I’m not a 100% self-taught designer, but I am far from the prodigy, “I-know-what-I’m-doing-since-I-was-four” type either. I went to an elite design school in Manila, Philippines as a last resort (I failed to get into a Creative Writing course at another top university). Anyway, shortly right after design school, I jumped on from one job to the other. Often wearing multiple hats, I’ve become absolutely comfortable climbing the classic corporate route — lived from paycheck-to-paycheck, wasted weekends traveling locally to “escape” my string of miserable jobs design school didn’t prepared me for. To be fair, it was probably my fault — I wasn’t taking myself seriously enough back then.
I lived for the fun, and the temporary joys I clumsily likened to “living my life to the fullest” without a second thought of what it actually means. Being the late bloomer, I felt it was my responsibility to make up for lost times. I wasn’t sociable for a great portion of my teenage years. It was only in my early 20’s that I’ve actually learned how to function and talk like a normal young adult. Of course, I wasn’t going to let that new found skill go to waste.
In hindsight, I probably should have spent my time on more fulfilling stuff like careers, further education et cetera. But hey, I was a kid. I was a kid, and I wanted to have fun. Those travels did took me places, literally and spiritually and a lot of those things turned into stories today. If I have any regret at all, it’s allowing myself to care — for the longest time, about how everything looks like from the outside. Nothing I did back then impressed anyone, and it frustrated the hell out of me.
Perhaps enough to conclude that I was not fulfilling my best potentials.
I wasn’t the writer I thought I was going to be back in high school — when it was the only thing that was going for me.
I wasn’t the artist I pretended to be.
I wasn’t half the person I was being compared to by family members — those who knew of multiple kids my age who were on their way to being doctors, lawyers et cetera.
I was 24, 25 and my design career was a bust.
Until advertising — I accidentally got into the innovation/digital team of huge Philippine-based International ad agency that built major brands in and out of the country. It was then that I first got my real wake up call and made me question my actual worth as a designer, thinker and a valuable member of the organization any ad nerds would kill to get into.
Looking back, it wasn’t the easiest of experiences. (No life changing ones are, to be completely honest) I had to do the dirtiest, the lowest of tasks for a designer already armed with a 6-year of professional experience then. I had no prior awards or recognitions or anything substantial that was worth taking seriously. Obviously, I started at the bottom, doing some crazy gifs and Facebook ads at 1 in the morning, eating scary rejection emails for breakfast, and getting the same cycle of production work come lunch. I wanted to be an Art Director so badly but there I was: cleaning psd files, magically producing digital content, and knocking out every single production work that falls on my cubicle. Not fun, but it certainly was a fruitful, and an incredibly humbling job experience. It grounded me, and destroyed my ego in the best and worst ways possible. It was the kind of learning I knew I couldn’t get anywhere else, one I would forever be thankful for, simply because it introduced me to the concept of the underdog.
Production designers are modern day design heroes and I was the queen of those underdogs, I used to say. And boy, did I took the underdog card to heart — even until this day.
I did all of that for the thrill of a career upgrade, and once again, for proving another point — to which, now that I think about it, I’ve built my whole career upon. Whether or not that is ideal, it has been very good to me.
To say that I’ve had an eventful two years since then is certainly an understatement. But I can write about it on another post. This post is about the sins of my design past that I hope to wash out by moving forward, and making use of the skills I’ve learned throughout this crazy freaking journey I call my career as a designer. A thinker with the heart of a production designer, at that.
(As of writing, I still check production-ready files.)
I also just want to say that it’s really tricky to find people who values the same things as you do. It won’t come easy, and there will be days, or even years of drought, and of absolute loneliness from standing by an idea (or two) that may seem crazy to everyone else but you, and yet you couldn’t find the heart to just let it go so you will be forced to seek support and wisdom elsewhere — New York City, in my case. ;)
Kid — if you know exactly what I am talking about, don’t give up. Don’t succumb to the voices that say you suck, and you’re good for nothing. Seek elsewhere, or better yet — be your own personal cheerleader. Trust me, there’s no one with better style to do so. When it comes full circle, you would thank yourself for doing those things no-one would really clap for and there’s nothing in the world more satisfying than that.
I consider this post as a closure — I’ve already said goodbye to advertising, after all. For now? Who knows.
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