Why I Left the Design World

I haven’t always just written about design. No, back in the day, I designed for magazines and newspapers. The following is my story of why I left the graphic design world. I also chatted with other former designers about their varied reasons, ranging from disinterest in the business side to physical ailments.
I toiled in the print publication trenches for years, facing daily deadlines and relying on my limited math skills to figure out column inches (this was in the ’90s, when designers still used proportion wheels and X-acto blades). But here’s my confession: I wasn’t very good at the creative side. I’d churn out a two-page feature layout in a few hours and expect it to be ready for print, whereas my co-workers would work on several versions for days, painstakingly redesigning a drop cap in six different ways.

One art director at a magazine encouraged me to spend more time on each article layout. He didn’t relate that I came from the newspaper world, where we sometimes left a hole for a last-minute story that we’d just plunk in on deadline – there was no time for more than one take! I blame my journalism training for my succinct style I abide by to this day – why say in four words what I can say in two? Why design three versions when I can be done with an assignment in one?

While I appreciate design every day – I surf through creative websites on a daily basis, admiring the typography and color choices – I don’t see myself in that world and choose to leave it to those with the skills, passion and patience for design.

I’ve known a number of other people who’ve also left the design profession but for wholly different reasons. Here are the top reasons why:

  • Low pay.
  • Layoffs in the print industry.
  • Couldn’t or didn’t want to keep up with new technology.
  • Lack of creativity in projects.
  • Carpal tunnel or other ailments from sitting at a computer all day.
  • Disinterest in the business side of freelancing.

What are some of the reasons you left – or are considering – abandoning a design career?

Image via penywise/Morguefile.

Jennifer Moline is a writer for PsPrint and the PsPrint Design Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company.


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