Besides accepting small design projects while I was in college, my first design job was for a sweat shop in Springfield, Illinois that made ValPac coupons and other miscellaneous mailers. I think it was called Mail Room and Print Shop. Maybe. Glamorous, huh? I think my boss's name was Chuck. When I first started there, it was the first time I had ever worked with a computer that had a mouse. (Yes, it was that long ago.) I had taken word processing and CAD classes in school (think monochromatic screens and DOS prompts), but had never used a mouse.
My first day on the job, I remember trying to play it cool. I tried to not make a big deal out of the fact that if you moved the little mouse, the little arrow on the screen moved too! Oh my god, this was the coolest thing ever! No more typing c:// before I try anything. The girl I worked with, younger than I was, was unimpressed with my enthusiasm for the mouse.
We used Ventura Publisher 1.0 and a bitmap-editing program called Dr. Halo. We had a handheld scanner to scan stuff, but it was bitmap only. We had to print stuff out, wax it with an ancient hand waxer that ran too hot, cut it out with an X-Acto (yes, I have the scars), and lay everything out by hand to make it camera ready. Man, have things changed since then! Thank goodness!
My second job was for a state political party for almost twice the pay I was getting at the sweat shop (still pennies compared to what I should have been making). They left me alone to do my job, knowing I wasn't interested in the politics that consumed their attention. "She's just the designer." I liked flying under the radar. While working there, I got my first taste of working under extremely tight deadlines, and on a Mac. I was there for the 1992 presidential race, where just two designers produced over 100 different mail pieces for different state and county candidates in a little over two weeks. It was insane, but it certainly honed my skills. And it gave me experience on both PC and Mac platforms.
While neither job was what I'd call ideal, they both had lessons to offer. Like so:
1. Working on a computer with a mouse is loads easier than working without one.
2. Working on a computer is loads easier than working by hand.
3. On-the-job training (aka trial by fire) only stings in the beginning.
4. There are some people whom you just cannot make happy. It's ok to stop trying.
5. Some political organizations are really wasteful with money.
6. Learn what you can, when you can, and collect work samples as you go. You never know when the shop will close.
That's it for now. Thanks for reading!
Good juju-spreader, speaker, graphic designer. I'd love to hear from you!