In 1999, I earned a bachelor’s degree in the field of scientific and technical communications. That meant I possessed the basic education to pursue a career in technical writing. What is technical writing? Technical writing is a close cousin to graphic design. You know those user manuals (many of which are overly complex, too simplified, and confusing) that you receive with your new phone, kitchen appliance, or car? Those manuals were written by technical writers.
How many of those manuals have I written? Zero, none, nada. The degree program was awesome, but I never really saw myself actually having a career in that field. I won’t get into that story, but the experience was worth the effort and money I invested. No regrets.
Over the years, however, as either an independent contractor or employee I have designed logos, flyers, newsletters, websites, business cards, and most other types of marketing materials. And you know what I’ve learned during that time? People place so little value on graphic design and don’t have any idea about the time and skills required to produce quality design work.
I’ve seen businesses spend thousands and thousands of dollars on “capital improvements” and building additions to their corporate offices, yet scoff at paying a graphic designer $1,000 for a company logo (or website, etc…) which will take the designer 1-2 weeks to complete and be seen exponentially more times than those physical improvements. Not to mention, that same logo will most likely be printed on an infinite number of promotional materials and other products (of which the logo designer will see no royalties or additional income from). Then there’s the “could you just design us a creative and playful map featuring our city’s most famous landmarks … including this, that, and the other thing … so that we could use it as a cool graphic in our organization’s annual report … we can’t really afford to pay you anything, though, because we’re a non-profit … but your work will get a lot of exposure …” Lastly, there’s the fact that I’m not a mind reader, and the times I’ve fallen short of meeting clients’ or boss’ expectations have overshadowed all the successes I’ve ever had. Those projects suck the life out of me and become a total waste of time for everyone. There are plenty of successful graphic designers out there who have learned how to navigate this whole process, but I’m not one of them.
The long and the short of it is that as I get older and become more aware of the fact that I have a finite amount of time on this earth, I’ve recalibrated my approach to performing graphic design work for other people. Basically, I’m not interested in creating traditional marketing or branding materials. Like I previously mentioned, there are tons of graphic designers out there that are way more skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable about the art and science of graphic design than me. For example, if you want a fantastic logo for your business, contact Kody Chamberlain (one of my favorite comic book creators). The guy is a design genius and creates the cleanest and classiest logos and designs I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what he charges for his services, but he’s worth every penny of whatever he does ask.
So, where does that leave us? Below I’ve listed a bunch of stipulations, but in the spirit of keeping things simple I would say if your project focuses on outdoor education, history, storytelling, or other learning opportunities for the end-user I’m interested in hearing what you have in mind.
- I have a particular fondness for Lake Tahoe-related projects as Tahoe is my home and I enjoy learning about it. However, I am open to creating projects for other locations and subjects so long as those projects mostly are focused on education-based goals.
- I am not interested in projects that would be considered traditional marketing materials such as logos, business cards, letterhead, mailers, flyers, etc… However, I am open to creating newsletters as they generally revolve around stories and other education-related topics (keep in mind that those can be large projects, though—see my rates below).
- I am not interested in designing websites from scratch (I actually don’t have the software or skills to do so!), but if you choose to use WordPress (which utilizes relatively easy-to-use templates) I would be willing to assist you with customizing the site’s template and/or developing and preparing content for your website.
- I am not interested in long-term work (i.e. producing your weekly/monthly whatever-type project, designing your book from cover to cover, or working on a project that will take more than two weeks to complete). If you don’t believe me, know that I denied my own mother when it was time to design her book. And we’re both grateful that I did because the company that took the job spent the time required (that I didn’t have) to design a beautiful book. If you have a reoccurring large-scale project that’s being neglected, you need to either expand your workforce, farm it out to a college intern who needs the credit, or just let it go. However, as an option, I could help you develop some type of template for the project that would streamline the process so you could get it done in-house.
- Do not ask me to perform any work for you for free. This is non-negotiable. I apologize for being terse, but I’ve donated so much time and art (graphic design as well as fine art) over the years that I simply cannot afford to do it anymore. I have to pay my bills like everyone else.
- My rate is $200/day.
- Projects that require very little research or only include one unique element (illustration, photograph, or other graphic that I will need to design from scratch) will often take a day to complete. See the Lake Tahoe, CA, posters I’ve created as an example of this type of project.
- Projects that require a minimal amount of research and/or a couple of unique elements (illustrations, photographs, or other types of graphics that I will have to create from scratch) will take 1-3 days. See the Tahoe Swag “Hike Lake Tahoe” or “Cross-Country Ski Lake Tahoe” stickers I’ve created as an example of this type of project.
- Projects that require a moderate amount of research and/or multiple unique elements (illustrations, photographs, or other types of graphics that I will have to create from scratch) will usually take between 3-5 days to complete. See the Tahoe Trail Guide infographics or the Faux Vintage Lake Tahoe Map I’ve created as examples of this type of project.
- Projects that require extensive research, lots of writing, and multiple visual elements that I’ll have to create from scratch will most likely take more than five days to complete. See the newsletters I created for one of my previous employers as an example.