60-Seconds 306: What gave you the inspiration to become a graphic designer

by Fred Showker


Government Surveillance Reform In my previous 60-Seconds column I explained an event from my youth that inspired me into the graphic design field. I then asked readers what inspired them into the design fields. Some responses tumbled in, and I asked the same question in several of the LinkedIN groups which concentrate on graphic design. I got zero response in two of the groups, but one produced some good stories. Here are just a few selected comments from readers. Don't forget, I invite your contributions . . .


I went to art school because that was what I had decided to do when I was 8. I wanted to study painting but quickly realised, at art school, that wasnt going to earn me a living. Being fiercely independent and not wanting to have to rely on anyone, or ask anyone for money to buy things I needed like paint and canvases, I decided to specialise in Graphic Design. My thinking was there was more of a chance I would be able to support myself.
      I was happily correct! And have loved every minute of my graphic career! The best bit of it has been designing some fabulous magazines which I truly adored! And I still draw and paint - and do loads of other creative things like stained glass and metal work - and can afford to buy things I need for it! Joy, Happy Days! ;-)


I had known I wanted to be an artist as far back as my memory goes. I was going to art school...I was going to be a painter and sculptor. Then I found myself the single head of household with three children, looked around for a way to use the skills I had to make a living, sooner rather than later, and discovered graphic design.
      Graphic design turned out to be my passion. I found that I love the whole process of research, idea generating and the finishing. Going from loose and sketchy to more and more refined, working with clients, even difficult ones...it is all good. And what a time! I have seen the graphic design world go through this marvelous digital revolution where there is always something new to learn. It has been a great journey and I am loving every minute of it.


My very earliest memory of drawing is being sat with my Mother and drawing two very tall hills with a house on the top either side. (very simple in style obviously). When I now look at the work of Salford Artist LS LOWRY I wonder if that is where her influence came from.
      Then whilst at school I went to visit a 'commercial art' studio the term graphic design wasn't in use much back then. I loved the whole feel of the place, the drawing boards, art books, letraset, magic markers, cow gum, British Thornton drawing instruments, French curves the whole lot! - and the delight of producing hand lettering etc. -- and the aroma of the studio was just something else, It all added to the feel of being in a creative setting. Having said all of the above I still love my job today - with all the technology involved and as for missing that traditional feel etc, I now enjoy the painting drawing and sketching side even more. (both on and off the MAC).
      I am no doubt like many other people in our industry so very fortunate to love the career I entered - even though as we all know has its pressures at times.


I always enjoyed drawing and painting as a child, and in high school I decided I wanted to be an architect. For some strange reason, having strong math skills is important in architecture...something about buildings not falling down. Unfortunately, my math skills were not up to snuff, so there went that dream. So I decided the next best thing to being an architect was a graphic designer. I still get to use my creative talents, and I get to create something that never existed before. Oh, yeah, and no one gets hurt if my math is off a little. ;-)


Unlike most of those who have posted responses to this question, I have never believed I was artistic. I cannot paint or draw; I have never taken an art class. My only ventures into the world of art were playing the trumpet in the school band and photography.
      While working selling encyclopedias, I was unhappy with the printed materials we were using to generate sales leads, but I was unable to express what I wanted verbally. So I hired a typesetter (this is in the mid-70s) to put my words on a long roll of galley paper, and convinced her to let me use their light table, T-square, and wax machine to create a layout of what I wanted. They photographed it with their walk-in camera; I then took the large negatives to a printer. It was fun!
      Ten years later while looking to purchase a computer to do the books for my cookie company, the salesman demonstrated the new Mac-Plus using PageMaker 1.0. While watching him, I realized that I could do in less than an hour what had taken all day to do previously.
      After selling that company – and quickly spending all the money – I needed to return to work. So I purchased my first Mac and 'borrowed' a copy of PageMaker, attended graphic design classes in our local community college, read everything I could find on the subject, and essentially taught myself layout and design by duplicating layouts of magazines and other printed materials that I found attractive.
      I tell my friends that we graphic designers have all the "mystic" of an artist with none of the clean-up. I love what I do, but I now totally understand the concept of "starving artist." Sometimes I wish that I had gone to law school.

And on and on . . . It seems the Mac computer, and early brushes with talent started a lot of great and successful careers. So, what do you think? Do you have a story to tell? Can you inspire your fellow graphic arts practitioners? Can you help launch a new graphic designer? Please share your stories -- what inspired you into a visual graphic design career?

And, thanks for reading

Fred Showker

GO 60-Seconds #305: How hand lettering gave me the inspiration to become a graphic designer


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