The unsung: down & dirty production work

I rarely ever see or hear a word about everyday, nasty ol' production work; the type that folks have to whip out of thin air with no decent assets and fewer choices; the "just do it" newspaper ad or other low-budget, low distribution, need-it-yesterday kind of work.

I've allowed myself to get somewhat pigeon-holed into production work; but it's work, and there exists both good and bad in production work. Still, no one discusses it; like a dirty little secret we are ashamed of. I'm not above production work, though I long for opportunities to be more creative and have more control.

But my question is, are we, as a community, design snobs?


bknowlden's picture
Activity Score 3647

I don't think so. But there is a difference between most AD/Designer's and Production people. Most production people I know are technophiles and genuinely enjoy the OCD associated with the position. And Deesigners and Art Directors don't want to touch the stuff because we want to create.

I personally like to do the production work on my ads for two reasons, it keeps me sharp with the programs and if I do it I know it will be the way I want it.

nezmyth's picture
Activity Score 7

Apologies up front for a long rant of pathetic, self-pitying frustration.

I got myself stuck at a small local newspaper for years. The ad building process went like this;
ad rep and/or client come up with copy (with no training to do so) and usually so much copy that it fills every nook and cranny of layout space;
ad rep suggests or influences clip art and tries to sell color because they make more (regardless of the fact that the old web press doesn't hold registration);
graphics (me) would build the ads with the ad rep interference of "squeeze that text and add a burst and use this faxed logo..." as fast as I could.

No one at the newspaper really cared what the ads looked like or how effective they were for clients, and uneducated, unsuspecting clients would approve the ads. Sometimes the ad rep approved the ads (OMG!). The ONLY point was selling ad space, period.

I was slower because I would fight and fuss over ads; couldn't bring myself to horizontally scale display text to 60%, tried to suggest different (or no) clip art, tweak copy, balance art and copy, etc. But it's a battle you can't win because of deadlines and you're getting paid peanuts.

I was next to suicidal/homicidal by the time I could quit that job. But, I became somewhat known in the area for a better quality of production work. That's as bad as it is good, or worse. Of course, as a freelancer, I must and want to do my own production work. And I'm not above doing production work for others. Some folks come along with their own ideas, and if I can't influence them otherwise it becomes a question of whether to send them off to some hack, or do the best I can to make what they want work.

I do ads for a local monthly door hanger, 11"X17" full-color, again for peanuts. My client has her demands, copy is unprofessional, logos need rebuilding, I sometimes create clip art (rather that scan her old books); but, I've managed to make a substantial difference in the look and value of her piece from what it was previously. No, there's no award-winning work in the bunch. As a conceptual designer I wouldn't want my name associated with the work; but this is only because it seems frowned upon, almost dirty, by those in the design profession.

I feel like I must always excuse myself for doing the "low-end" everyday work for the "common" man. But with this general attitude, mom & pop small businesses are left behind by designers and are basically stuck with hacks who think owning and using a program makes them designers.

It's true, I've made my own bed. If I had a book it would be mostly production. Sometimes I fear I have no creativity left because I've stuck myself in this position for so long. My creativity hides under the radar, problem-solving to make client wishes actually work (or, at least not work against them). But I think this brand of working around client demands and trying to output quality should be valued by our industry, if only to defeat the pure hacks who could care less. Yet, even knowing the compromises I have to make, I find myself looking down my nose at my own work.

Again, my apologies. Time for me to take my Lexapro;)


PS_Brandon, I took a quick peek at your book. Beautiful work there! LOVE the lush.