In college I knew this answer: A designer. And so I am. End of story right? Hmm not really…
Does anyone know how many types of designers are out there? Well wikipedia points out 19 different types of designers. Yeah that’s a lot. And then even if you pick one, you probably need to decide what your specialty will be. For example, if you are a graphic designer, then would you be a wedding invitation designer? A greeting card designer? A printmaker? A typographer? Have your own shop? Work for a design firm? So you see it’s not that simple.
So far in my design career, I have worked as a User Interface Designer, a Graphic/Visual Designer, a Web Designer, and an Information Architect. Right now at my job at IBM, I float between visual design and information architecture. But then there’s my freelance which includes branding, wedding stationary design, and creating blogsites. Maybe it’s my view of how other designers are doing it, my limited time now that I’m a Mama, or self-inflicted pressure to have a specialty but sometimes I feel compelled to just PICK one! Do any other designers out there feel the same way?
You may have noticed when I changed my site, I no longer have a Services section. It’s partly due to the fact that I am getting work without needing to announce it and mainly because I don’t know what I want to offer! HA How is it at almost 30 years old, I am still asking myself this question? (see title)
So here’s my question to you (designer or not): Do you struggle with this? Do I need to pick one? Am I crazy? If I keep doing it all, will I just be mediocre at everything instead of amazing at one thing?
Would love to hear thoughts on this!
I won’t even mention photography in this post. That will just confuse me even more.
Kelly – thanks for writing this! I guess I needed to hear, from someone else, that they’re still “figuring it out.” I’m headed into my late 20s, working in legal marketing, but my real passion is in wedding & event design and personal style. Maybe one day, I’ll get to make that my career, but for now, I’m just trying to whittle down to the parts of it that *most* interest me.
I’ve been following your blog for over a year, and for what it counts, I think you’re a brilliant (graphic) designer, blogger, photographer, and all-around stylish momma!
Aww thank you Meg! That is sweet of you to say. Maybe it’s all about the “whittling” part. Good luck to you! Oh and keep up the personal style part – I love your thrifting posts!
You think you are mediocre?!!? Your work AMAZES me!
I think if you decided to focus on just one thing you would miss the other things.
i think as a designer it’s good not to limit yourself, the more you can do, the better!
also, i feel like photography sometimes goes hand in hand with design. it’s always good to know how to shoot your 2D work well and to know how to take great photos of your cute little family. 😉
i say, do what your heart desires and what you feel in your gut is what you want…there’s no need to have to put a label on it. 😉 if you love doing 3 or 4 or 10 different types of design, then you should!
as artists i think we often question things too much (myself included) and we should just be happy making art, ya know? hope that helps!
p.s. you are a great artist and i love your work. 🙂
Tina – you are so right about photography going hand in hand with design! Great point. And yes it’s so easy to continually question yourself as an artist!
Kelly – I tell you, I think about this all the time. I worked in non-profit for about 6 years until we moved to Nashville and then I started to try other things and I kept asking myself if it was too late to try something new. Kinda a crazy question – that I am asking if it is too late to switch things up at only 27, but nonetheless I can empathize with you to some degree. But more specific to what you are saying, my husband deals with this all the time. Since he works in the music industry, he has been working in a bunch of different areas and anytime he sees a extremely accomplished musician who is amazing at one specific thing, he will ask that same question. But I always tell him that in time, he will grow to be great at all of those things. (Which has turned out to be true, I may be biased, but he is incredibly talented) I think it is great to be well rounded in your industry. And personally I think you are an outstanding designer, so you got nothin to worry about girl! 🙂 -mk
Thanks for sharing mk! So true that it’s important to be well rounded. And it’s never to late to try something new! (Good reminder to myself too!)
Tara – SO true! I do get burnt out easily – which I think is why one week I’m decorating my house, the next week I’m painting, and the next I’m taking photos 😉
Jennifer – Thank you for sharing your story! I love hearing other’s journeys! Love what you said about doing a few things most of the time and then taking on something new to stay fresh. You’ve hit the right balance I think.
