The Day Job

Raise the flag. Sound the trumpets. Light the beacons. Put the kettle on. I have returned.

My friends, I apologise for being away so long. Rather than making a start on all the grovelling and forgiveness-begging I am due, I have instead decided to jump straight back in with an actual post. In light of what’s been keeping me stressful in absentia,1 I thought it might be interesting prudent to tell you all about what I actually do.

I am a trained and qualified Graphic Designer. Whenever I tell people this, I get a nod, and sometimes a ‘ah OK’, because whilst everybody has heard of the job title, nobody really knows what it means.

Put simply; it is visual communication. It’s storytelling using pictures. If people realised how obvious this is we would not be able to charge the prices that we do. I am exceptionally lucky in that I am able to exercise my creative muscles on a daily basis and call it a career, and in many ways am really taking the piss by not being content with that and writing a humour blog and a sitcom on the side.

You will be pleased to know, however, that my career is yet another source of crippling insecurity on a daily basis. I have a cycle of worries regarding my job that go a little something like this:

***

 I worry that as a ‘visual person’ I am at heart tremendously superficial.

I indulge my other interests to become a fully-rounded, well-adjusted, multi-faceted, overly-adjectified person: write things, read things, see stand-up, buy records, attract hot babes, etc.2

I worry that I am neglecting my career.

I buy expensive design books and start another ‘portfolio enhancing project’ like a poster series or animation.

 I remember I am supposed to have some sort of social life.

 I call up a friend, they ask what I’ve been up to and I say ‘nothing’.

I take a long look at my life.

I worry I am worrying too much about everything.

I realise I’ve wasted too much time already worrying about worrying about worrying.

I go back to work to make up for lost time.

Repeat ad infinitum.

***

As well as this, design is a thankless job. It’s comparatively well-paying as a career, but this is a fair trade for the endless extra hours you will work (for no overtime) because the client wants it ‘amended’ (changed entirely) and sent back before the end of the day. ‘I’m sorry the display is exactly as dictated the agreed brief but you don’t like it anyway, I’ll just work another eight hours tonight (not an exaggeration) for your benefit for free.’ And yes I’m passive-aggressively hinting at YOU, property magnate in Manchester.

Because the nature of a good chunk of design is ephemeral (so slick you don’t notice it’s there – sometimes I don’t know why I bother) there isn’t a lot of respect for it as a usage of one’s time. My nan doesn’t think it’s a ‘real’ job, and thinks I’m an artist. This is inaccurate, and a little demeaning to both myself and any artists who might be reading this; artists express themselves, whilst designers express things on behalf of other people, and thus are at once creatively active and stifled, like a neutered dog in heat.

That said, I am uncomfortable calling myself a ‘creative’, even though it’s what I do all day every day. It sounds to me like one of those adjectives that is bestowed upon you by other people3, and is increasingly very difficult to quantify. Anyone with an Instagram app will call themselves a photographer, anyone who owns Photoshop will call themselves a designer and anyone who’s been on Cracked.com and read something about fonts will shout ‘Comic Sans! LOL’ and call themselves a typographer.

It’s a shame that these once-respected avenues of expression are being eroded by trivialisation. Typography, as a subject is quite fascinating; there’s so much consideration in making content readable and inflected with the right ‘feel’, and there’s some genuinely interesting things to be learnt.

Gill Sans

You’ve got to draw a line somewhere and it might as well be between your dog and your third daughter…

And whilst we’re on the subject, can we all get over the Comic Sans bashing? It was funny at one point but now it’s just sad. It’s been kidnapped by that odd group of people who mercilessly hate something and pretend it’s taste, like they did when Lynn Truss brought out ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’.

Comic Sans

I don’t really have a problem with Bieber, although his music isn’t my ‘thing’ – he’s very responsible and well-adjusted for someone at his level of fame. What I DO have a problem with is hype. If you’re a Belieber and you’re offended by this message, please consider that any resentment either of us may feel is entirely your fault. So there.

