Vixxie goes back to school

Vixxie goes back to school

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Well, kind of.

Not in the physical kind of way, that hurts your bottom sitting on a wooden bench listening to the nuns 8 hours a day. (Anno 2015: things haven’t changed a single bit, I still have a sore bottom. But from the desk chair instead. 10+ hours a day). I’m psychologically headed back to school today, which means hectic days, new schedules and lots of excitement ahead. That’s me being optimistic. The realistic version however, probably features a fair bit of frustration as well, since it’s been a good fifteen years I’ve hit a book with the intent of remembering what I had read. I’m not saying that I don’t remember anything I’ve read in the past fifteen years, but I have a talent for filtering the important from the superfluous and remembering only the latter. My memory membrane is filled with useless facts and utterly pointless details that usually make me look like a know-it-all… but the good stuff that I probably should have remembered is playing hide and seek with my concentration and social comprehension skills in the dusty attic of my brain. Mmmyeah, the ability to retain and recall important information is an imperfect process even at the best of times.

Either way, just like everything else in Vixxie’s psyche: it works in mysterious ways. But it works well.
I graduated with honors, I never failed a year in college, I had good grades and I managed to pretty much ace everything I tried in life. Go team Vixxie. Mathematics and sports excluded. And relationships. Don’t get me started about those.

Have I ever told you the story on that massive U-turn I took from languages in high school to art in university? No? I have a lot of fancy stories about how I dreamed about being a designer since I was able to hold a pencil but in fact, just like any other little girl, I just wanted to be a princess. Or a veterinary, at best. Architecture crossed my mind when I was fourteen-ish, I was obses22sed with drawing my perfect house. Writer and journalist later too, but a graphic designer? Never. Although it made a lot of sense, in retrospect. I was that little girl spending hours drawing female figures, dressing them in the latest imaginative fashion. (Even then already, my OCD kicked in. I remember refusing to draw clothes and accessories until I got the underwear part 100% right. I was never satisfied, so I spent the majority of my creative time… drawing bikini’s. Ironically the only piece of cloth I have not owned in my entire life. And never will.). In high-school, I did the lay-outs for the school newspaper, and most of the writing as well. I don’t think anyone ever gave two shits about that school paper, but I did. Perhaps it was just a nice escape from reality, not having to deal with the bullies that had set eyes on me since first grade.

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So yeah, in retrospect, choosing a graphic design education made a lot of sense. But when I was 17 and graduated from high school, I didn’t have the smallest inkling. I aced all languages, I aced history, religion, esthetics. I aced music course. I didn’t like sciences very much but I managed to get good grades with a minimal amount of effort. So I didn’t know what to choose for a career. Everything was equally interesting, just as it was equally boring. When I eventually had to pick a college degree, I chose art. I never tried art before. Not necessarily because I wanted to fail the f*ck out of something, but probably because making people frown (my friends and acquaintances); or turn respectively white-green-red (my family) and mutter “graphic what now?” gave me pleasure. Seventeen, rebellious, and hating the world. The best motivation EVER, choosing a course in life, right? 🙂 I still firmly believe that no one had a clue about what my future as a designer would hold, including me.

The first year at art university was.. interesting to say the least. Mingling with students from various artistic backgrounds. I didn’t even know what a charcoal was. I remember the first lesson. “Take out your drawing utensils”. People dug up sepia and sanguine chalk, charcoal sticks, color crayons, markers, roller point stylo’s and bamboo ink pens. WOW. There I was, with my standard HB pencil. Wait, what? There were different densities in pencils too? Oh look, there was even a graphite pencil for intensive black use. I didn’t have to scratch through my paper anymore trying to apply shadow to my drawings?? Hello world!!!

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Yeah, that first year was quite the eye opener.
A year that I also happened to glamorously fail. And I’m glad I did. It made me realize that people accept you either way. Especially my parents, who took my failure remarkably well and still trusted me to do better next year. Half the weight of the world dropped from my shoulders. “Trial and error”. “Better next time”. Phrases that until that moment, I had never fully flavored. Once I got acquainted with the different traditional media and the specific artistic mindset, my skill and confidence grew, which led me into a straight path to graduation.

