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Typical Day

Steffi Graph tiptoes into her office at 8:30am. As soon as anyone at the public relations agency sees her, she'll have 20 emails from art directors, copywriters, clients, and other people working in the company wanting projects completed. Sure enough, she has ten emails already. One client needs a packaging design for their new chicken sandwich. Hmmm…she considers trying to incorporate their logo in between two delectable looking sesame buns, and starts to draw a rough sketch. "That could use more lettuce," her co-worker Mindy suggests. Ugh. Vegans.

No thanks, we're trying to put on a few pounds.

One of the pitfalls of working as a graphic designer is that everyone has his own opinion about what a design should look like. (That's also one of the fun, exciting parts, because how boring would it be if everyone envisioned everything exactly the same way?) She creates four mockups for the client and emails them off. As soon as she attaches the JPEGs, another email comes in asking her to design a banner for "Russian Appreciation Day" at the local museum. Steffi knows very little about Russia, except for what she has picked up from James Bond movies. She appreciates those, at least.

Because this isn't her area of expertise, she needs an external source of inspiration. She searches through the museum's website for banners that they have used in the past. All of them have a streamlined look that is similar to the contemporary logo that the museum uses. She wants to continue in this vein, now that she knows roughly what they’re looking for. After trying a handful of fonts, she finally settles on using Cyrillic script to give the banner that Slavic, old Russia look. The background uses elements—and the same color palette—of the Russian flag. Red, white, and blue—who knew? All of these elements combine to represent "Russia" in much the way they have been represented in the past, but with her own personal touch and flair. This is an example of a project where she doesn't want to get too insanely inventive with look and style, because she's being asked to honor something with a lot of tradition, stylistically as well as historically. She sends the image to an art director.

It's noon and Steffi is itching to jump out the window (calm down, she works on the first floor) and into the sunny afternoon. Another email pops up asking her to attend a meeting with a client. She responds to the email by asking if the PR agency is catering the meeting. They are indeed. Score.

To impress their clients, the agency offers a whole spread of deli food from a local gourmet restaurant. She hurries to the front of the line before the curry couscous salad with wild greens is eaten up. Because goodness knows Mindy is going to be all over that. The meeting is with a credit card company that is one of the sponsors for the Olympics. They need name tags, placemats, web designs, and brochures that relay the message of the company and the fact that they are one of the Olympic sponsors. And rings. Ah, those rings. Outlines of the awards—glorious gold, so-so silver, and—everyone's favorite—the bronze medal of shame. All eyes are on Steffi. She is staring out the window and thinks about snowboarding. Which is okay—daydreaming, as long as it is relevant daydreaming, is perfectly acceptable in this line of work. Imaging your life as a prima ballerina would not fall into this category.

The art director informs Steffi that they will need something by the end of the day. Oh, sure. She’ll just design in a matter of hours something that millions of people are going to see. No pressure.

Back at her desk, Steffi starts working on the name tags. Her mind draws a blank. Maybe looking at pictures of the Olympics will jog something. (Jogging, by the way, is not an official Olympic event. You will only see competitors doing this if they are late to their javelin final.) She gets an idea looking at the medals. Eureka! She designs name tags that actually look like small Olympic medals. The client is going to love this. The rest of the day flies by and, before she knows it, it's already 6pm.

She wanted to take her bike to get some exercise, but she has ten different projects that need completing this week and she needs to brush up on HTML5. HTML5 is an authoring language that makes web pages—the "5" in there is the latest version (at press time anyway), and allows users to animate pages, sort of like what Adobe's Flash does. Being facile with HTML5 will allow her to expand her job suite, get other projects and remain relevant in the agency. Like other graphic designers, Steffi must be up-to-date on all new advances in graphic design programs. Companies fire employees who are not on top of the latest updates and newest versions. And you thought you'd be done studying once you left college.

Steffi sighs and throws her laptop bag over her shoulder. She'll continue to work from home. Maybe if she gets done early enough she can work on that T-shirt design for her BMX bike club for their upcoming event, the "Tour de Fresno."