I got into graphic design because, like many of you here, I wanted to tell stories, and one day I hope to get out of it, for the same reason. I love the work – obviously – it’s exhilarating, but it’s a far from easy life, and there’s a reason why I have this other creative outlet here. If you should ever find yourself (and if you want it, I hope you do) in a situation where your income is a direct reflection of the frequency and quality of your ideas, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Allow me to sign off as the ungrateful prick I am clearly becoming. I’m off to have my cake, eat it, then take a chunk out of the hand that feeds. I reckon humble pie will be on the menu too.

Rant over. Bon appetit.


1 Good name for a bad song, that.

2 One of these is a deliberate lie, just to see if you’re paying attention. Answers on a postcard.

3 To illustrate my problem with these sort of words, I’ll use it in a sentence; ‘Oh no, I couldn’t possibly get a job and contribute to society, I am a creative.’

Here W-Ego Again…

There are two things in this world that I can’t stand: arrogance and pretension.

By the way, welcome back to my awesome blog that’s all about me and and is my superb creative outlet for all my important, interesting problems.

I am here today to apologise for my absence. The Day Job demanded that I give it my undivided attention for six weeks or so, and I obeyed. I logged out of my WordPress account because y’all are too interesting, and hence distracting.1

Anyway, I write to you today in humbleness. This is a problem because I’ve actually spent the last six weeks working on something rather special and brilliant and I’d like to tell you all about it.

Now, I’ve done some comparatively awesome things in my short career. Many of them would be unappreciated outside of the industry, a few of them (TV work mainly) are limited to being impressive in this country, but the one so impressive and intense I’ve had to stop blogging for is for the BBC.

Before you get excited, I was doing visual work for the radio arm of the BBC. My next project will be a nationwide ad campaign for chocolate teapots.2

That said, the work (still not finished, by the way) is currently being very well received and one finished component is circulating the Beeb’s social networking outlets. I made the BBC’s Official Youtube Channel. I feel that this is legitimately quite cool.3

Cactus

This is as much as I can show. This shelved cactus is such a minor feature that it didn’t even get paid an appearance fee for it’s trouble.

***

Now, I can’t abide bragging, but if there was ever a time to get into it, that time is now; however, I can’t really talk about it in any further detail without giving my identity away. My secrecy is something I feel is important to this blog, as I would probably share much less if I thought someone could trace my tender side back to the real me.

What this means instead, is that whilst I want to tell the world that I’ve done something I’m actually proud of, I can’t provide details, and so am limited to saying ‘I am awesome’, which makes my skin crawl. Part of me wants to numb it by instead suggesting that ‘I am quite good at something’, but newcomers to this here blog would still see that as arrogance, as they would not have the benefit of context.

What this work has enabled me to do, aside from enhance my portfolio, pay the bills, and make in-roads towards a career-move to television, is to finally blog about perhaps my biggest overarching anxiety – the fear of being seen as a pompous, self-important prick. It took something awesome for me to be able to say ‘I am awesome, but I only think I’m alright. So don’t hate me.

I find myself going out of my way to appear humble, and to appeal to people’s better nature, perhaps because I have always been a ‘beta male’. I know full well the extent of my talents, and am well aware that I have many faults and failings and have much to learn.4 I can’t look at any of my work without seeing faults, for example. ‘Perfectionism’ is a somewhat dirty word,5 but high standards for oneself are a double-edged sword. I would like to say that I’m my own worst enemy, but I imagine that by saying that I would tempt fate into providing me with a arch-nemesis. Actually, I’d love an arch-nemesis. I’m my own worst enemy.

What I hope you understand, is that I don’t intend to let this success change me. and for all of my achievements I am, in actuality, vehemently uncool. I am but one wisp of a man struggling against the winds of time, and cosmically speaking, I am next to nothing. I am flattered that you all think my thoughts are worth reading, and I that you feedback to me with comments is currently both a cause for delight and burning shame.

