How to Treat Art Like a Job
Brandon Rike is a graphic designer who’s worked on shirts, album art, and logos for clients like Pharrell Williams, Iggy Azalea, Blink 182, and more. He’s a prolific worker with clear ideas about how design work should be approached. In his class, Simple Methods for Custom Lettering, Brandon lays out 3 key elements of his process that enable him to treat art like a job without sacrificing creativity.
1. Set time aside for field-frolicking
Creative people often describe themselves as free spirits who don’t care to be bound by structure. That’s all well and good, but if you’re making art for a living, it benefits you to put boundaries in place for how you spend your time in the studio. One effective way to do this (without crushing your soul) is to make sure you have time set aside to work on something that’s completely self-directed and fun. If free-form creative time is part of the plan, then you don’t have to worry about finding ways to break out of the grind when you need to be getting your client work done. This block of time is great for tinkering with portfolio pieces that highlight the kind of work you’d like to be doing more of in the long run. Don’t be afraid to work in some pretend projects aimed at getting your dream job down the road.
2. Develop a workflow and stick with it
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool field frolicker, the term “workflow” might not rekindle many fond memories. For some of us, it calls to mind images of an overbearing project manager who won’t take “I’ll get to it tomorrow” for an answer. The fact of the matter is that, whether or not you realize it, you have a workflow. If you haven’t planned yours out, it’s more likely to include bad habits like looking for misplaced files and combing through archived emails. You may even get lost in sprawling artboards cluttered with logo explorations from 5 different projects. The energy and focus it takes to get that lost momentum back would be better spent on the good stuff: designing. Used correctly, workflows protect creative space and freedom. To keep your projects on track, try setting up your files, folders, and communication the same way every single time. If you’re not sure where to start, try these 8 productivity tips for designers.
3. Go Faster
The business of graphic design is full of insane deadlines and insane expectations. Everyone seems to want their project done yesterday, but they can’t seem to agree on exactly what they want. This means that, on top of the actual designing you have to do, you need to do some serious psychological digging to understand what your client needs. If you’re going to succeed as a designer, you need the ability to do these things quickly. Brandon wants his clients to think of him as machine – if they give him the necessary information, they’ll get consistent, great results. It can be tempting to over-emphasize “getting in the vibe” of the project when, in reality, you already have what you need to get started. Not only will this enable you to ship more work and get paid for it, but it will help build your clients’ trust in you.
Applying these tips may feel stifling at first, but it’s important to remember that they’re giving you more breathing room to do the work that matters most: designing. You should also keep in mind that it’s completely up to you to figure out how you work best. If these don’t work for you, try something else – even if that means frolicking in a field.
About the author
Brooks Chambers is an excitable design advocate and writer at CreativeLive. He loves people and the stuff they make. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.