This week we would like you to meet Graphic Designer Rebecca Blake.
1. What was the inspiration behind becoming a graphic designer?
As a child I was always active in art — I was one of those grubby kids always covered in clay or paint or charcoal dust. But I never took it seriously and in fact graduated from college as biology/German literature double major, with every intention to go to medical school. It wasn’t until I took an art class post graduation that I realized my hobby really should be my career. My older sister, probably appalled at the thought of her sibling squatting on street corners hawking chalk portraits, suggested that I consider studying graphic design. It was a perfect match. Design is well suited for people who love language and communication, who have wide-ranging interests, and who are balanced between left- and right-brain thinking,
2. What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
Oddly enough, it’s the projects I initially hate that I end up enjoying the most – the stalled website design, the logo project I completely blank out on, the brochure I can’t wrangle into any semblance of coherence. Over the past few years I’ve had the experience of having some of my most daunting, sleep depriving, panic inducing projects yield some of the best solutions. These projects have forced me to engage in a serious back-and-forth with the client. The process reveals so much about the client – information that goes much deeper than what the creative brief covers. The result is often a design that goes in an unexpected direction, but ultimately expresses so succinctly the message the client needs to convey.
3. Can you take us through your process, and elaborate on how long it lasts?
The process we follow is pretty typical for a design firm: an initial consultation, an estimate and a signed contract, a creative brief, followed by initial sketches or comps, a conference with the client to see which direction they’d like to go, followed by revisions and execution of the final design. If the project is a website, we include steps for user testing and browser testing as well. It’s difficult to say how long a project will take. A simple brochure or WordPress website (essentially an online brochure) can take a little as two to three weeks, whereas a large website with complex modules can take several months. Logos can also take deceptively long; I often find that clients need to live with the comps for a bit before proceeding to the next step.
4. What is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
There are two misconceptions that I bump up against: first, that graphic design is easy to do, and second, that graphic design is a cultural activity. Both feed into the trope of the graphic designer as a “starving artist” – talented but impractical, flighty, unreliable, and occupied in the creation of “pretty” things with little economic value. The truth is quite different: graphic designers and illustrators and other graphic artists create works of significant economic as well as cultural (and educational) value. This seems to be better understand in other countries (such as South Korea and Finland) which pursue national and regional design policies – government backed initiatives to support the design sector and incorporate design thinking into the business and public sector. Those policies generally use an entrepreneurial funding model; policies which rely on a grants-based funding model (derived from the misidentification of design as “cultural”) tend to fail, since the funding model is unsustainable.
5. What is your best piece of advice for fellow creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
Every graphic artist should educate themselves about copyright, learn how to register their work, and get in the habit of doing so. That’s a basic business skill. With copyright reform (such as the CASE Act) coming to fruition, it’s imperative that graphic artists know how to advocate for their interests: how government works, how a bill gets passed, how to communicate to their representatives, etc. It’s daunting to learn to do this on one’s own, so to that end, I’d advise a creator to become active with a trusted association – I’ve been active for years with the Graphic Artists Guild. I also think it’s important for graphic artists to engage with colleagues from other countries, and to understand how copyrights and intellectual property are viewed and treated internationally. I recently was elected to the board of ico-D, the International Council of Design, and the communication with my international colleagues has been illuminating. For example, in Indonesia, designers are forbidden from billing for an intangible service, such as a logo design; designers can only charge for the business card that design is printed on. When I learned this, it helped me understand why it has been so difficult for their design association to educate the public (let alone design students and policy makers) on the value of copyright.
In recognition of the 2018 World IP Day theme established by WIPO – Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity – we are honored to feature and support female creators during the month of April.