***

Fortunately for my schedule/sanity, I never promised a post a week or anything like that, but the thought of not posting once per month is unacceptable to me. I have, however, procrastinated even in this simple act, and am noticeably posting on the last possible day in September, to keep a promise I made as recently as the start of this paragraph. I’m a fool to myself.

I hope to be blogging regularly again by mid-October. I will keep this promise because guilt is my best motivator. There’s a raft of ‘material’ I need to take forward and give structure to, which I’m particularly excited by and hopefully will be lauded to the high heavens as self-indulgence of the highest order ‘good’. I believe this is what’s known as a teaser.

My apologies once again for leaving you in this chasmic lurch. I will respond to any and all comments the moment this work is signed off.

My thanks to the few new folks who’ve followed recently, I’m so sorry for being neglectful, especially as many of you are WordPress heavyweights. What on Earth must you think of me?6 I will read up on blogs old and new as soon as possible.

Please bear with me, I’ll see you soon.


1 That’s right, I referred to you all as ‘y’all’. Evidently interacting with the Americas has its side-effects.

2 The first project I did at University that earned me industry attention genuinely involved selling ice to eskimos. One day I hope to design something sensible.

3 In the interest of full disclosure, the video has four dislikes, which means that legitimate coolness is either not for everyone, or that my work is neither legitimate nor cool, which would be a colossal waste of my time. I hate Youtubers.

4 Whilst I’m not petulant/stupid/a fourteen-year-old enough to self-diagnose myself from Wikipedia, there’s a psychological phenomenon I may be somewhat privy to called ‘The Impostor Syndrome’ which feeds self-doubt into the assumption that you’re actually a fraud, and that your inevitable unmasking is only moments away. This is a tortuously unpleasant way to live your life, and yet I appear to have described it in a manner similar to an episode of Scooby-Doo, which if anything just reveals that this writer/humorist schtick is similarly hokum.

5 Not as dirty as ‘boobies’, though.

6 Probably a stream of profanities according to taste, followed – somewhat ironically – by the word ‘unfollowed!’

Taxi Banter

My job is supercool. I am in a taxi with a package full of money, on my way to meet a mysterious stranger at an undisclosed location. I feel like a disposable henchman in a Bond film. I wonder how I’m going to be dispatched, and if I’ll have enough consciousness to catch the inevitable tortuous pun…

To spoil the surprise, the money is £500 in pound coins, and I am going to get them photographed. This is even less glamourous than I expertly lead you to believe in the first paragraph because the coins are in a big pink bucket.

The company is currently doing a campaign for a bank, and the posters will feature structures built out of coins, and for that we need to build and take photos of them. We’re literally made of money.

It is about 9:20 in the morning, and I’ve withdrawn this money from the bank and dashed into a waiting taxi. It feels like an elaborate espionage mission and I am pretty chuffed about it.

After the taxi driver takes down the postcode of my rendezvous, he sets off through the city centre.

‘What’s that you’ve got there?’ he asks.

‘It’s a big pink bucket full of five hundred £1 coins,’ I reply.

‘What’s that for? Making a deposit?’

I try to have a joke with him.

‘No, it’s a ransom. I’m going to meet some thieves. They stole my iPhone.’ I hold up my iPhone for illustrative purposes.

‘Oh,’ he replies, my excellent joke falling flat on it’s stupid face.

I opt instead for the truth; ‘I’m a designer,’ I say, ‘and we’re rebranding a bank. These are for a photoshoot.’

‘Oh,’ he replies.’

This is clearly going nowhere. The set of circumstances currently being undertaken in this vehicle are thoroughly interesting, and if you’ve got nothing to say to that, let’s give up and sit in silence.

We pull up at a set of traffic lights, and he turns to me as if to say something. Oh Christ, is he an illegal minicabber, about to stab me for my bucket of coins? Or maybe he’s a kidnapper; my earlier jape accidentally alerting him that I might know too much, and as such must be silenced? Or is he a marketing hating nutter who’s about to lampoon me for all the myriad ills involved in my profession?

Nothing happens. He just looks at me. I think I might have blushed.

