I Was The “Designer Kid”: 5 Annoying Realities
There’s always that one kid. You know the kind, with the crazy hair that makes them stand out like a meatloaf at a vegan dinner? Yeah, some of those kids showed the signs early on that they would end up in the arts. Maybe even as graphic designers. Well I have a confession: I was the “Designer Kid.” Yeah. Me. And guess what? I was kind of annoying.
I know, you’re shocked.
Now before I get into things, let me make one thing clear: I’m probably older than you are. My school years took place in the 1980s, and that might predate your birth. And as depressing as that is for me to think about, I tell you this so that you understand that my childhood computers came with CRTs and green text, while yours probably weren’t the size of a small horse. These were simpler times, and, as such, so was I. And with that fun little nugget rolling around in the back of your head, let’s get into it.
It Started With Colors
My memories start sometime around my third birthday, but from what everyone tells me, I’ve always had a thing for colors, particularly bright ones. Back in the toddler days, I was attracted to neons and the like, but hey, it was the ’80s, so you could chalk that up to literally anything. But as I got older and into kindergarten and first grade, particularly when I started dressing myself, the obvious affection for living a colorful life became clear.
See, back then my mother stressed about how I dressed. It wasn’t just that my shirt and pants had to match, but also that I had to look super cute. And as she taught me those things, I started to pay attention to the clothing I wore more and more. I mean, I had a ton of corduroy pants back then, and it’s hard to make those work with pretty much anything (the only benefit was their ability to create static electricity, which was always fun to use on my little sister). And when I went out with my mom to go shopping, I leaned heavily toward the bright stuff. That was me, just a glowing little kid trying to stand out. And I loved it.
Fonts Were My Drug of Choice
My house was a PC house, even though back then the differences between the two were negligible. See, my dad was (and is) a software developer, and he wanted to write code for both DOS and Macintosh computers. But Apple was finicky then, and it cost a lot of money to get into their developer program, so instead he did stuff with DOS and later Windows, which he still does today.
My first computer was a PC, and originally I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to text styles other than bold and italic. But as I got older, I became exposed to Macs and all of their interesting goodies, one of which were the ability to select your own fonts. And that soon became my crack.
I put every font I could find into a text document because I could. My reports were immaculate because they used different fonts for the headers and the body. I even chose different colors when possible, even though I knew it would be printed out in black and white. I was all about 50 shades of grey before it was cool.
To make things worse, I talked about it incessantly to anyone who would slow down enough for me to get their attention. Was it annoying? I can only imagine so, but at least they were polite enough to pretend that they were listening.
Book Reports Were So Easy
Today, I’m a professional writer, but back when I was a kid, I wasn’t much of a reader. OK, I take that back. I did read, but all my content came on a spinner rack, had 30 pages, and featured Wolverine or Spider-Man. Which meant that when it came time to do a book report, I was pretty much disinterested.
When I was growing up, desktop publishing was a relatively new thing, and I had Microsoft Publisher (or something similar, who knows). Point is, I was able to make my own newspapers, books, and things like that, which I did all the time. It also meant that I could make a simple text document look pretty, and that worked to my advantage.
This all came together in the fifth grade when I moved from Boston to Arizona and started in Mrs. Barton’s English class (man did I have a crush on her). She assigned us a book — Lord of the Flies, I believe — and gave us two weeks to turn in a book report. I then spent the next 13 days doing whatever it was I did at that age, and then panicked. The best option in my young mind was to skim the book, then put my “report” into the desktop publishing software to output a super fancy product that was sure to sway her grading skills. I spent the entire night laying out text, making sure the fonts worked perfectly and when 8am came, I put it down on her desk, sweating profusely.
A day or two later, the report came back: A+. I continued that same system for the entire school year.
Why do I tell you this? Because as a designer kid, this concept — make it pretty and forget the rest — became the way I thought I could get good grades. And it was for middle school, but come high school I was up a creek and it showed. But that’s a story for another time.
I Loved Logos to a Fault
Growing up in the Boston area in the middle of the Celtics/Lakers rivalry and during the Roger Clemens years for the Sox, you’d think that I would have an alarming predilection for sports, but I didn’t back then. My dad was only peripherally into hockey, and even though I saw Larry Bird once while I was on the way to a dentist appointment (or another tall white guy with curly blonde hair in short-shorts, my memory is a bit fuzzy), my main focus wasn’t on the players, but the logos.
One year my mother gave me some money and told me to go clothes shopping myself, so I did. And when I came back, I had a bunch of outfits that matched team hats I purchased purely based on the logos. The Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, and Detroit Pistons all were in my collection, even though I knew nothing about the teams. I just liked their logos and accompanying colors, so I added them to my wardrobe. That didn’t endear me to any true fans of the teams (or their opponents), so eventually I actually did learn about sports and started cementing my teams in the 1990s. But for a while there, if it had a cool logo, I wanted it.
My Art Supply Collection was Boss
Come the college years, my goals were twofold: have fun and become a comic book artist. And to do the latter, I became a Studio Art major. Now I already had a pretty choice selection of tools, having become pretty obsessive about pens and line width at the time, but now I was in the big leagues. I needed to up my game.
Soon my dorm room was filled with all sorts of artistic goodies. Canvases, paints (oil and watercolors), and a ton of colored pencils. Seriously. Remember those Prismacolor sets from back in the day? I wanna say I had two of those, but only because I kept burning through certain colors. Either way, I was stocked.
Alas, even though I was obsessed with my art, I was more obsessed with the “having fun” part of my goals, and I didn’t make it to my sophomore year at that school. Instead, I moved back to my hometown, switched my major to my backup plan and stepped away from a career as an artist. Was it just a childhood phase? Well clearly, no. After all, I’m a designer today, right?
The Wonder Years
Yes, I was the designer kid, and it showed throughout my youth and even into my college years. Do I regret the fact that I was a bit of a pariah? An outcast that tried so hard to be creative that he stuck out like a sore thumb? A kid that would become a target for bullying just because he liked to express himself through art? Nah. Because all of those experiences taught me one thing: don’t be afraid to create. And if it wasn’t for that, you wouldn’t be reading this post today. Heck, I’d probably be working at my dad’s software company, coding something in Visual Basic that had to do with accounting.
Brr. Gives me chills just thinking about it.