I’d make my candidacy about the future future. Because that’s where we fail, at the long term. And I’d do this by making our now better for everyone.
At the end of the day, every day, I’m a graphic designer. Type, color, shape, graphics, layout, process. That’s where my expertise lies. That’s what I strive to get better at—to grow, to evolve, to master.
But one key feature of a graphic design career is the ability to work with an endless amount of other careers in other industries. I’m good at communication and I use that skill to help others communicate what they need to in the best way. I’m constantly exposed to disciplines outside of my purview. I’m able to get familiar enough with something and then tell its story even though I knew little (or nothing) about the thing before a working relationship was formed.
That’s my job. Within that, in order to get better, sometimes it’s helpful to push yourself in your own established framework. If that’s coding or animating, that totally fits. But not really for me. I’m more interested in writing. About design, sure. But also topics that fall outside of the world of design. Topics that aren’t in my lane. But with writing, I think that’s okay.
I’ve written a bunch about politics and have put together shorter essays about things that have happened to me. Coming across one of these stories and tying it back to me as a designer probably makes no sense. And I’m totally good with that. Ultimately, I’m trying to get better at writing. I feel a good way to do that is to not only write about what’s in my lane—colors, layouts, process—but whatever I might know a little something about.
Certainly weird things that have happened in my life. And politics, which aligns with the activism-focused aspects of my design practice. Still, it’s outside of my lane because I don’t work day-in, day-out as a political operative of any kind. Again, I’m a designer, I’m just interested in other things. Not as a career, but as something to try to distill in a way that communicates. I may fail at this, which is more than fine. I’ll just keep trying.
You wear a lot of hats as an independent designer. You do a lot of design tasks through any given day, week, month, year. From high level concept to nitty gritty production. All of these tasks you’re more than capable of handling. That’s what got you here after all. But some you’re able to do faster than others. Some take more thought, effort, and time. But the ones you can do with your eyes closed, those you can knock out in no time. It could be a poster you can instantly see before you open your computer. Or going through thousands of photos and finding the best ones lickity split. The slower tasks, while part of the job and perhaps even enjoyable, you do those with the necessary mental fortitude and then you move on when able. Taken altogether as one collection of design day tasks—the slow and fast, the fast and slow—all adds up to getting things done, one thing at a time.
I started out by trying to copy design styles by designers I liked. I wanted to capture a particular aesthetic of the people who I thought had this design game figured out. Maybe I still do that.
Hootin’ and hollerin’, so quick to act a fool. Boys will be boys, yeah? As if offering excuses for a history of poor choices makes the ones committed in the present okay. As if it’s impossible for the adults in the room to provide restraint.
How difficult is it to let boys know that symbols matter? That when you step foot out your door into a public space, how you present yourself is no longer completely in your control. What symbols you’ve brought along with you are read and interpreted. Attached to you, their meaning can be reinforced or not, amplified or not, ignored or not.
Wear a MAGA hat while serving food to the homeless at a soup kitchen, that’s unexpected. Wear a MAGA hat while hollering at young girls, seems about right. Wear a MAGA hat, you have a lot more to answer for than simply your own identity and your own presence. Because you’re carrying with you the weight of a tired slogan many of us now wearily associate with white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, and fascism.
It may not seem fair. Especially if you’re caught up in national outrage. Even more crucial for the kids to firmly grasp the concept that symbols have power, both hidden and obvious. Both for the person wearing the symbol, and those confronted by it.
Walk out your door wearing a MAGA hat, there are real consequences. Just as there have been real consequences felt by the application of the MAGA ethos. For the kids locked in cages, or the soldiers who can’t serve their country, or the workers who trudge on without a paycheck.
I personally have yet to come into contact with someone wearing a MAGA hat. Not sure what I’d do, how I’d react. Maybe I’d just laugh in its face. I’d certainly be disgusted, and I feel like I’d know all there is to know about the person wearing the hat because the symbol has been used so repetitively. That’s the power of branding, the bludgeoning of the senses through hyper frequency. They hit us everywhere, and the meaning of the symbol burrows its way into our brains, forever lodged in between memories of weddings and funerals.
Again, it may not seem fair. But that’s where we are.
I first read about these aspects of human motivation in a long article about technology and living forever in the New York Times Magazine. That’s all I know. That, and I like the idea.