The industry as seen by top designers.
How Designers Must Cope with a Changing
Diversify, improve, and maintain standards.
by Michelle Temares (April 4, 2005)
(Note: Recently CLN has reported on the changes in
design trends, particularly those attempting to attract a younger
consumer to crafts, needlework, painting, etc. In light of those
changes, we asked Michelle Temares, one of the industry's most
successful and thoughtful designers, for advice on how designers can
You asked what I think it takes to survive today as a designer.
From my experience, there are two keys: diversity and skill.
I have met designers, and particularly illustrators (my
specialty), working in every category imaginable ranging from school
text book illustration to vending machine art to illustration for
McDonald's Happy Meals to private portrait work to more traditional
categories such as advertising art and book illustration.
But all agree on the same principle: diversify or die. The days
of saying "Well, I'm an advertising illustrator only" are
over. Or in the case of the creative leisure industry, "I'm a
needlework designer only."
Get work where you can, turn down bad paying assignments and
assignments with bad terms, and supplement as needed. Those middle
two points are key. If the job pays very little, why do you want it?
If you need the money, it's better to go work at the local
department store or eatery than to devalue your work and your own
feelings of self worth.
In the 90s, I watched many illustrators sell work for very little
or for unreasonable copyright arrangements because they were scared.
The digital age and clip art was rampant and clients felt that good
design was not worth paying much for. "Doesn't the computer do
everything? Can't you just press a button and make it appear?"
But the computer cannot create. It can only respond to human
creativity. Smart clients have learned not to have their product
lines corrupted and devalued by "me too" art. Design is
truly a get-what-you-pay-for proposition.
On the flip side, designers cannot afford to be mediocre or
unprofessional. Design and illustration have gotten more
sophisticated and more competitive and will continue to do so. Work
I sold ten years ago I would never be able to sell now. I am
continually working on my skills including daily drawing practice,
participation in a professional level critique group, and part-time
pursuit of a Master's in Illustration.
I know that there are many out there who are as good as or better
than I am, so I have to constantly strive to improve as well as seek
ways to serve my clients more efficiently and effectively.
This really just covers the tip of the iceberg. I offer seminars
on how to make it as a designer that are usually filled to capacity
and participants walk away with both a new perspective and concrete
tools for success.
Don't let fear of failure define who you are as a designer.
Instead, seek out educational and professional opportunities that
will teach you what you need to succeed and prosper. Find out who
you are and build your career on that knowledge. The rest will
follow. I promise.
(Note: To contact Michelle, email email@example.com.
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