Second Act

Second Act

Perhaps you've just been laid off--or maybe you're starting to wonder what else is out there beyond the now-scary world of magazines. I took the plunge almost seven years ago and have come out on the other side better for the journey.

I designed magazines for almost seventeen years, most of them spent alongside Fred Woodward at Rolling Stone. I owe almost everything I know--and am--to those years, but in early 2002, change was in the air and it was time to move on--fast. I'll spare you the messy details.

I was looking 40 squarely in the eye and needed more than a job change. I felt like I was leaving what, at the time, felt like the best magazine job in the world--and thought I'd only repeat myself if I went on to another book right away. I was tired (burnt out) and a little bored (jaded) and figured it was a good opportunity to shake things up and maybe try something--gasp--new.

I'm here to tell you that new is hard. It's easier to stick with what you know. I left behind the familiar cycle of new issues and closings, connections to familiar designers and editors, and a format and routine I understood. In 2002, I thought I could design theater posters and run the design department at SpotCo, a growing ad agency (formerly a design studio) run by my old classmate from SVA, Drew Hodges. I made magazine spreads that LOOKED like posters, so why couldn't I just, you know, make posters?

The world of clients and producers is very different than the world of editors, and I entered a universe of selling harder and with many more variations than I'd ever been asked to do before. It was frustrating at first, and even scary, but it was GOOD scary. It shook me up. It shook me to the freakin' core. It forced me to learn to defend my department's work in a different way, to be more assertive and even aggressive, and I've learned to look at design from other perspectives. Change has been incredibly difficult, no doubt about it, but it's been sort of energizing. And so, with seven years of survival outside the familiar world of magazines, I offer you these words:

CHANGE IS GOOD  Change is hard, but a good kick in the pants isn't such a bad thing. And you'll meet all these new people who think what you used to do is pretty fascinating. Change makes you rethink everything--how design services consumers, what different audiences need, and where design itself fits in the environment (for me, it's now on a marquee in Times Square).

YOU'VE GOT OPTIONS  There may not be a lot going on right now in the world you're most familiar with, but other parts of our industry could use your expertise. Don't limit yourself to just what you already do. Everything you already know will come to good use. Be more flexible in your job search.

YOU'VE GOT A LOT TO OFFER  You already know how to manage a schedule and juggle tasks. You're probably a better designer than you think you are, even if your confidence isn't at its peak right now. Use fear as a motivator--it worked for me. I stumbled at first, but I eventually figured it out because I had to prove to myself that I could. I mean, in the end, it's all design, and we're designers, right?

JUST DO IT  You're smart and talented, and even if you're not necessarily making a change by choice, you have an interesting opportunity in front of you. It's the opportunity to take a chance, to take a bigger risk than you might have otherwise. The agency and studio world is definitely different than the magazine world, but you'll meet all these great designers who you may never have even bumped into otherwise. Seven years later, I'm glad I got pushed out of the nest, and while it hasn't always been easy, it's certainly never boring. I thought my little change would be temporary, and yours may be, but you may end up loving the world you've decided to dip your toe into. Sometimes change is good, even if you didn't see it coming.
  • Lu

    I'm just starting a begin to my career put I have made get improvement, with words of wisdom I feel bless.

    Thank you for given me the inspiration and opportunity

    Lucy : )

  • chris raymond

    thanks gail- i needed that! I was recently laid off and am wondering what is next for me.

  • Claibourn Hamilton

    Dear Gail,

    Thank you for these positive affirmations; they are so well-times and bring me a sense of reassurance. As a recent graduate in the graphic design program at FIT, finding job placement in the design industry, coinciding with the recession seemed like a stunning blow to all my hopes and dreams. Now that I'm embracing community I know we'll all be supported.


    Claibourn Hamilton

  • marilu

    A bit late to this post BUT really was inspiring.....

    and Gail, ALWAYS love your work, so great to hear you sound so, well, HAPPY!


  • Gail Anderson

    Anna Rose: I've asked the photo and broadcast producers I work with to write something about their jobs for me, so I'll do a post soon that talks about that... g

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