I decided to become a graphic designer in 1970 after seeing an exhibition of Polish theater posters. And although I found out very quickly that the job wasn’t really about designing cultural posters and book jackets, that instead it was really all about the advertising industry, that was still perfectly acceptable: All those brilliant British commercials back then? And – yes, of course one put one’s services to Capitalism, but Capitalism was not the monster that it has become today. There were countries (in Western Europe especially) where the system appeared to be working out OK. And then the profession itself was highly creative. The likes of Milton Glaser and Herb Lubalin all over the place… Not a single “template” to be found. Not even a notion of that. Every thing thought out, deliberated upon as a unique problem. Every solution distinctive. So, I think about this a lot. Would I have decided to become a graphic designer today? No, probably not. Not in this neo-liberalist global disaster. But then, what would I have decided to become? An architect (which had been my original intention before graphic design)? How is that not about putting one’s skills at the neo-liberal corporatist’s disposal? Artist? I don’t think you “become” that. So, why study it? What? Engineer? Lawyer? Doctor? Social Scientist? All professions as much implicated in propping up the system as advertisers, if you ask me.
Unless you work for a non profit place. But you can do that as a graphic designer too.
So, every year I give my students a “good bye” talk at the end of their time with me. And for the past several years that is what I tell them to do. You will have a shitty daytime job where you will be doing things that you do not believe in. That may in fact go against your very grain of being. So – get a second “night time” job. Go find a good non profit, civil society whose mission resonates with you, and put your profession at their disposal. The day time “soap bubble” stuff will melt away, but what you do for them will stay and make you happy.