It dawns on me that he is probably only craving a bit of company. He seems a sweet, shy, possibly lonely old man, obviously inviting me to start a conversation.

I pretend to do a double take, flash a warm smile and ask him the first question I can think of, which happens to be what time he started, and inwardly flinch as I realise I am now officially as interesting as Peter Kay.

‘Seven,’ he replies, but in a tone of voice that implies he wants me to continue this banal line of inquiry. It’s like blood from a bloody stone this…1

I can feel the shame burning the back of my throat as my voicebox coughs up the sentence ‘What time are you on ‘til?’

‘Two.’

‘Any interesting bookings happening today?’

‘You’re the most exciting so far.’ You’re damn right I am!

‘Any good cabbie stories?’

‘Nope.’

Well, this is supremely awkward. About a minute passes, and I pretend that I can’t hear the uncomfortable silence over the sound of the engine. I get my phone out and pretend to organise a business call but I actually text my friend Luke about last night’s TV. Luke doesn’t text back.

***

I get to the secret location. It is a building. I wave a cheery goodbye to my silent chauffeur and enter. The photographer is a pretty native Scandinavian girl who has just moved to the UK. I tell her that this is but one of my buckets of money, but I don’t think she understands I am joking. This is unfortunate because if she was impressed I would have to withdraw all my savings and put it in buckets to maintain her trust. I shut my face, and the rest of the shoot passes without incident.

On the way back, I have a different taxi driver, who tells me that everyone except him, including me, is the worst word in the world.2

He proceeds to tell me that I’m worth more to him dead than alive, because alive I am only an £8.00 cab fair whereas if I am killed in an accident in his vehicle I am worth £250,000. He punched his sat-nav because he ignored it and got lost. He is not a nice man. I want the old guy back.


1 This may have been a poor choice of words.

2 Runny poo-head.

The Award

Good news! In my day job as a designer, a piece of work what I done has been nominated for a prestigious award. I won’t bore you with the details, since you certainly didn’t come here to read about my successes, because success isn’t funny. The ceremony is about a month away, and will be proper good. My invite is in email form and arrive in my inbox with a cheery ‘ping.’ A quick scan-read displays a warm note of congratulations and – hang on…

Everyone will be able to bring a plus one with them to enjoy the evening. We will need to know the name of your guest as soon as possible and also if either of you have any dietary requirements. 

Ah, the plus-one. Cruelest of the social customs, continuously darkening the days of any single person lucky enough to receive one. Nothing else has the same duality of meanings; combining a reminder of your inevitable solitude whilst chiding you about what ideals you should be conforming to.

What to do? Do I resign myself to the disdain of the inviter by telling the truth? Or do I tell a white lie, leaving the option open for me to meet someone and to bring them along? (And I’m well aware this forms the plot of an one of the two episodes of How I Met Your Mother that I’ve seen.)

Also, let’s just take that sentence in isolation for a second; ‘Everyone will be able to bring a plus one with them to enjoy the evening’. What does this imply? That I will be unable to enjoy the evening if I don’t have a plus one? Am I to infer that a plus one is expected of me, and that everybody else there will have a beau-in-tow, everyone in comfortable company, save for me and the staff? Is this how the night will end? Alone, skulking in the shadows, weeping into the vol-au-vents?

The invite is genderless, leaving room for the possibility that I might be homosexual, (I’m not, no matter what the graffiti in the toilet says) but perhaps I could wilfully misinterpret it and bring a friend? ‘Good evening, thank you for this honour, I wouldn’t be here tonight without my friend Dave, who is as repulsively single as I am. He didn’t do anything towards the work, but I did have a plus one, and he was the only person whom I could guarantee wouldn’t be busy necking. I literally wouldn’t be here without him because he drove. Cheers.’ I won’t invite a friend, that would be social death. And if there are any single young ladies there, whichever friend I bring will inevitably be more attractive to them.

