Why I Became a Graphic Designer

15 Mar

In the fifth grade, I was a slightly pudgy 11 year old living in California. My little-kid suite of skills was not particularly unique or specialized, but I frequently draw on the typing paper my mom brought home from the office.  One day, we went on a field trip to the Sebastian International shampoo facility. They had set up an educational campaign around the country about the environment (Ferngully and Captain Planet were in their prime, so I’m pretty sure they were trying to capitalize on how cool it was to care about the rainforest in the early ’90s).

Sebastian's Little Green Ad

Sebastian’s Little Green Campaign, which inadvertently started my life as a designer

After going through a mock rainforest, my class got plopped down at tables and told to draw our feelings about the environment, and the best one would win a backpack. While I was not able to take the drawing home or get a copy of it (it was the 90’s, we didn’t carry around cameras or anything), I can still remember my concept:

I might be better at drawing now, guys.

Environmental Ad by Christina, 5th grade (recreated 20 years later for posterity)

Being a competitive little girl, I also looked around at everyone else’s drawings.  I got very discouraged.  Everyone was so much better than me!  It wasn’t pretty like my friends’ waterfalls and horses, which were pretty much the Thomas Kinkaides of the class. But they were just pictures, no messages. And at the end of the day, my picture won the backpack, stick figures and all.

It wouldn’t hit me until later, but that was always what I wanted to do with my art. Tell an impactful story and drive home a concept. And what I learned that day is that while beautiful art can get you more attention, the story in the end is what sticks with people.  Make your stories strong.  Let your art be the conduit for your concepts.  And if it’s not the best art in the world?  Don’t worry.  Make sure it tells the strongest story you have in you.  And sooner or later, you will win the backpack.

Need a designer? Check out my portfolio and ping me through @designninjitsu on Twitter or my LinkedIn profile.

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