Design As A Career
By Shahana Jain, Partner and Associate Creative Director, GCD Studio
Design, especially in India has come a long way in establishing itself as a serious career choice. Till a couple of decades back design was seen as a hobby or ‘interest’ and not a means to accomplish career goals and definitely not something that was financially viable. Slowly but surely this is changing and it has begun to command the respect it deserves. The impact and importance of designers is finally being understood and valued.
Design is evolving
Design in its many avatars is dynamic and evolving as a discipline. Designers are becoming sensitive to their surroundings, client needs, industry trends and therefore responsive in the solutions they create. Be it in any field of design – architecture, textile, art, apparel or communication. This keeps you on your toes, brings you out of your comfort zone while you actively seek new ways to continue creating logical and workable design solutions. For instance, the field of graphic design has seen a surge in digital design. It gives even the most accomplished and experienced designers an opportunity to revisit their skills and imbibe new ones.
Design is addictive
At a more individual level, it is one of the most satisfying careers. There is nothing more fulfilling than to see your creation come to life, and design gives you that opportunity everyday. Designers are constantly creating and executing their ideas. The freedom and choice to express your self is addictive. In my opinion the continuous process of juggling new ideas, deciding what to retain or what to drop allows you to keep thinking afresh and reinventing. A privilege that is unique to design. The same idea can be expressed in a million different ways. Therefore, for a professional, almost every new day at work is like a blank slate, with no rules or formulae that need to be followed. You’re the master of your artwork, and that gives you a sense of ownership towards what you do.
No room for boredom
Designers usually work for a variety of clients with the nature of jobs being vastly different from each other. To cite an example, my studio currently has multiple projects going on, ranging from FMCG and cosmetic packaging to identity development for an IT project, to marketing and communication for luxury hotels. Each project requires a different input and sensibility. This keeps the brain ticking and the energy alive. There is constant conversation, Q&A and brainstorming on how to approach each project. It is never the same kind of work for too long. Boredom has not space to set in. The incentive to get to work is high, because there is often something new and exciting to look forward to.
Learn on the job
While design education does set a strong foundation for a designer, it is in many ways intuitive and instinctive. There is also a lot to learn through practice and observation. This goes for any skill based job. Experiences, surroundings, and cultures have an impact on the way your personal design sensibility shapes up. Precisely why even without formal training in design, truly passionate people find a way to explore their strengths and carve their own niche. The struggle is real. The time taken could be more but it is all worth it in the end.
For people in India, flexible hours sometimes become a huge consideration. Though there is nothing like working in a studio environment with the hustle bustle of interaction, enjoying stimulating conversations over cups of coffee and learning through mutual symbiosis. However design, particularly graphic design gives you the option of working on your own or even remotely. This becomes relevant when certain inevitable life decisions compel you to move to another city or have children you want to spend time with. The change is not disruptive if one can find ways to manage it in an effective manner.
It is not easy to be a designer in India. The respect, trust and value for a designer’s work is still not a given. Being a comparatively new field of work, designers have to keep proving themselves. The perception that anyone can be a designer is flawed. It takes aptitude, an eye for detail and keen interest to understand the nuances of what makes something look ‘beautifully designed’. A non- designer wants to have an input on something he may not be skilled to comment on. That is something designers grapple with very often.
To add to this, if money is taken as a parameter to measure a designer’s growth, it may not be the most satisfying. Monetary gains are slow and salaries overall are not very high if compared to some other professions, so one has to be prepared for it.
To conclude, after spending 16 years as a graphic designer with no formal design education I can say that it has been a very rewarding and fulfilling career choice. A psychology graduate by qualification I decided to change paths and follow that I really enjoyed doing. To make your area of interest your profession is the most winning combination and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
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