I could possibly appease the expectant hosts whilst simultaneously avoiding an awkward romantic experience by being accompanied by a lady-friend. Almost all my female friends are in relationships, mainly with my male friends.1 It would be very uncomfortable to invite a lady-mate and not her beau, simply because a female companion is expected of me. I imagine the evening with the beautiful Jemma, an artist, and long-term girlfriend to my very good friend Adam. She’d get something out of the night as well, making connections within the industry and advancing her own career, but the night would inevitably end with;

‘Well that went well, thanks for coming, Jem.’

‘That’s alright, I’ve hopefully got a few commissions out of it. What happens now?’

‘I don’t know, what do you and Adam normally do?’

‘Go back to the hotel and snuggle.’

‘We aren’t going to do that are we?’

[Long pause]… We totally aren’t friends any more.’

And thus I lose both Jem and Adam.

I spoke to another two of my friends about this dilemma; Martin and Joe. They both agreed that this was the ideal opportunity to invite a pretty stranger to a posh do.

‘How the hell do I go about that, Joe?’ I scoffed.

‘Well’, he replied, ‘you start talking to a girl you like in a bar, get to know her over the course of a few weeks, then casually slip in that you have this cool thing to go to and ask her if she’d like to come with.’

Martin has sadly recently come out of his second two-year relationship, and has a knack for attracting incredibly suitable women. (That doesn’t sound like a compliment but it is; Martin gets it so right it’s almost suspicious.) Joe’s relationship is nearing it’s one-year mark, but prior to his current girlfriend, the lovely Bethy, a five-year relationship became an engagement. These two gentlemen seem to know what they’re doing. Regardless, they piss all over anything I’ve done, and are well placed to offer advice.

That said, Joe is talking out of his arse. If I’m bothered enough to write a blog by an email simply assuming that by my age I would be in some kind of relationship, then I’m certainly not the sort of person to chat a lady up in a bar.

I don’t really go to bars, and when I do, I go with friends and rarely talk to strangers. I find it difficult to believe that relationships spark in bars at the rate they seem to in films, as (1) This is real life, not a sitcom, (2) This is Britain, where such contact is actively discouraged and punishable by a £10 fine and (3) Considering how loud you have to shout to get your order in, it’s impossible for the subtleties of flirty conversation to be heard. If the entertainment industry was true-to-life, all fledgeling romances would be punctuated every other line with people shouting ‘WHAT!?’ into each others ears.

At what point during the conversation do I mention that I’m an award winner? My career choice is important to me; I studied and worked hard to get where I am and I’m very lucky to have as good a job as I do, and this is quite likely to be a key conversational point. Should I bring it up early, and be honest about it, or keep it modestly in reserve? Is there a chance that she’ll be impressed only by the award, and tag along to be able to hobnob with the (design) elite? Should I not mention it at all in favour of establishing a genuine connection? Why doesn’t this paragraph have a joke in it yet? Monkey bollocks.

The ceremony is about four weeks away, even assuming I meet someone I like, four weeks is a short time to get to know someone enough to know if they’re worth inviting. It is however, just long enough for a girl to get to know me enough to learn that no amount of award ceremonies are worth being romantically associated with me.

Also; what if choose wrongly and get chatting to someone with the personality of a flannel, or worse, a rhino? By affirming a plus-one I’m essentially jamming my romantic future into a four-week quest to find someone – the last thing I need is a deadline. What if the search comes to naught and it boils down to ‘you’ll do!’ and what will happen afterwards? Will I have to maintain a rushed relationship? How long before she discovers I can’t realistically keep her in awards ceremonies, posh frocks and all the canapés she can eat?

We are having this conversation over a pub lunch. I glance around to see if there are any candidates. There are two pensioners enjoying a cooked breakfast, a businessman treating himself to a surf & turf and numerous rough looking men with the glazed eyes and enlarged capillaries that suggest they’ve been reserving their seats for lunch all day, every day, so to speak, and that if I asked them to dress up all fancy-like and accompany me to an awards do I’d get exactly the kind of beating I deserve.

