Marta Urbez GMD
Did we make the right choice when we decided to turn our passion into our source of income? At times it feels like choosing to make design our career rather than treasuring it as our side hustle, turned what we used to have as our escape into something we want to escape from.
After six months of nine to five (six, seven, eight...) design, I've had my ups and downs in terms of my relationship with design and myself as a designer. Often, doing work that did not fulfil me became my strongest motivator to pursue those projects I knew would, but many other times it has made me question my value and integrity as a designer, and by extension as a person.
As much as I understand I should not put my whole value as a person on my work it has proven to be quite hard to make that separation, as when I chose to take my "hobby" and made it my career too, it took over all aspects of my life. Where there used to be maths, physics, literature or philosophy... there was just design.
And when I was able to have full control over my projects, design involved and meant all of those - so I never questioned the decision I had taken to make design my devotion. But when design turned into an obligation and a responsibility, I failed in seeing it as my escape, and in turn became a frustration. So in a way, an aspect of this year for me will not be about design at all, but about everything else I can do and enjoy, that will help me re-learn how to make the time I spend designing professionally, exciting and appealing again.
Writing about this reminded me about a question my friend Bior proposed to me a while back: How is the work of a designer or artist affected/influenced by the context of their life?
An innate artist finds themselves cornered into using their medium as the main channelling of their context. Their identity, ideas, and struggles - past, present, and future. How I see it, that is the essence of any creative pursuit - materializing the abstract. Visualizing it, turning it into music, dance, poetry etc. The context an artist finds themselves in is therefore always the main driving force of any piece of creative work - whether that is on purpose or organically.
In occasions where this is not the case, it becomes obvious that the artist/designer has solely relied on the aesthetic value of their piece, and whether that is also okay, it turns it into something one dimensional. I can only assume, and myself have experienced this as the kind of work that will burn* you out; work abstracted from any theoretical or conceptual context, however vague it may be.
*There is a differentiation between the burning out that entails losing any creative purpose and becoming mechanical; and the burning out that comes out of constant questioning and evaluation of the meaning and worth of one's work. In the first case, we have fallen victims (and is very much where I find myself after 6 weeks of internships). The second case indicates growth and the desire for something better.
It is golden for any creative person to be aware of our context, our background, likings... how our identity affects our place within the industry and how that impacts what we put out into the world. If we know this then our responsibility is guarding our stance, and working hard to make that position valuable. While we do this, the context that surrounds us should always be the arch covering and connecting it all, what makes us and our work shift.
Another aspect of this is how non-creative aspects of our life affect the quality of our work. In the past, I have found myself doing great work when spending 30 hours a week doing a monotonous retail job. The disconnection from anything creative acted as a way to recharge it, so when putting in the time to work on Design, not only I found myself making better, more interesting work, but also doing it in a shorter time span.
Anyways, to summarise my ramblings - we shouldn't put our whole value into the work we do, or at least maybe not until we find exactly what it is we want to do.