There’s something romantic about the idea of doing art all day and actually making money from it. But, instead of hustling to sell each of our paintings, what if there was a stable job that gave you a regular paycheck for doing the art you love? Say hello to graphic design. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, working as a graphic designer might not be everything you’ve imagined it to be. So, is graphic design stressful? Or, is it the creative bliss you’ve always wanted?
Graphic design is stressful for those who struggle with merging their passions with their work. Your art is directed by the visions of other people, constricted by deadlines, and subjected to constant criticism. These factors don’t phase some people, but can make it stressful for others.
Like any job, being a graphic designer has its upsides and its downsides. That said, the goal of our professional lives is to settle into a career where the good outweighs the bad; a career where we feel like we can make a difference and enjoy the majority of the time we spend at work. Stressful, or creative bliss? Let’s talk about some factors that could put you on one side of the fence or the other.
Graphic Design Burnout vs. Career Growth
Job burnout is a huge issue. It’s a huge issue, even for people who love their jobs. But, there’s something unique going on if you burnout from your graphic design career:
You risk losing your passion for art overall, especially if you take on a stressful role.
It’s a big deal to turn your creative passion into a career. It’s the reason why a lot of artists decide not to pursue it.
Your Creative Inspiration vs. Your Boss’s Creative Mandates
When you sit down at your art table and create art for the joy of it, you get to let your imagination and creativity take the reins. Maybe you struggle with artist’s block Opens in a new tab. a bit, but at least you’re in the driver’s seat of your own work.
How would you feel if your art was mandated and directed by your boss? Or a full team of designers that have different visions and ideas of how to best represent your customers’ brands?
When you become a graphic designer, you have to let go of the “preciousness” of your art. The designs you create while you’re on the clock are in full service to the job you were hired for.
This doesn’t mean that you need to squash all of your creative inspiration. No, designers with the ability to think outside the box and bring fresh ideas to the table are highly valued and welcomed. That said, if your customer owns a toothpaste company and wants to target the nursing home population, you probably won’t get away with making a brochure full of fire breathing dragons and unicorns.
As a graphic designer, you will always need to put the needs of your boss and/or customers above your own creative impulses. Whether you’re a contractor and work for a number of different businesses, or find employment with one company, your art skills will need to fit into the goal you’ve been hired to meet.
Sometimes, this means you’ll be doing work you find to be really boring. Maybe you wouldn’t sit around making a toothpaste brochure in your own time, but it’s what’s on your to-do list for the day. Working within a larger company’s artist vision might mean that you’re making things that seem pretty dull and drab.
Other times, you’ll be asked to do things you’ve never done before and learn new design skills on the spot. Your boss may not know the intricacies of graphic design and ask you to do something that’s out of the realm of possibility. It’s important to be prepared to advocate for yourself, learn quickly, and understand the scope of your job.
So, is Graphic Design Stressful?
The answer to whether graphic design is stressful or not really comes down to your personality and your own tolerance for work related stress. It’s a job and, with all jobs, there’s always some degree of stress.
The reason this article focuses so heavily on the differences between a graphic design hobby and a graphic design career is because our human brains often fail to realize the difference between the two. Yes, we know the differences between hobbies and jobs, but as soon as we envision an artistic career as a graphic designer, all of that goes out the window.
If you’re interested in pursuing graphic design as a career, it WILL involve the art that you love, but it will also include the work stress that makes you cringe. Hopefully the sections above have shown you some of the differences you can expect when transitioning your graphic design hobby into a career.
If you’re interested in learning more about handling stress, I HIGHLY recommend Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress. It has made a huge difference in my own abilities to manage my own stress, especially relating to my profession. So much of our relationship with stress has to do with self-awareness and being in tune with our values.
Especially when pursuing artistic careers, it can be hard to separate who we are as creative people with what we’re asked to do at work. This makes the issue of stress all the more complicated. McGonigal is a great guide as you navigate through strategies for managing your stress and creating a meaningful life.
Whichever path you choose, keep designing and make great art!