I ask my friends how they managed it. ‘Outrageous flirting in a library’, says Martin. ‘Just slimed my way into her bed’ says Joe. ‘She was up for it, and I was in the bedroom anyway,’ he hastily adds. ‘I am not a sex criminal.’ It’s true, he isn’t, and I know it’s true ‘coz he said so.

I consider following their examples, but Joe’s seems very dangerous. I’ll either come out of it with a romantic liaison or – much more likely in anyone’s case – a court summons for breaking and entering and at least sexual harassment. That, and I’d probably have to abseil in, and the nearest I have to a grappling hook is a paperclip chain, which won’t hold even my weight. To recap; Joe’s methods results in: success/criminal record/broken stationary and/or legs.

Martin’s method seems a safer alternative, but I’m not sure how one flirts outrageously in a library, notoriously a place of absolute silence. I assume it’s all suggestive walks, furtive glances, come-to-bed eyes and obscene hand gestures. This seems manageable, and resolve to give it a try the next time I am in a library, hoping that it coincides with that of a pretty young lady, rather than a typical librarian. However badly it goes, the worst that can come of this endeavour is a library card.

They are right, however, that I could invite a lady friend to the ceremony, impressing her and treating her well, showing her off to my contemporaries, and coming away several steps closer to a relationship. This will not work because I do not know any ladies.

***

Anyway, a week has now passed since the invite cheerfully pinged it’s cheery way into my life, cheerfully reminding me of my failings and cheerfully causing more stress than it was to actually do the damn work that won the award in the first place. Another cheerful ping sounds; a second email from the committee, containing (among others) these sentences:

I’m really sorry to chase you, but would you be able to let me know your guest’s name?  And if either of you have any dietary requirements?

Anus! Look what my dithering has achieved! I have already let down the hosts by failing to respond quickly! I flick open a reply and type out my acceptance and dietary needs, and then stumble… What to say?2

I type and re-type my reply, searching for the right words to show a smooth nonchalance, or more accurately trying not to sound as chronically single as I actually am.

‘I don’t have a guest to bring.’

Too matter of fact, sounds a bit emotionless, or worse, someone begging for pity.

‘I’ll be attending alone.’

Contrary to what I think, this does not make me sound like a spy. 

It makes me sound like an indefensible bellend.

‘It’ll just be me attending, thanks.

Too informal. A job could be at stake here.

‘I won’t be bringing a guest, thanks. (She can’t make it).’

No. No white lies. Rather the withering gaze at my lack-of-companion than endless questions about a fictitious lady-friend.

‘I used to go out with a vegetarian, but we broke up so she’s not coming.’

This is not funny enough to bother with, and is also out of date by three years. Irrelevant and not funny, a two-nil defeat.

‘I have no dietary requirements but my fictional girlfriend only eats bees.’

For God’s sake don’t send this. No one wants to be ‘that guy’.

‘What are you doing that evening?’

God no. Wacky and/or presumptuous and TOTALLY unprofessional. And really not my style, as there’s no irony in text form. As we all know, my ‘style’ involves admiring from afar, then writing a snotty blog, or, should I stumble blindly into a relationship, panicking like a graceless trellis. Anyway, the email is from a ‘Zoe’ and a ‘Bob’. I will no doubt end up chaperoned by Bob. And they’ll both be there because they’re the hosts. Fuckwit.

***

In the end I type;

‘I will not be requiring a plus one, thank you.’

and press send.

Maybe I will meet someone there…

I will definitely not meet someone there.


Parties are fun – couples invariably get the beds whilst singletons shiver under a coat on the floor in the hall. You’d think there’d be some sort of compensation – ‘Well we can at least share body warmth, and as you have so little to be happy about you can have the bed. Maybe if you cry into the pillow enough the duvet will feel like a hug. Anyway, goodnight.’

Not literally stumble, if my fingers literally stumbled the email would read like this. ‘I’d love to come, and have no dietary requirementsnsnfklawef gregmfsdklg;.sdfg.’