My Road to Creativity, 11: Back to Reality

I spent the first part of that summer assembling a portfolio, one much more professional than what I had when I decided to apply to grad school. Then I started a job search as a designer. The Iowa economy was slow and jobs were non-existent. I had friends in Los Angeles and went out there looking for work. I received a lot of encouragement but I heard the same story as I heard back in Iowa, I needed experience, maybe I should free lance. I had not a clue how to find free lance clients, nor did I want to. It was discouraging. Secretly, I assumed most people I talked to were wondering what a guy my age was doing just starting out in, what I already knew, was a young person’s field.

It was early fall when I interviewed with an advertising agency in Des Moines. They were interested in me and wanted to hire me as a production coordinator to oversee their free lancers and the production of materials. It was a far cry from what I thought I was capable of and wanted. Pay wasn’t great, but I would at the very least be able to get some experience, learning more about the printing process and meeting other designers. I needed income, no matter what and this was in a design related field. I accepted their offer.

I managed to find the work interesting. I got involved in the Des Moines design scene, met other designers, and made good contacts with printers and other associated sub-contractors. In many ways, it was like the construction business. 

Several of the young free lancers in the agency’s stable were two year graduates of a local junior college. They had good concepts to design problems, but their design wasn’t necessarily very good and I found myself guiding them to be better. They were usually accepting and grateful, respecting my education and age. In some cases I felt like their father, but all the same, envying their youthful creative freedom.

After a while I was given some actual design projects. I was again cowed by actually having to produce actual creative work. I had a huge design vocabulary, but was unsure how to, or afraid, to use it. I was beginning to think that my job as a production coordinator would be the best I would be able to manage.

That summer, I got  a divorce. With my design obsession and being absent for most of the time the last few years, we decided to move on. One of the biggest regrets was being absent from my children and missing so much of their life. It was a big penalty I paid and it sucked.

The first week in September in 1983, I got a call from the new chairman of Art and Design at Iowa State asking me to teach there for a year as a temporary assistant professor of graphic design, filling a position for a faculty member who had to take emergency medical leave. I was offered twice the salary I was presently making. I jumped at the chance to add to a teaching resume which was something I truly loved more and more, finding I could guide the young designers I was mentoring. I started at Iowa State a week later.

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