider this a thoughtless and superficial thing to say. This morning I have a whole new perspective: now I think the real key to happiness –– and, specifically for my own situation, the precondition for survival as a graphic designer –– is to never try to do a good job.
Trying to do a good job is the psychic equivalent of climbing into the lion's mouth in order to clean his teeth; not only will the lion not thank you, but he'll probably use your spinal cord for beef jerky.
An example: the other day a client requested a poster to advertise a Halloween dance. The client also asked for the theme of wolves. Accordingly, I designed something with a wolf and a full moon.
The client responded by saying that, while she understood where I was coming from, the whole thing needed to be "less wolfie" and "less moony". Also, could I make the wolf "more inviting"? Then she sent me a bunch of clip art by way of examples, and all of it was full of wolves and moons.
You see, the only way to get away from this kind of thing –– mental-health-wise –– is to allow yourself to be swept away, carried along. I know this poster is going straight to Bust City, but hey, what can you do.
Perhaps I think about this stuff too much.
At the end of my ten-month leave-without-pay from my graphic design job I wrote (and designed) a little art book called How to Die from Graphic Design. The book felt less like something that came out of me and more like something that happened to me, insofar as during my leave I found myself doing far more graphic design than I intended or wanted, and things devolved to the point where I could only think of graphic design as a kind of insidious killer, like stress or waterborne microbes or the spouse who pretends not to hear your cries for help from the bottom of the basement stairs (and instead turns up the volume on Let It Go).
The Ten Easy Steps part is like an unhelpful self-help book, I guess.
Anyway, the digital download (epub) version is available here. I also have a handful of physical copies, or you can get one from Amazon.