The dreams of graphic designers can be very interesting as well unintentionally revealing. I speak from personal experience. Let me tell you about an episode and then you can make of what you will, and perhaps apply the lesson to your own life as a designer and human being.
During one exceptionally busy time some years ago, when I used to manage the design and pre-press department of a local printing company, we got a hold of a then-new but very troublesome direct-to-plate laser printer. The boss was very excited about the addition to the department, and was convinced that for spot color budget jobs not requiring more anything than 133 lpi, it would be great. Well, it was great in concept but no so great on execution, the product being so new and quite hard to configure correctly.
Without going into great detail about the technical difficulties I encountered getting this machine to play nicely with the rest of our Apple ecosystem, I’ll jump right to the dream sequence. Anyone who has struggled with printer drivers for expensive niche printing products may well know what kind of painful experience getting something new to work right, all the time, can be.
So, the dream: I was trying to get a job to print on this new machine. I could see the lights blinking, hear the sound of printer motors and gears working up and winding down, and smell that familiar hot-electric smell of static charges and hot plastic. But no print. But then, in the strange ways that dreams let you do things, I could suddenly see inside the printer. Then I could see out of the printer from inside the printer. That little sliver of daylight was my goal – to get out through that horizontal opening just ahead, just beyond the paper rollers and dust skirt. I finally made it out of the printer, as it were in dreamland, into my waiting hands now that I was me again, outside the printer. But then, I looked in dismay at the output. After all that waiting, struggling, stressing, and finagling, I was in fact not the image I thought I was going to be. Yes, I was the designer but I was also the finished output on paper, however those things happen. I in fact was not a hi-res TIFF. I really thought I was press-ready! Instead, after all that work, I was simply a lo-res TIFF, a proxy-image, an FPO — just an EPS preview image. There was no more time — I had to go to press as-is. I was lo-res. I fooled myself and everyone around me. Boy, would my boss be mad, and so would the anxious client with the deadline. I was a fraud.
And then I awoke.
I was immediately depressed! I had to get up and go to work and confront that stupid machine who had invaded my dreams and assaulted my self-worth!
Well, there is a happy ending. I mastered that stupid machine. We got excellent quality, low-cost direct-to-plate vinyl output that saved our department and company a good deal in labor and expenses.
What is the moral of the story? I don’t want to get too philosophical, but there is a lessons for designers in all this: don’t give up. When a project, client, computer, printer, vendor, or whatever gives you a hard time, just keep on going. You’ll eventually figure it out if you don’t quit. Most people don’t know how hard being a designer is, nor what goes into the daily grind of a typical designer. We are a multi-faceted, multi-talented, multi-tasking, and multi-tempered lot, us designers. From technical issues to personality conflicts to creative blocks, we deal with a wider variety of challenges on a daily basis than many other professions.
Remember, as a designer, it’s easy to get beat down at times, and be tempted to think you are nothing but a lo-res TIFF, a scanner preview image, an inkjet draft, a watermarked FPO stock photo image, an overly compressed JPG from the web, or even (gulp) a clipart of an outdated computer monitor from the Corel Draw “freebies” CD. But don’t you believe it. Each one of us is a masterpiece, no matter what the printer says.