Pet Peeves Knock Knock!

There’s a knock on the door and from my chair in my office I can see it’s a man in a nice suit with the tie slightly loosened. He doesn’t have any brief case with him; he’s not holding any religious literature, nor a badge and arrest warrant for someone who he’s looking for at the wrong address. I have no idea who he is or what he’s here for, I’m at a loss because I don’t recognize him nor do I have any appointments today.

I answer the door and he introduces himself by saying, “Hi, I’m John from the investment brokerage that just opened up a branch office here in your town. I know all about you and your business and I would love to talk to you about some exciting opportunities…”

As I’m standing there, my back is to the wall where I have a piece of paper from the State of New Hampshire signifying that I am registered as a “DBA” which means I am technically a ‘business.’ “That’s great! What’s my name and what’s my business?”

He looked shocked for a moment? “What’s your name?”

“Yea, how did you find out about me? How did you know that I was running a business out of here? Did one of my happy clients refer you to me?”

“Uh, I…” he began to stammer. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“John, you said that you know all about me and my business. I would love to find out how you heard about me.”

“Well, for starters I have a great way to grow your capitol and help you invest in some better tools in the future…” he said, trying to change the subject.

“John, come back when you actually know who I am and what I do so you have a better idea of what you’re talking about,” I said, cutting him off by closing the door.

On another occasion, the doorbell rings at 11:30AM the way it should have. I answer the door and there’s this guy there who looks like my usual type of client and I invite him in. He begins his routine about his faith and how his religion is the only true religion while the world is going to hell in a hand basket while I’m picking apart his pamphlet apart visually and how this violates a lot of design rules such as contrast and typography.

It takes all of two minutes to realize there’s a mix up – he’s not there for my business… he’s there for my soul! This isn’t my 11:30AM appointment… who just pulled in the driveway and is now blocking this guy in. Talk about uncomfortable.

Before I vent any further, let me say once and for all I don’t have a problem with other people’s religion. I have no beef with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Buddhists, or Atheists. Whatever gives you comfort in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm or times of tragedy; fine. Who am I to say you’re beliefs are right or wrong? By no means am I trying to criticize anyone’s religion.

I also don’t have problems with people who make a living on the road either by making sales calls or deliveries. Whatever it is that you have to do to make a buck that’s neither illegal nor immoral is fine so long as you don’t make it my issue.

This is exactly where I’m going with this rant; when other people’s issues find their way to my front door. I have a problem with people who knock on the door during regular working hours and insist that I deal with them.

What a lot of these people don’t seem to understand that as a freelance graphic designer there are days when my time at home is not my own. If it’s between 6AM and 7PM (why, yes! That is 11 hours) and I’m sitting at my desk there’s a good chance I’m either doing work for a client or for a class I’m taking. This person knocking on my door to give me the latest issue of their religious publication, solicit me for an investment opportunity, trying to unload a truckload of frozen meat they stole, Girl Scout cookies, isn’t just stealing my time but they are also stealing from my clients.

It’s no different than if you went to someone’s work place, got thought the receptionist before literally walking up to someone’s desk and started with a ‘cold call’ sales pitch for whatever they’re offering. Imagine if I went into someone’s church during a service and started handing out my business card while asking “need some new logos? How about a website? I know both WordPress and Blogger! Stationary – I can do that for you, too.”

Does this mean that I only want these people to come knock on my door when I’m not working like on the weekends? The only time I really have with my wife and kids is on the weekends and vacations. It’s the only time I have that I can actually feel free enough to walk away from my desk and actually do something physical outside, or create something that isn’t graphic design.

In short, there’s never a good time for strangers to knock on my door. My driveway is not a thoroughfare to low hanging fruit. As a graphic designer I’m not sitting here for desperate attention from just anyone – silence and privacy is what I need most of all and if I can’t get it here than what’s the point. For a graphic designer, being alone does not translate to ‘being lonely.’ (In fact, I have all the critical voices in my head to keep me company…)

As a result, I have created a new sign to put on my door during business hours – “Forget The Dog! BEWARE OF THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER!” and my hourly rates; knock on my door and you’ll be charged $150 for the entire hour. I’ll let you know how well it works.

