Creatives have much to be thankful for…

photo credit unknown

Being a creative in 2019 puts us under a tremendous debt of gratitude for the incredible advantages we enjoy, especially compared to the difficulties creatives faced in decades and centuries past.

When I began my creative career in the early nineties, computers were just beginning to show potential for design and publishing. I was studying book design at the time, and without computers, in order to copyfit text, to get a character count you had to calculate using monospaced manuscripts. Then you had to look up the average character width for your chosen font, from values provided by spec books, and do the math. Creating a mockup involved taking your type sample from the spec book, and using a proportion wheel, you figured out what percentage to photocopy your sample down to in order to match your intended point size. Then you cut up the lines from your photocopies, and, with an exacto blade, you and carefully pasted them up to reflect the leading and column width you wanted.

I was also studying letter-press printing, and while cutting and rubber cementing paper was tedious, that was nothing compared to hand-setting metal type.

One more story from the archives of analog design: I was an illustration major at RISD, and their library had a great resource, the picture collection. Using their subject index, you could request images and Alecia Barry Underhill would dig out folders from their extensive archives of magazine clippings, so we could check them out and use them as source material for illustrations. (Alecia certainly deserves thanks from many RISD alums. Thanks Alecia!) I couldn’t begin to estimate how many hours I spent in that library searching for source material. Today, Google Images is about a trillion times more robust, and delivers instant results.

Photographers, videographers, and audio engineers can likewise tell many tales about the old analog methods of production. Digital has truly revolutionized the process of art and design. So every time we boot up Adobe Creative Suite we ought to be utterly thankful for the amazing possibilities and opportunities afforded to us. We have immediate access to unlimited photos, fonts, and filters to play with. What a wealth of opportunity, and what a debt of gratitude we owe.

Not only do we enjoy such amazing tools for production, when it comes to marketing our services, we never had it so good. After graduating, it was time to hunt down illustration assignments. But before I could do that, I had to cough up serious cash to get print samples to send to art directors and magazine editors. Lucky for me, I did wood engraving. Black and white printing was way more affordable than color printing. My friends, whose paintings and drawings required four color film separation and expensive offset printing, often had to resort to taking snapshots of their work—but of course developing prints wasn’t all that cheap either.

Then we had to build a list of people to send our materials to. That meant days in the library, copying names and addresses out of periodical and media directories, followed by more hours typing up labels, addressing envelopes, and mailing them out—adding even more expense for postage. Today most creatives have multiple online sources to present their work: Behance, Dribble, et al. Not to mention how easy it is to spin up your own website using Squarespace or WordPress. Finding prospects is as easy as doing a LinkedIn search. And reaching out is just a click and connect away.

Have you ever see that Louis C.K. routine “Everything Is Amazing And Nobody Is Happy?” He kills. Whenever our computers crash, or we forget to save our changes, and we start to gripe, let’s remember what an amazing time we live in, and what profound liberty we have to create, explore, experiment, and enjoy our creative careers.

But let’s go one step further. It was not all that long ago that the very possibility of choosing a creative career was even an option for most people. Just a few generations back, people mostly entered into whatever profession their families had engaged in for generations. If your dad was a baker, you were a baker’s apprentice. The notion that someone could just choose whatever career they wanted was an entirely foreign concept.

The opportunity to choose a career in the arts was reserved for the wealthy and connected, who could get their family members into rare apprenticeships. And if you were so fortunate to get an apprenticeship, you didn’t get to explore whatever creative vision captivated your imagination. You mixed paint, cleaned brushes, and copied the work of the master.

As we consider how free we are in 2019, and what vast resources we have at our disposal, we should indeed give much thanks, not only for the talents we’ve been endowed with, but for the freedom of opportunity, and the wealth of means for creative productivity at our disposal.

What aspects of your creative opportunities are you thankful for today? Share on LinkedIn.