Meh. Specializing is definitely the best way to be the most efficient at what you do, but sometimes it just isn’t sustainable. Some people need variety to stay engaged. Better to be engaged and less specialized than to be the premier expert and be bored out of your mind!
as a graphic designer i can’t even tell you how many times i have been told over and over to find out niche. don’t try to do everything “they” say — pick one thing your good at (or two) and stick with it. anything more and you seem all over the place.
well at the start of my career i worked at a marketing firm. we did everything. everything from small clip art logos and business card designs to boring production work to amazing marketing campaigning design and development. i fished my time there on top as the assistant overall art director and head of the creative department in the marketing section.
then i made the move to full time freelance / contract work when my son was born. and for the first time i was only really doing two things. apparel design for a contract i held, and freelance design doing wedding invitations and other stationery. i had my nitch and away i went. but the truth is, i miss some of the other stuff.
i don’t want to “offer” it all, i don’t have the time space, or capacity to say yes to all i want to say yes to, but i do my few things most of the time, and on occasion, mostly special occasions i accept projects that are out of my norm to keep myself challenged and fresh.
whew that was a lot to say — some people do well with just offering a few things and sticking to them. some don’t. you know what you can handle, you know what will burn you out, so do that …. and spend time with your son, those hours fly by so quickly!!!!
I don’t think you need to pick one. From reading your blog for just the last couple months, I can see you’re an artist, and I think artists shouldn’t limit one self. You can chose to “master” one or two things. I am currently changing careers from government work to arts, and I have so many ideas, I’m trying them all, and then I’ll see what fits best, however I’m planning to pursue any and all ideas. I’m sure I’ll be lamenting the “chaos” in my head soon 🙂
Izabela – Good luck with your career switch!! Thank you for your encouragement – means a lot!!
I know this post is old, but I just came across your blog and fell in love. This post really caught my attention as I am a second year studio art major. I know I want to be a designer but I am having trouble deciding what to specialize in. Everything excites me and I could see myself as a photographer, painter, interior designer, wedding fashion designer, wedding planner, and about a million other titles. I’m glad I’m not the only one with so many passions! Any advise on how I should go about starting my own business (with so many different passions) ? Would you recommend it over working for some type of design agency? Looking back, would you have done anything different in your design career? Thanks!
Kristina – Thanks for your comment! The beauty of school is that you can try out different things and decide what you like and don’t like so I definitely encourage you to take a wide range of classes to find that out. Also summer internships and getting student jobs in your field will help you too. I got a student job working both in the publication department and web department at my college and that helped me figure out I wanted to specialize in interface/web design instead of print. (although now I dabble in print anyway haha)
For me, I am glad I got a design job at a large company before thinking about starting my freelance business. You can learn SO much that way that will then help you with your own business.
All that being said, sometimes you have to try things out before you know what you want to specialize in. For example, my sister and I recently helped a friend doing event design for her wedding. Through that experience, we decided we weren’t cut out to do wedding event design and planning! It’s a hard job and you got to LOVE it!
To answer your last question, I don’t think I would do anything different because it got me to where I am today. I love working for IBM Interactive because it allows me to work from home, work with big name clients, and get valuable portfolio work.
I hope that helps you! Good luck with school and deciding what you want to do! Believe me if it was easy, I wouldn’t have wrote this post!
Kelly, first off I’d just like to say I really enjoy your blog haha. I’ve never been one to surf the blogosphere, but yours is really awesome! Secondly, next fall I’ll be a freshman in college, and design is what I’m looking at in majoring in. It really put me at ease when I read this and saw that you struggle with what area to focus on because I definitely am having a tough time choosing. There’s way too many options, and I fear just being okay at a few things that great at one, just as you said. Anyway! I’m going to probably waste the night away looking at your blog and your beyond adorable family. Thanks for the inspiration!
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