Know When To Hold ’em…

A former classmate of mine posted this question on Facebook…

A question for my organized, book-loving friends: how on EARTH do you decide what books to keep and which ones should be donated or sold or (*gasp*) pitched? From picture books on up we have way more than we need — many of which have already been read. Homes need books, but how many? Which ones? (I’m truly seeking advice here.)

I have two versions of my answer that I’ll share for you folks here – one from the perspective of a home owner and the other as a graphic designer.

As a graphic designer there are some books that you just don’t need any more such as manuals or how-to books for software programs you just don’t have any more. Since I no longer have a machine running Windows98 it’s pretty obvious to other people (besides me) that I don’t need the Windows98 manuals.

Any software specific manuals (Classroom In A Book for Photoshop 5.5 from 1999/2000, Illustrator CS3, Ray Dream Studio 5.5, Bryce 4…) for programs none of use any more can be recycled with reckless abandon. Same can be said for books on older versions of HTML. Any book that was not written for HTML5 can safely be tossed since you’re going to be hard pressed to find clients who want you to write code in an obsolete format.

One caveat: There are a handful of software specific books that are not version specific. I have a book about creating photorealist backgrounds and textures in Photoshop/Illustrator that was published in the 1990’s. It’s just as useful today.

The books every graphic designer should hang on to are the ones that teach the basics of Graphic Design, Typography, lay-out, publication or any of the basic of our trade should be held onto with intense vigor. There are going to be times when you’ll be arguing with a client about contrast or using decorative type in the main body text (DON’T!) and you’ll need a reference book to back yourself when you don’t have adequate vocabulary.

There are also a handful of trade magazines that you should hold on to like issues of “How,” “Print” and “Computer Arts,” – you should hold on to every issue that you have for a couple of years. I have no rule of thumb, it’s whatever you and your living space can handle.

Then there are the art books or source books. I have a short pile of books about artists that inspire me that I use as inspiration once in a while. Sometimes just flipping through those books helps me tap into my creative energy or makes me look at my project in a different perspective. These are books that we should never think of getting rid of, period.

Finally, any old book that stands in the way of you and your work need to go elsewhere. They can either get out of your workspace or out of your home all together.

As for the home owner perspective:

I have a books that are in four categories; books I’ve read, books I want to read, books that I have no intention of reading, and books that I have no intention of reading but they make me look more intellectual to my guests.

There are some of the books that I’ve read that I can’t part with, these are usually SF classics that I read in my younger years that shaped my optimism/pragmatism that I still hang on to today. There’s no way any of my “DUNE” books are ever leaving this house, which includes both the originals written by Frank Herbert and the new books by his son and Kevin J. Anderson.

Same goes for most of the Isaac Asimov’s, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, the John Steinbeck’s, and Ernest Hemmingway’s. These are books that I’ve read at least once and just seeing the spine of these books on my shelves brings back memories of the stories themselves and the times and places from my life when I read them. Often times the mere titles of these books serve as a family album of sorts in my mind, not easily replace.

There are those books that I bought on a whim and have actually tried to read but with no success. Those are the books that I can easily part with. There are also those books that I have no interest in reading but were given as gifts; I would rather pass those along to people whom I know will actually enjoy them.

All the books I want to keep are on display stacked nicely on the shelves, those that aren’t kept are either gone or on their way out as of today.

I’m a hypocrite when it comes to magazines; I say get rid of anything older than a month old (sans trade publications) but there are some issues that I hang on to that I use for future references. If you can’t put things like these in storage and you know they aren’t going to be collectibles someday it’s about time you either donate them to a local library or school or simply forget about them.

As with everything else, there’s such a thing as moderation. Having too much of a good thing becomes a serious problem when you’re either spending more time cleaning or dusting than you do enjoying the things you love. There are also unhealthy aspects when you become a hoarder and you simply can’t function in your own home or you’re creating a fire hazard; nothing screams danger like the lonely cat lady collects newspapers she’ll get to someday and likes to light candles when the power goes out.

As a home owner you have to do what’s not only good for you and your emotional health but what’s good for your family and pets. For the sake of everyone (especially yourself) you have to take a serious assessment of what you have laying around and make mature decisions about what to keep and throw away. Work-at-work graphic designers have to be extra serious about their workspace and any potential hoarding problem since your offices appearance might even affect you working relationships with clients who might come over to discuss a project or possible hire.