IT’S NOT A GIFT, IT’S A CURSE…

ImagePeople assume being able to draw is a gift. They see creativity as something bestowed upon the chosen ones. I guess I see their point but I usually disagree. I can’t think that being able to draw is anything other than the combination of desire, practice and opening your eyes to what you are seeing. As for creativity. Well for that you’d have to get into the topic of what exactly creativity is because when you look long and hard at it, we’re all creative. Explaining to my dad that I didn’t just crash his car, that I had in fact been escaping an alien UFO that was, I am sure, going to abduct me, is being creative. Baking a cake in the shape of woman’s breasts and decorating it accordingly, is also being creative. Making the company accounts look okay when actually all the time you’ve been fiddling the books is I suppose in some way being creative…  So it’s not a gift, it’s something you work at or something you don’t. I work at it and for my efforts it can sometimes become a bit of a curse.

Let me explain. Friends, apparently not wanting to take advantage of this so called gift, often ask me to ‘knock up’ a quick logo for them or take a look at their website. But the worst offenders of my good nature are by far my children. They take full advantage of Daddies abilities by wanting me to create the invitations and cakes for their birthday parties. When they were unable to walk properly the invitation was a phone call to friends, as they started to mutter words the invitation was a quick chat in the school playground with the parents, but as the years pass and their ability to think, talk and demand increase, they sit me down and brief me on what their expectations are, what the theme is to be for this year and what deadline I shall be working to. The terms are made clear at the outset. In return for my services, they will settle things up with a kiss and a cuddle, the shallow promise that they will share their Sherbert Dip with me and that I may come along to the party myself!!!

Now I may be thought of as greedy, that money is a major influencer, bills to be paid and all that, but the kiss and cuddle offer is far more attractive and although I am partial to the odd Sherbert Dip, experience tells me they’ll not honour that side of the agreement. Willingly I therefore accept the brief knowing in the back of my mind that this will be a difficult project from a demanding client and, as always, with very little time left to do it.

Squeezing time out of my day, running late into the evenings to meet the deadline I toil away creating the invitations. I try and unwrap the reasoning behind their temporary yet obsessive current love of things like Ben 10, My little Pony, Hello Kitty and Thomas the Tank Engine. I try and see the merit of the Nerf gun and wonder why an 8 year old and his mates would want to climb a tree and zip wire down to the ground, then do it again and again all bloody afternoon. My childhood feels so distant from theirs, Action Man was all I had, it was all I needed. Apart from my bicycle, Mr Potato Head and a game of Mousetrap rendered useless due to a few important pieces missing.

After hours of working late into the evening, countless sketches, hastily shot photos and a dozen drafts. A presentation is made. Usually at the dinner table, after they have done their homework of course! It’s a nerve wracking time, grubby fingers crease and curve the proofs, comments on choice of colours and typefaces used dominate the proceedings. Mummy points out the date is wrong and the conversation drifts onto what flavour cake, what colour and how many balloons will be needed and whose job it will be to blow them up the night before. I refocus the group and explain why a sans serif font is better suited, how the subtle elements in the image reflect the values of the host and the planned event, how the target audience will be seduced by the carefully considered mix of words and pictures and how a matching web page can increase response and make participation easier. I talk about distribution channels, print processes, delivery times and copyright issues. They must have taken this all in because what seems like thoughtful silence follows. I wait for comments, for approval that my efforts and skills have gone some way to meeting the brief, I want a ‘wow’, a ‘that is fantastic’, a sign that their choice of designer has exceeded expectations…

It never comes. The homework has been done, food has been eaten, I am now disrupting their vastly more important evening free time which takes priority over everything. So, meeting suddenly over, I am left alone at the table now holding proof artwork that has taken a toll on my life, that I have slaved over, been passionate about, has been thought about, re-thought about, worried about and excited about. It now sits in a little puddle of apple juice, has been torn a bit, has gravy stained fingerprints all over it and my daughter has kindly drawn a little picture of a rather too anatomically correct woman in the corner in pink crayon, her favourite.

Later that week I correct the date, modify the colours and reproof. This time, the night before, I just leave the print out on the kitchen table for them to look at. Come the evening I pick it back up, off the floor from under the kitchen table. It’s been torn, the fingerprints look like jam ones and my daughter has drawn a picture of me on it, in pink again, this time not very correct, I seem to have a beard, have what looks like boobs and am wearing a dress.

I try and get everyone gathered for a meeting to review the design but piano lessons, homework and the fact that I promised to read them a funny bedtime story means they have little time to give me on the subject other than a ‘yes it’s fine, go ahead’ which I take as a positive.

I arrange the printing of the invites, the matching t-shirts and the edible print that will go onto the cake. I build the web page, test browser compatibility, test the QR code and sit back with a coffee pleased with my efforts. The campaign will be over shortly and I will be able to pat myself on the back, knowing inside that I have given this project 100%, knowing that although the client, like all clients, won’t ever give me the full credit I would like, that for them, yes the design is important but they are dealing with many other issues and priorities, which is why they commissioned me in the first place, to let them get on with other things.

And that’s the point really. I can let real clients get away with all this, they’re paying me, the curse is that even though this is not a client and cuddles, no matter how big or how often, won’t pay the mortgage or buy the latest software update. The curse is I have no choice.

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