AIGA Baltimore

Praying to the gods of PowerPoint

Thanks to the rejection gods, I have this graphic to include...

It’s funny I think, ruminating on a post I created some time ago, I remarked that a colleague ended up calling me a “PowerPoint God” because I was able to build inter-activity and influence his PowerPoint with design sense. The comment I made was made in a way hat off-handedly put down being a “PowerPoint God” as if it’s like being the chief french fry-cooker at that coveted fast-food job when I was a teen.

I won’t be so bold as to say no designer dreams of being the PowerPoint God, because I realize that’s not true. I just don’t think I ever wanted to be that person. It just so happened that a) many people might confuse me with a reasonably competent designer (pity them) and b) I happened to work with some corporate types who seem to think using PowerPoints—at least internally.

But here’s the deal: when work is slow, me, I’m pining to be the “PowerPoint God.” So much so, that maybe I’ll create a PowerPoint have an internal meeting with corporate clients that I have discussing how much of a god I am at PowerPoint. Because, when it comes down to brass tax, being a designer is about a number of different avenues in the profession, whether it’s like a colleague whom I met last night who works at The Sun creating graphics or the colleague whom I met at the MICA Flex class who works on a designer jean label.

As it turns out these are all valid entry/destinations for a career in graphic design. Do you know how I know? They pay a paycheck. You laugh, but that, in many cases, is the arbiter of success.

Quick story: I went to Loyola and at Loyola the communications track translates into taking various courses among them: journalism. In the journalism class, my professor had each student work with a local paper, researching and writing a story for the paper’s editor. Well, my turn came up and I did an interview of program in West Baltimore. Even back then I had “journalistic ethics” supposedly. As an avid fan of “60 Minutes” and Mike Wallace, in particular, I didn’t want to be a pushover for the program. I wanted to check the facts mentioned—all that stuff. So, I did all that and wrote the article and the editor, as it turns out was happy enough with the work that he gave me assignments throughout that summer. When I went back to the professor some time later (lag time between writing and the subsequent publishing) and asked him what he thought of my article.

He said: “Did they publish it?”
I said “Of course!!”
He said “Well then, it was professional.”

I thought wow! That’s a great cover for not having read it (still don’t know if he did). But more importantly, it was a singular point that sometimes the most valuable thing to be, is the thing in the mind of your customer or boss, that says “they are great at this particular job and I am willing to pay for it.” I say this, having lived the experience of the in-house designer and being the guy who could do “that thing you do”.

Sometimes, in-house designers have to struggle at quantifying their value to the company (and the profession). Somewhat isolated, internally (always a small group in a company of people) and externally (“you work on what?”), it’s often a world of other stuff that the company’s focused on and, oh, by the way, the designer’s job is to tell them to fix the leading in the brochure and they’re like what? Who cares?

Well, we do: making good communication is what we do… that’s our deification.

Perhaps the search for value and meaning means finding more of that value outside your specific job function: (Note: managers that the innovative Google allows its engineers to spend 20% of their time working on a personal passion which keeps them energized for all that Google stuff) whether that means you are freelancing a little, painting, writing blogs or whatever keeps you focused on value.

But, keep the creative fire and the resumé fresh and keep getting paid.