Melissa is a designer in Seattle Washington and her entry into the February Luck of the Designer prize drawing was so well written -- so reminiscent of our own experiences -- we just had to contact her for a more full article. The designing business is tough. You may already know that. Read along with Melissa and take comfort in knowing the design biz presents challenges to all who wish to go there. One thing we're convinced of... Melissa won't be designless in Seattle for long!
Designless in Seattle
by Melissa Mason
The sun barely makes its slow entrance into the house.
Another cloudy day in Seattle with 99.99% chance of afternoon rain. It was one of those mornings I woke up thirty-seven minutes before the alarm. Was I nervous? No I can't be. I am trained and experienced problem-solver. Drink, eat, and quit dreaming.
Monday, Interview Day. Pouring Rain.
I dug up the business coat from the unknown region of the closet, one by one outfitting for today's Hollywood role as Best Designer of the World with the award-winning pitch, "Hire me NOW." First came the black skirt, black socks, black shoes, black coffee. No regrets, I was proud of my work and myself in a business suit. Go team. The awareness of a strong strategist was within me. I knew what I was doing. I knew the market. At this point it was merely mental: jumping back into an extremely tough economy and convincing people how incredible my work is. And it IS.
Everyone is a designer these days... even Barbie had her own Pantone book. I was competing with billions for a position, that a decade ago was twice its salary. My odds were better floating on water with a toothpick.
Prepping myself took a while. A thorough company Goggle search and a few press releases started my agent work. I sought the advice of others, even designers who had experience firing people. I had the king in sight. Check mate. Now, I would be performing the most difficult sales pitch ever... showing that my work is important enough for a Herman Miller desk, a company email, and if really fortunate, my name on a business card in 10pt Times of course.
The clock hit 11am or something like that. I was ready. The iBook was polished, desktop changed to an inspiring one-with-nature stock image, all the work laid out in a methodical order. Mentally I was enthusiastic, but you could never really tell with art directors what they were looking for. I decided to be a VW commercial, likable and fun. The HAPPY design that seems to work.
I came into the office reenacting the gangster intro scene from the film Reservoir Dogs, black outfit, looks to kill, walking in slow motion, I owned the place. I thought nothing would go wrong. Well... that was wrong. I realized the designer could only do so much before the Worst Employer of the World himself ruins the perfect interview.
The warning signs came too soon.
I entered into the office, and the secretary had no clue where the art director was or who I was. The atmosphere was chaotic, there were salesmen running around like downtown Tokyo with no stoplights. This was a new firm, and they decided, for my convenience, to have all their staffing orientations today. With no luck, the secretary stuck me in a random room and told me to wait. I step in on a sales training class. A few minutes pass, and I am absorbed in the manager's speech on customer relations, "The customer is always right, but the key is to make them think they truly are right." Eyebrows raised, I could not believe I was hearing this or that I should be hearing this. I waited in the room a few more minutes continued to be surprised, "Get to know your customer, ask them what they had for dinner, how their kids are... " [When did sales turn into an Oprah seminar?]
The long wait reminded me of my friend's bad interview experience. He patiently waited nearly an hour for this guy who arrived late for his own meeting. At which point, the excitement had left, and he had to sit through this guy's lecture of how being on time was very important.
No designer could thrive in sloppy management and especially hypocrisy. Slowly the zeal in me was leaving as the clock kept ticking. Still in Reservoir Dogs mode, I made the initiative to find the art director myself. After asking a few people, I found him clueless sitting in his office in a blackberry moment.
For a company who's worth almost one billion, I would have expected a little more of a system. "Big corporation" left my face when I shook the hand of a twenty-five-year-old art director.
I tried to work the figures in my head: I am twenty-four, and a senior level art director has to have at least 10+ years experience, I have six, so if this is correct, someone illegally hired him at fifteen? Very confused, yet then I thought, "Starbucks did have a great program for Baristas, I hear. They are the next generation multi-millionaire managers."
Next: The Interview. . .
Melissa Mason is a talented young designer and photographer in Seattle Washington. If you would like to learn more about her design or to GIVE her work, you may visit http://www.semiartist.com or contact her via email through our contact form.