Flash forward 15 years, at the age of 33, I couldn’t have made a better choice if I tried.
In what other branch would people accept your quirks and personality shambles as an asset rather than a liability? In what other world would your mood extremities allow you to provide higher quality work? In what other profession is creative procrastination applauded and preferred over shallow productivity? None, I tell you. People often say that artistic types are crazy people, but I truly think it’s Art that prevents us from going completely insane. Art allowed me to channel an excess of emotion and obsessive–compulsive tendencies into something constructive and opened up opportunities to taste colors of life I would have never known if I had been an interpreter. Just to name one.

Stepping up from Graphic Designer to Artistic Director seems to be a logical career step in terms of chronology. I could invest more time in getting to know absolutely every last single detail of Illustrator, or specialize in a certain type of design and brand myself in it, but there are other parts of me that I cannot deny. The writer. The language Nazi. The theory crafter. At the office, I often find myself writing up my own website and product-related content, even if we have fully-fledged copywriter marketeers to do so. Not because I think I do a better job per se, but because I just love finding that one special edge that completes my imagery. Whether that is textual, target specific, understanding mass media or simply finding the ultimate marketing positioning. It turns me on.

Many right-brain type designers possess the professional skillset to produce what their commissioner’s brief requires. But typically, designers are extremely aesthetically oriented people. I grew up as a designer in a Business-2-Business environment, and experience taught me that the ‘extremely creative approach’ doesn’t usually hit home with non-creative types, which make up a large portion in the business world. The average consumer doesn’t get triggered to make an impulse-purchase if he doesn’t instantly understand what he is about to buy. Yes, I can produce a visually top notch, super creative packaging that no living soul understands. But it would bring absolutely nothing to the table if the purchase manager of the large company distributor NOR the end consumer have a clue what’s going on inside.

I do not lack that intuitive business-marketing mindset, but I’ve often been treated like a leper when I offered my input in communication strategy. “Because designers just make everything look pretty, they don’t think”. “Because designers can only do magic with Photoshop, not with Microsoft Word” (and unfortunately, I’m quoting certain people quite literally here.) But I want to grow. And expand my skillset from waving a magic wand to actually understanding what makes people’s clocks tick. That’s why eventually, when I’m done, I’ll be waving a Director’s title in their general direction instead. I’ve gained a lot of credit over the past years (and even scored a coffee mug with the inscription “Mrs. Always Right”), and at the office of my fulltime job, my opinion is more often than not respected in the decision which design elements are used. But when it comes to career opportunities, I have no degree to back that up. Much more than just visualizing other people’s ideas, I want to be the one that determines how best to represent a concept visually. I want to be responsible for developing budgets and timelines. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll even be articulating my vision to other designers and put them to work! Bring it on, bitches 😉

So, long story short: Today, on September 1st, I’m getting my learn on. My ceo came through, paid my textbooks and my prints, and I’m ready to rock.
I am officially attacking the beast of burden again, manifesting itself as a bachelor’s degree in communication (marketing, copywriting and publicity). I’ve collected the necessary books, printed all the documentation of my course. Obviously, I also color coded my course material. Vixxie wouldn’t be Vixxie if she didn’t at least color coordinate the paper ordners with the tables of content within. Hey, what do you know? I chose the colors of the ordners in analogy with the colors of the adobe logos ! 😉

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I’m not really confident yet in finding the perfect time management for combining a fulltime job with two hours of daily commute, weekends spent freelancing and being everyone’s personal little design bitch, a household, a cuddle kittie, guitar lessons, raiding and watching NCIS. And somewhere, a bit of sleeping, when I see fit. Probably not even close to the advised 56 hours of sleep per week.
Yeah, we’re going to have to do some proper puzzling 🙂

But it’s nice to finally know where your life is leading and have somewhat of an idea how to get there. And so you see…

Late bloomers, they blossom well.

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  • Mams
    Reply

    well, what can I say : work hard and you will get where you want to be.
    We all know YOU CAN DO IT.
    Good luck!

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