Out of Print
hamzberg | 28 September 2023 | 7 minute read
I just quit my job.
The One and Only
It wasn't really a job, more so volunteer-based. I wasn't paid for it, but the deadlines made it feel like a job.
It was for my university's student newspaper.
I was the creative director, and the only one on staff tasked with making the graphics. In a room full of a dozen or so reporters, only I held the responsibility of making the visual aids. As you can deduce, this was hell.
But, I enjoyed it. For a little while at least.
Besides lacking the team, the trouble began with having no sense of leadership in the room. I recognize that I lack this quality. While in my position, I was unable to effectively justify my necessity to the chief staff members. I was practically seen as only a contributor.
As a result, I had many decisions made over my head.
I distinctly remember speaking with the chief tabloid editor about the social media posts they were making. Granted, I was very much happy about someone pitching in to make graphics. I think that day I was running off of 2 hours of sleep after trying to fit in graphics production with the rest of my study. However, when I brought up some critique to help with the visibility of the text for one of the posts, it felt as though they had dismissed me. I have no way of being certain, other than them continuing to make the same mistake.
Perhaps they thought I was just meddling. I did develop a sense of unreliability prior with them. They had asked me to develop a logo for personal use, and like a complete fool I said I could get it done next day. I ended up only getting to a draft five days later. Either out of frustration or legitimate disinterest, they cancelled the commission. If I had to explain what making a logo in a day is like to my reporter friends, I would describe it as writing, editing, and proofing all in one day. Not impossible, but also not healthy. Though, it doesn't even take into account all the other things that happen in a day.
Each week, there are two graphics that need to be made. One for the cover of the paper, and one for the cover of the tabloid. These, while difficult, were manageable under a six-course workload and being a teaching assistant for one of them. What made it near unmanageable was the additional graphics needed.
It's not surprising that graphics eventually expire. There are some really old hiring ads in the paper that were definitely made by someone with lesser designer knowledge. Problem is: there was just too many of them. Trying to figure out priority without any additional help was painful. I had no additional time to seek out other graphic designers interested in helping, nor did I know anyone else interested in participating in this ballad of insanity.
The previous chief of staff had requested me to make new ones, but I quite literally could not do such a task. Partly because I saw something more problematic about the paper: the paper itself.
During the time of exuberant ego, I was able to devise a plan to remake the whole paper. It was insanity, but it was coming into fruition. What I noticed about the paper was that there were so many issues with templates. We used Adobe InDesign to produce each paper, and it was clear that these templates where made in 2010. Yikes.
The issues ranged from:
- missing fonts
- missing graphics (leading to pixelated previews.)
- incorrect text (sometimes the wrong page number.)
- inconsistent style
- stretched images
- stretched text
- outdated sports logos (these were actually pretty funny.)
- and poor design choice.
And I wanted to fix all of them.
Of course, motivation dwindled as I went on. No one found it important to make this significant overhaul. I was the only one who saw these issues. All of them just wanted to publish. Who could blame them, I was only qualified graphic designer in the room.
I began in August, and it took forever. Part of the problem came from me not possessing any page layout knowledge. I grabbed a copy of my local national paper and my local state paper to gather some design cues. I understood some of the decisions they made, but many of them I had to simply follow blindly.
By the end of the month, I had completed about seventy-five percent of the templates. I included some bells and whistles part way through to help placing materials easier. One of the many sins the reporters were haplessly making was moving images off to the side and then unevenly sliding the needed one in. Of course, this looks terrible and unprofessional, which was comical for a paper that was trying to take itself seriously. I fixed this with a rather amateur solution. One of the many best practices of Adobe InDesign is to just link your images from a reliable directory. This cuts down file size and make it easier to load. This wasn't going to work for them though. Many of the journalists had no experience with InDesign, and chose instead to grunt with it.
Tangential, but I remember the assistant to the chief tabloid editor being helpless before showing them the way to reconnect text columns.
How I solved this I do not recommend: I embed every image. Granted, not terrible for templates, but for one particular template, I embed the vector file of every sports logo. The template became forty megabytes in size. For comparison, the average of every other file was ten times less. The benefit here is that there would never be a pixelated logo again. This was an issue that stemmed all the way back to 2009, and possibly before.
Yet It Was Never Meant To Be
Now why did I stop? Well, the administration changed. Whereas the previous administration made me feel some inclusion, the new one didn't.
The new Chief of Staff failed to give me permission to the room. I didn't have access to the room for two weeks. In those two weeks, I would have definitely finished the templates. The newspaper would have been better.
I relied entirely on the mercy of a custodian, of whom I would have to search for each time.
My impression of the new Chief of Staff wasn't positive either. To me, they spoke flatly. I felt as though I was talking to a public relations team, rather than a human. Their inability to collect ID numbers before the semester to grant access to the room was disappointing. Their ignorance to realize how catastrophic this was and not prioritize resolving this mistake is beyond me. It shouldn't surprise you that we likely had bad blood. I was the only one who didn't vote for them in the elections.
Eventually, I came to realize the greater picture. Design was not important to the goals of the paper.
So, I just quit my job.
Working for the newspaper gave little incentive. It had no connection to the school of design, and entirely serves as a vehicle for the school of journalism.
Why did I join? Well I suppose I was just interested. Ensnared by a web that I thought would propel me forward.
Granted, I did do some networking with the people there, but that's it. To be quite honest, I didn't really connect with them.
They're just not my kind of people.
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