Monday, December 29, 2014

The Designer’s Identity Crisis

Who I’m I? I often ask myself this question. Some days, I feel incredibly lucky to not only be a multidisciplinary designer but to also have skills in web development. Other days, I worry that by not having that one exclusive design area to focus on means that I’m limited and that really I may just be a jack of all trade. As a perfectionist, I don’t like thinking that I’m ‘just good’ at what I do, I like to be the best.

This is a topic which I don’t talk about often but now that I have started accepting who I am, I feel it’s a good time to be open about it in the hope that it may help other young designers who may feel confused in the way that I did with the pressure of the design industry to find a specialism.

I went to university to study graphic design in year 2000. Back then, I was taught that in order to survive the competitive world of design, I must choose an area to specialise in. It makes complete sense to me at the time so I chose editorial design which happened to be where I was getting the best grades at. I was focused, I managed to get a work placement at The Big Issue in Manchester which was fantastic, I was no longer designing made-up projects and my design work got published for the first time ever!

Then after graduation, it suddenly hit me that unless I relocated to London, my editorial design career would never go as far as I wanted to take it. I wasn’t willing to leave my family and friends behind especially since I felt I was finally home after living away for three years. So with no plans, I applied for any and every job in the area that mentioned ‘design’. I followed the wind from job to job absorbing and sculpting the range of skills that I have today. I’ve been an artworker, a graphic designer, a packaging designer, a web designer as well as a web developer working on an array of projects for both small and blue-chip companies. I knew I was going against the grain… I was becoming an all-rounder but it was difficult to move away from it. The companies that hired and approached me liked the fact that I was an all-rounder, others didn’t think I was experienced enough in the one area that they wanted to recruit me for.

Although I was getting a lot of attention for my work through online galleries that wanted to feature my work, I still lacked confidence and felt a little ashamed of my experience. All my designer friends seemed to have clear career paths and they were heading up the ladder whereas I was flitting from one ladder to the next. Then one day it happened, the web design industry opened its’ arms and finally I was accepted – I was a sole web designer and I had the job title to prove it. Finally, I’m specialising in something and that something was web design!

That was a few years ago and although I am still a web designer today, I still undertake a lot graphic design and web development work. I enjoy working on every project regardless whether it is for print or web, design or development. So when it comes to crafting my skills in all the areas of design that I practice in, I work incredibly hard and thrive to be ‘the best’ at them all. Yes it’s more difficult to keep yourself up to date when there are so many areas to focus on but when you feel so passionate about what you do, it really is easy.

Having a multitude of skills is a gift and something I have learnt to become proud of. Do I recommend people to follow my footsteps? Hell no, it’s one hell of a long journey. If there is one area of design that you want to specialise in then go for it but just don’t close the door to everything else. Keep learning, keep challenging yourself but more importantly, you need to learn to love your own work.

So who I’m I?

I’m Mandy Wong and I specialise in graphic, web and identity design. Wait… my name isn’t Wong, it’s Wong Oult… oh forget it!

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