THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG
“It wasn’t easy closing No Name, but all good things come to an end,” the designer says. “And I have to thank my father. Without an accountant in my life, running a business in New York would have been a mess. That’s how I could afford to start this L.A. studio.”
The crowd giggles as the designer lifts a flat hand to a sweaty brow.
“I think we have time for one more question.” The designer looks to the front row. A bespectacled woman nods. He looks back to the audience. “One more question.”
A small hand raises.
“Yes,” the designer says and points.
“Hi,” the small hand begins. “I’m a senior in graphic design and I loved hearing about your work on websites and with brands and I’m . . . I’m hoping to move to New York at the end of the semester to be a graphic designer, and I really want to start my own studio . . . like you. Do you have any advice for . . . young designers just starting?”
“Good question,” the designer replies. He nods before taking a sip of water from a carton. “It has to do with drive and commitment and having an independent practice, you know? You can’t always be working ‘for the man’ or you’ll lose your point of view.” He shifts behind the podium. His glasses catch the projector’s light, casting a brief rainbow on his shoulder. “I worked a lot for whoever wanted something from me. That’s really what I would say. No job is a bad job. You can’t be picky when you’re new.”
The small hand raises again. “Thank you, but . . .” The small hand cycles fingers through the air, tickling potential words. “Are there any tangible things we should do?”
“Well,” the designer says with a bounce. “You gotta work all the time. There’s the AIGA too and — as they say — ‘network.’ It’s making and making and making until the right person sees what you’re doing and then you’re set. But things don’t get easy until your fifties, right? At least that’s what I’m telling myself.”
'No job is a bad job. You can’t be picky when you’re new.'
A laugh or two stirs the silence.
“What do you mean by ‘work?’” a different hand asks. “Did you get a job after graduation?” The hand’s chair squeaks. “It sounds like a lot of graphic designers get lucky, which is a little frustrating since we’ve heard this story over and over again. We’re all about to graduate and we have no idea what to do in the real world.”
The audience shuffles, laughs, and mumbles.
“That’s a good question,” the designer says. “I mean —” He rests a hand on the nape of his neck. “When I moved to New York, it was a different time. It was the late nineties and I had a lot of friends and we were doing a lot. I was this skater punk kid and I’d just graduated from SAIC,” he clears his throat, “the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and was making band posters and stuff when I got home from No Name Studio. That eventually built and built and built until we got more opportunities.” The designer chuckles. “Classic story but that’s all I know.” He shrugs and smiles.
“But . . .” another hand starts. “How did you start No Name right out of college? I want to do something similar after school but I’m worried I don’t have a big enough following on Twitter, Instagram, Behance, Dribbble —”
“I hear you!” the designer slaps the table where his laptop rests. “I barely have any sort of following anywhere. I totally hear you.”
The flap of a theater seat hitting its seatback cuts the thought in half.
“But seriously,” he says to the projector, speaking louder. “Mica Holland and I rented a room in the Lower East Side and we just got to work. We pitched local businesses and friends at companies and magazines and did freelance design work together. With my ‘side-hustle,’” the designer shimmies his shoulders while rocking left to right with the hyphenated word, “I made it work. Again, pretty typical.”
“I’m sorry,” the first small hand says, lifting an arm again. “I don’t mean to be rude, but you seem like you just ‘made it.’ Was it luck? Are you rich? What was your day job when you started?”
“No, no,” the designer says. “No, I’m not rich, but we don’t have a lot of time left and it’s complicated. I did a ton of different things at the same time and, you know, it really just happened and I want to impress upon all of you that you can do it if you —”
“How did No Name afford rent if you and Mica didn’t have jobs?” a deep voice yells from stage right.
'If I were you — or just graduating — I’d move to Detroit. Or Atlanta. Or some gentrifying city like that and make it work. Life’s more expensive now.'
“We . . .” The designer raises his voice to the projector, closing his eyes. “We just had support. New York City was a lot cheaper then. If I were you — or just graduating — I’d move to Detroit. Or Atlanta. Or some gentrifying city like that and make it work. Life’s more expensive now.”
“It’s always been expensive!” a voice calls from the back of the auditorium.
The fading silence of the room wraps around the designer’s jagged laugh. “That’s true! Big Apple, bigger bills,” he blusters. “But we — we made it work. We ate lots of soup. We crunched numbers. Thank god I grew up with an accountant! That’s really what it’s about. Managing finances.”
Another voice emerges from the darkness. “So it’s not about design,” it reproaches. “It’s about money, isn’t it?”
“That’s not what I’m saying.”
“What are you saying?” another voice lobs over the creak of a door.
“It’s about talent!”
“That’s not what you said!” howls another over the bustle.
“I can’t explain it,” the designer answers. His hands shake under his breaking voice as the projector turns off. The house lights reveal the audience. “It’s about good design,” he trembles into the dead microphone.
KYLE RAYMOND FITZPATRICK
Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick is a writer based in Los Angeles whose work has been published by Playboy, Los Angeles Magazine, Eater, Popsugar, and more. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing from Otis College of Art & Design. He loves dogs, champagne, and short shorts.