Not every aspect of a graphic design career is stressful. Designers get to create, brainstorm, iterate, and work with other creatives to build beautiful things. But a lot of that, unfortunately, can be pretty stressful. Overall, the reasons why graphic design is a stressful career is because of the deadlines, creative demands, feelings of inadequacy, technical limitations, and clients. Here’s what I mean.
One of the most complained about aspects of any design career is the deadlines. We are often given unrealistic deadlines that are downright panic inducing. This is the case in most companies and even when working as a freelance designer. Here are some reasons why deadlines cause designer’s stress:
- Too often, the people setting up deadlines (managers, sales team, CEOs) have no idea how long a project really takes. They ballpark a deadline to the client and we are stuck with it.
- Design clients are notorious for needing things ASAP. For example, They might realize they need new business cards for tomorrow or they need a different landing page in the next hour. You get the idea.
2. A Constant Need For Creativity
This one hits at the very nature of what it means to be in a creative career. We constantly need to be creative; not just in the visuals we create but in the problems we solve. That consistent need for creativity really takes a toll on us both physically and mentally. It means that we often hate the work we create; deeming it ‘not creative enough’ or spend too much overtime trying to think up the next great idea when we’re already burned out.
3. Imposter Syndrome
This is something all designers struggle with at some point. Imposter syndrome is a sort of conscious belief that you are, well, an imposter. That you have no real talent and you’ve only got this far in your career on sheer luck. For a long time I thought I was the only designer who felt like this, but it turns out we all do. At some point, every designer thinks they don’t measure up. There are so many talented designers in the world, and we can see their work everywhere on social media. This is great for inspiration, but it can also unfortunately lead us into thinking our own talents aren’t up to par.
4. Technical Troubles
If you’ve ever spent all day at your desk working hard but never actually getting anything done, you’re familiar with this one. Sometimes technology works against you. A scenario: Let’s say you can’t get an email to send to a client because a link is too big. So you try to send it as a .zip file. Still to big. Okay, how about Google Drive. It uploads for 30 minutes then you send the client a URL. The client can’t access it. Whoops, you forgot the URL is set to private. Fixed that.
Next, the client calls asking how to open the file. You spend the next hour talking them through what program they need to view the file and how to install it. When they finally see it, they want to change everything. You end the call and immediately go to make the changes. Halfway through your computer freezes completely and shuts down. At least you saved.
With your computer back on you open the file. It crashed in the middle of saving and now the file is corrupt. Wonderful.
I think clients are one of the bigger reasons why graphic design is a stressful career. Clients can stress you out for a number of reasons; some so absurd they’re impossible to prepare for. Sometimes it’s that they don’t like your work, they’re unhappy with the bill, or maybe they want you to work for free. I’ve had clients demand endless design revisions based on suggestions from every single member of their family. There have been other clients who were unhappy with everything given to them, and others who were only happy with a design when they were standing behind my desk dictating what to do.
In Summary, Graphic Design is a Stressful Career
Now I can’t really compare the level of stress that graphic designer’s face with many other occupations, though I assume it’s far less stressful than being a cop or firefighter. However, I can tell you that graphic design becomes much less stressful the longer you do it. Eventually, you will get good at managing deadlines and expectations, brainstorming and creativity, and dealing with both ever-changing technology and clients. You’ll also eventually break through your imposter syndrome. Or so I’ve heard.
Do you think graphic design is a stressful career? What parts are the most stressful? Is there anything you would add to this list of reasons why graphic design is a stressful career? Let me know in the comments below!
If you want to learn more about the stuff they don’t teach designers in school, check out Burn Your Portfolio by Michael Janda. It’s one of my favorite design books because it really prepares designers for working in the industry in a way that no other book does.
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