Posted by: kristabella | December 14, 2007

It’s All Subjective

I realized today that even if I had an ounce of creativity, I could never have been a graphic designer.

I actually kind of realized this years ago when I was sent to a class to re-learn PageMaker so that I could “make things pretty” for the PR department. But then Kristina was hired and she was really good at it and took all the heat off me. Thank gawd.

My issue isn’t knowing what looks good and what works. That I can do. I can tell you what’s pretty and what stinks like moldy cheese. I just don’t know how to come up with those ideas in the first place. I’ll tell you your design sucks 100 ways to Sunday, but as to what will work better? You’re totally on your own. That’s why you get paid the big bucks.

Back when I was editor of all the 49ers publications, I learned what people liked. Design, art, photography, writing, anything creative really, is all very subjective. What one person likes, the next five people may hate. For instance, my boss at the Niners and I disagreed almost every week on photos. Things I just swooned and gasped in awe over just got a meh from him. That’s when I stopped asking his opinion. Which I’m sure he appreciated. Since my muttering under my breath can get really annoying. Especially when I start throwing things around when you disagree with me.

People have very strong opinions when it comes to things like this. My boss at the dirt company was very conservative. And the ad agency we had came up with some really awesome and cutting edge creative things. That always ended up in the circular file. I gave them an A for effort for continuing to try every single time. When all my bos was going to do was to tell them to make it all white with a boring dirt photo.

I have been working on a flyer at work for our company-sponsored scholarship. It’s not too hard. I just had to lay it out a little differently in Quark and add some new photos. It would have been done weeks ago, but I am lazy and am still trying to figure out how to get around the firewall so that I can read blogs and comment on them. I don’t much like being a lurker.

Anyway, I sent the flyer to the decision makers yesterday and they had a “few thoughts” they wanted to share with me this morning. Most were grammatical things that didn’t transfer right when I copied and pasted from last year’s flyer. One was a photo issue. And then they kept talking about too many widows. And I was all “well, I didn’t really read the text.” And apparently they didn’t mean references to people who have lost their spouses.

I’ve been working in publications/creative/communications for 10 years. I mean, I was a broadcasting major and have spent most of my time working with media, including a lot of print media. But until today, I had NO idea that when you have one or two words of text on a line at the end of a paragraph, it’s called a widow. And when it is at the beginning of a paragraph, it’s called an orphan. Did any of you know this? (I’m pretty much betting all of you know this and I’m just a huge idiot. But we all knew that already.)

Thankfully I figured this out towards the end of the meeting. Otherwise I would have been searching the document for all the mentions of “widow” and sitting there wondering what widows have to do with students applying for a scholarship and why the word widow isn’t mentioned once in this document.

That totally wasn’t even the point of this post. The point (oh yes, I do have one) is that the other things they had problems with were formatting and text. Specifically the small caps in the headline. I love small caps. Where the first letter is a bigger capital letter than the rest of the word. I don’t know why. I’ve used small caps forever. It screams professional to me. Because we all know ALL CAPS is totally white trash. ALL CAPS = DOUBLE WIDE.

But the one woman didn’t like it. And I changed it. But man! It really pissed me off. I mean, what do I care? It’s a simple change. And it’s a stupid flyer! But to me, it looked better my way. And I didn’t want to change it, since I designed it. So it should be MY work. Because seriously, the ALL CAPS thing totally makes my flyer lose all its street cred. Now it’s totally going to get capped in the ass on the street by some rival gang remember or something.

Then I started thinking about how this is a running issue for me. Again, I KNOW it is subjective. And when I create it, I know not everyone is going to fawn all over my elementary design skills and ability to drop a photo in a document and make text match our PMS color. But that doesn’t stop me from getting a little hurt when someone doesn’t like something.

I used to have these issues with my writing. I don’t think I was confident with my writing skills until my last year at the Niners. Because I never got any feedback either way. So I didn’t know if it was good or not. Because I’m insecure and need people to tell me if it is good.

At the dirt company, that’s when the fawning started. They liked my writing and wanted me to do a lot of it. And then I finally started believing that I was good at it. And I started to think of myself as a writer. And that led me to this blog and now it is something I try and hone every day. I want to be a better writer every single day.

But with the design and desktop publishing aspect, I know my skills are limited. I’m never confident in the things I do. Because when you put it next to the stuff our ad agency comes up with, it looks like they let the fourth grader submit something as part of a charity design competition. So I’m never confident going in. And about the only thing I can be confident with is that I like the small caps. I’m getting better, but it is never going to be my strong suit. I leave that to the insanely creative people who enjoy it. Who don’t procrastinate. The rest of us do because they don’t want to spend time doing something they know is just going to be amateur at best.

Well, amateur and professional. Because of the small caps.



  1. I work for the federal govt, and I write lots of regs and crappola that some people in Warshignton (sic) think is unneeded anyway. But I digress.

    We are limited to Times New Roman 12 point. But I claim that a small victory, we had for some thousand years been allowed to only use courier. And in fact, early versions of wordperfect and word had ALL the other fonts removed since we didnt use them, and that stuff took up needed memory.

    But with constant pressure comes change, slow as it may be. I now use Ariel in my headers, and Comic Sans in my tables, and well, they havent noticed yet!

    And yes, people that create dont like changes. I hear ya babe!

  2. Yeah, I did know about the widows and orphans. Mostly because, in Word, there’s a button called widow/orphan control that stops that from happening.

    I work for a lawyer, so we don’t get to be artsy. I’d be happy if I could just do an outline the way my logical brain wants it done, but noooooo.

    It’s tough to take criticism when you’re being creative. You’re right, it’s one person’s opinion over anothers. I suppose the deciding factor is, who signs the paychecks.

  3. I knew about the widows and orphans, too. Just part of the vast, massive storage house of useless information that is my mind.

  4. Thanks for the lesson about widows/orphans. Cool!

    As for the other, I knew we were a lot alike.


  5. Candy

    there is no amount of prizes that we could offer to you for your lot in life. Lawyers have to be the most challenging people to create documents for. Our chit has to go through regional counsel, and at times headquarters back in DC, and give a lawyer one draft, and you will get three corrections.

    Girl, I feel ya pain.

    yeah, we used to work with wordperfect, and that came first, and it was the BEST. Then word came out, and since word stole so much from wordperfect, to pass copyright it had to be LESS perfect, and that is why word, like microsuck, sucks. It doesnt do anything easily, and when you write non simple paragraph stuff, forgetaboutit. We just have to learn to adapt to the sucky program it is.

  6. I’m with ya…I’m way too sensitive and would probably cry each time someone said that they didn’t like my design or I should change this or that or whatever!

  7. I just taught two of my coworkers what a “widow” is this week! They had no idea… but I learned a lot of my editing terms from my former boss, who was super old skool.

  8. I deal with widows and orphans a lot in my line of work 😉

    I had no clue…

  9. I am the queen of small caps! 🙂

  10. Dude… I think you’re fabulously creative.

  11. I have no idea when it comes to creativity. Hell, I can barely think of a witty blurb to describe my blog!

  12. I only know about widows and orphans because I work in publishing and have edited/proofed a number of things. But I am right there with you regarding design. I really want to hone those skills, but that just means I’m adding to an already ridiculously long list of skills that need to be honed.

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