There’s something romantic about the idea of doing art all day and actually making money from it. But, instead of hustling to sell each of our paintings, what if there was a stable job that gave you a regular paycheck for doing the art you love? Say hello to graphic design. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, working as a graphic designer might not be everything you’ve imagined it to be. So, is graphic design stressful? Or, is it the creative bliss you’ve always wanted?
Graphic design is stressful for those who struggle with merging their passions with their work. Your art is directed by the visions of other people, constricted by deadlines, and subjected to constant criticism. These factors don’t phase some people, but can make it stressful for others.
Like any job, being a graphic designer has its upsides and its downsides. That said, the goal of our professional lives is to settle into a career where the good outweighs the bad; a career where we feel like we can make a difference and enjoy the majority of the time we spend at work. Stressful, or creative bliss? Let’s talk about some factors that could put you on one side of the fence or the other.
Is Graphic Design a Dying Career?
Before we dive into the pros and cons of being a graphic designer, we need to talk about whether we should care about all of this in the first place.
How can we know that graphic design will even be around in 10 years?
Will every company have a robot or algorithm design their graphics and brochures?
Is this whole conversation about becoming a graphic designer a distraction from the real issue of protecting ourselves from AI that will take over the world?
No. Technology will continue to change our lives but, in my humble opinion, we will ALWAYS need human creativity, especially in the arts. A robot will never get that ingenious idea while walking the dog or taking a shower. Due to our quirky and imperfect brains, humans will always need to be a fundamental part of the creative equation.
This isn’t to say that the graphic design field is booming like crazy right now. No, the growth of graphic design is actually below average.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average growth rate for jobs is 5%, but graphic design is only expected to grow 3% between 2018 and 2028 (source). But, realize that it’s still growing. It’s growing 3%. It’s not declining or dying.
In 2018, there were 290,100 graphic design jobs in the US. In 2019, the median pay for these jobs was $52,110 a year (source).
Yes, graphic design is competitive, but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. If you believe that graphic design is the right career choice for you, pursue it! But, is it stressful? Let’s talk about some factors that often lead to stress int his career.
Graphic Design Burnout vs. Career Growth
Job burnout is a huge issue. It’s a huge issue, even for people who love their jobs. But, there’s something unique going on if you burnout from your graphic design career:
You risk losing your passion for art overall, especially if you take on a stressful role.
It’s a big deal to turn your creative passion into a career. It’s the reason why a lot of artists decide not to pursue it.
Work is work, which is why we call it…work. A lot of us pursue art as a hobby which, by definition is:
“an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation” (source).
When thinking about pursuing a hobby as a career, we tend to overemphasize the “pleasure and relaxation” and neglect the “work.” Once we get our dream jobs pursuing our artistic hobby as a career, the “work” side of things slaps us across the face. Major bummer.
Humans are notoriously bad at predicting the future, especially when it comes to predicting what will make us happy.
In fact, there is science to back this up. According to Dan Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, we’re really bad at predicting how we will feel in the future about specific situations (source). It’s really common for us to think that certain things will make us happy, when they actually don’t. Think about all of the unhappy lottery winners out there.
Why does our gross miscalculation about our future happiness matter? Well, we can’t just assume that we love art and that we’ll automatically love doing it for a career as a result.
No, we need to do our research and figure out if we can tolerate the “work” side of a graphic design career.
Another important thing to consider is that many of us do our hobbies for short periods of time – a few hours a day if we’re lucky. Will you really be happy doing graphic design on tight deadlines, with strict guidelines, and under the thumb of your boss for 8+ hours a day?
When you pursue a hobby, you are your own boss, both in how you create your art and in what timeline. Once you’re an artistic employee, you no longer have this freedom. We’ll talk about these factors in later sections. If you’re prepared for the “work” side of a graphic design career and treat it like any other job, you’ll be much more likely to avoid stress and burnout, turning it into a prosperous career. Put aside the fantasies of creating art every day and think about everything you hate about working a job. Are you going to be ok merging the annoyances of the workplace with your passion for art? If yes, graphic design might be right for you.