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having the privilege to work for*

having the privilege to work for*

I have always considered myself as a lucky person, just like soccer players, I earn my living doing what in other times I would considered a hobby; Anyhow, this does not mean that the development of my work does not imply hard work, what I am trying to say is that I find tons of joy when a new project comes around, because it is a new challenge to my knowledge and skills, an opportunity to prove myself.


I have always considered practice as a learning space, and before I ended my studies as graphic designer I was already working trying to get in the feeling of work my field. My first job, which I think was made up by my boss, was as a Traffic Assistant [1] in the department of final arts in a world known Advertising agency; I was essentially the errand boy, taking ZIPs -a quite old format- from one place to another, carrying slides to the service to be digitized in hi-res, moving around with production authorizations everywhere, to name a few. I am not ashamed of the work I did there, as a matter of fact, I owe it to be the place where I first saw the dynamics of having the privilege to work for.

I was in 4th semester of graphic design, so I did not have at the time neither the knowledge nor the skills to work as a designer, and even less, to understand the wonders of advertising agencies. I felt bad when I went to work with a student look -which I was- getting to a place where people was dressed with the latest fashion, speaking quite frequently on English, and about tons and tons of money and how they were supposed to spend it in the next TV spot; those things were -are?- the dream of any work in progress designer, creating the idea of having the privilege to work for. To be truth, I was  proud about the idea saying that I was going to the Agency, even using the euphemistic title of Traffic Assistant; Obviously, the mascarade felt down every time I explained my work to a relative -not related to Advertising business-, I do remember their faces of disappointment when they find out that I was -just- and errant boy -with a fancy name, in a fancy place-. Although in my case the title and jobs was the invention of my boss to keep me working with pride -They did not pay me-, I cannot said that these strategies does not apply -and work- to other colleagues , the difference is that to maintain their mental health they kept telling to themselves -and other coworkers- “the outsiders are just ignorants, people don’t understand, I’m having the privilege to work for“.

Was during that experience that I decided not to work in a Advertising Agency, even trough I had my doubts due to the strong legitimization process of the academic field towards this business: What grants the value of the speaker in a lecture is not his work, but where he have had the privilege to work, privilege that is seldom an University or and small design studio -freelance work, impossible!-. A former student that created his own small design Studio working with more modest clients, or at least less reconnaissable products (or medias) is rarely treated with the same amount of respect, or at least excitement, as another one with -just- a foreign language title.

I consider myself a well informed Brand Developer, I have studied rigorously the social and economical implications of branding practices; therefore for me is clear to see the role of symbolical value in our field. I am not talking about the symbolical value applied to the development of our professions, but about how it plays against us, how it allows colosal advertising enterprises to take advantage of recently graduated students with the motto having the privilege to work for.

We -designers and Advertisers- seek to be nourished by the public perception of the Agency, we try to absorb the recognition of the clients that have a bulk budget and strong différentiation; some sort of sponsorship that allow us to exploit our creativity without boundaries, the price? Low wages, arbitrary working schedules, and lack of respect to our professions and to us as humans -quite close to enslavement, right?-.

To balance the equation, it have to be said that not all newbie designer is good, not even regular, due to the symbolical/creative component of our field, rendering everything more complex. Education as business makes it even harder, because the focus is placed in being profitable, that means increasing the amount of students -therefore professionals- that are ready to acquire the job market model, creating an oversupply with no added value.

On one hand, and coming back to my experience, I can said the work as a Freelancer carries many challenges, and is definitely not for everyone: You have to be really efficient with time and money, practice patience and pedagogy, improve your written and verbal skills, learn to do budgets , and in general be capable to manage a single person business. On the other hand, the benefits of being on your own are the recognition of you work -both symbolically and legally- , to be present in all the stages of design, and -I know how awkward this sounds- to have a direct contact with the client, after all they are the ones that allow us to depoy all of our skills -and live thanks to them-. Is because of this, that is better not to have a boss telling you the shameful motto, but rather you saying “you have the privilege to work with me”.


*As a comment to my dear friend, David García about his book “Advertising working field”.

[1] This job nome exist nowdays, but as a manager of information.


This post is also available in: Spanish

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