Most people see being a designer (interior, fashion, scenic, furniture, lighting, you name it) as a fabulous life where you putter around in your studio and then try to sell your brilliant ideas to buyers, until eventually you get your big break.
I think people assume your life can be separated into two chunks pre-big break and post-big break. Pre-big break you are poor in tiny dirty apartment and post when you’re a “real working designer” you live the amazing life of the celebrity designers and taste makers they’ve come to see on TV.
Well let me tell you that the life of a real working middle class designer is nothing like that. Being a working designer means:
- You never stop hustling - networking and marketing is to us what swimming is to a shark, if we stop we die.
- You hardly ever lead a fabulous life - Yesterday I could have been spotted in midtown bumbling the streets with a sack full of LEDs, my laptop, and samples on one arm and a roll of Neutral Density film on the other arm. There were no assistants, no interns, just me.
- You constantly justify what you do - Clients live to tell you how they either studied your craft and completely understand it or had ideas very similar to yours. Whether that’s to make themselves feel better or if it’s a way to try and reduce your price who knows. But it means you spend an awful lot of time justifying why your service has value in the first place. (Quick Side Bar - having an idea and actually executing it is the difference between a good designer and a hack. I once had the idea for Zipcar, that doesn’t mean I’m a web 2.0 entrepenuer)
- You worry about money often -Cash flow is always a problem. There are periods of famine where you live lean and run up a little debt, then periods of feast of where you pour all your fees into paying down that debt, hoping to have a little left over. Your mind is absolutely blown by how much money you spend out of pocket on samples, transportation, and materials on projects.
There are tons of details I’m missing, but I thought it was worth sharing some of these thoughts with the design community that follows me on twitter and for any young designers who might stumble on upon it.
My fellow designers of all stripes - what would you tell someone about a real designer’s life?