Introduction, and Past Revelations



I’m going to share out observations, opinions, facts, and fabulisms about advertising, design, pre-press, Mac publishing and other incidental aspects of the work experience.

After 30 years in the business, I might have something to say that might be of some use or amusement to you, Gentle Reader. To paraphrase the late alpinist Willi Unsoeld; “sometimes I will tell you the truth, and maybe a few lies, and you will like it in spite of yourself”. Unlike Willi, I do not intend to die on Mt Ranier.

Twenty years ago I was putting together a catalog over in East LA at a print shop. It was a strictly industrial setting. My wee cubbyhole was under a flight of stairs. I would appear at 0730, and work until 1530 in the afternoon. The bike ride home was pleasant enough. When the presses would start up in the back of the building, it was if a steam locomotive was on rollers getting a workout.

In the midst of this funkiness I had an epiphany about work. Here was where Saul turned to Paul. It hit me that for the previous ten years I had been the most useless worker imaginable. And like all revelations, they appeared in numerical order. I cringed as they were revealed, but wrote them all down.

Now I had stumbled off the mountain, and with new zeal, had Share The Word. Specifically with undergraduates where I had gone to design school ten years earlier. I got the nod from my ex-teachers, and verily I Shared It Out.

I introduced my self by noting that I was a working professional, in the early middle phase of my design/advertising career. I wasn’t going to trot out My Greatest Hits, but instead discuss basics.

I started off with the No-Brainers, like Showing Up On Time and so on. A mere shiver of ennui coursed through the gathered. Not content with that, I quickly moved along in the outline. I told the dewy ducklings that sooner or later in their career they would face Three Things:

1] Getting laid off or fired
2] Getting stiffed by a client
3] Going to court and/or resorting to other methods to recover the money.

The train had now jumped the tracks and gone straight through the cornfield. A sudden still filled the classroom. As if on cue, feet began to tap nervously.

Finally, a girl in the back asked plaintively “Don’t you have anything nice to say about design?”

I said “Yes I do. Design is a chance to make some beauty and order in the world, but you have to understand that this is a business”.

Glassy smiles on all present told me that nobody wanted any part of it. My show was politely over, and that was that. Or so I thought. The following year I tried to give the same talk. By polite deflections the answer was “no” but I was invited to hear Michael Manwaring who was giving a talk.

His presentation was His Greatest Hits, and it was fun to watch his show, and see it through the eyes of the students. After it was over, I stood in line to shake his hand. And then I asked him The Three Questions.

“Have you ever been laid off or fired?”
“Have you ever been stiffed by a client?”
“Have you ever been to court to recover the money?”

He smiled and said yes to all three. I thanked him for his time and patience.

So. In the course of this blog I will use actual cases, and most of the time I will conceal the names of the attendees to whatever trainwreck or comedic disaster that occurred.

We’ll all have a swell time.

2 responses to “Introduction, and Past Revelations

  1. Excellent! I am very much looking forward to reading this blog. Especially since I am currently working frantically to bust out a project for a client who may well end up stiffing me.


  2. Amen! I look forward to your thoughts, as haveing worked with you, I was always amazed at how you managed every crazy situation with professional ease. The design industry is kind of like nursing. It gets a lot of young people who are very idealisitc, and they wish for the best and work hard, and do long hours, and don’t get the credit they deserve – the Doctors get it – but they fill the trenches with determination and skill. Being realisitic isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a negative for a young designer to hear war stories. At the same time, it is important to keep positive, well, as positive as one can.
    I look forward to reading more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s