Saturday, May 21, 2005

I did not shirk their dirty work, but things are different now

I'm over it. Like every key Canadian political event I can remember, the result of the budget vote has left me disappointed. But it's only back to a baseline level of disappointment, I suppose; certainly, this was only losing one chance to bring down a minority government, not losing an election. That loss was also due only to monstrously unethical Liberal behaviour in every possible circumstance is also comforting, because it implies that preventing any or all such caudillismo-style power plays would considerably improve the chances for democratically electing genuinely responsible government. We're only in the new Gilded Age; it can't last forever. Someone will blink, and realize the shame our Natural Governing Party brings upon us, eventually. It might even be a Liberal. (Or, more likely, conscientious small-l liberals.) Who knows? That's not why I've been post-free for the past two days, though. Rather, I suddenly had quite a bit of work dumped on me to be proofed, confirmed, and sent to the printers by Tuesday morning. I got into this graphic design job entirely by accident, and have faked my way through it reasonably well. I'd pretty much put any kind of artistic career behind me during high school, for one simple reason: I have no visual creativity. I can mimic a style, but for the most part, I'd be hard pressed to call anything I've created unique. Despite that, technical skill, artistry, and professionalism seem to be in such short supply that even as a completely self-taught, degree-lacking imitator, I frequently receive high praise for my ad work, to say nothing of how far a policy of quick response to e-mail or voice messages seems to go. I used to be terrified that at some point, someone would call me on some terminology or technical detail, and my non-professionalism would be exposed. Oddly, it's never come up, even when dealing with other (putatively professional) designers submitting work on behalf of our clients. Either I'm an exceptionally quick study, or nearly everyone in this business is faking it just as much. I'm inclined to believe the latter, especially when cleaning up the mess of one such self-proclaimed professional (given, I understand, to charge three times my usual rate), as I have been since early Friday morning. Our associate in the Niagara region contracted out to this designer, who recently suffered some sort of catastrophic hard drive failure. He's also not one for maintaining a discipline of data backup, so an entire flyer's worth of ads (already overdue - meant to be paired at the printer with a job I submitted Wednesday night) are lost or unavailable. His only response was to demand additional fees, in order to fix his computer. I may be new to this freelance designing thing, but as professional behaviour goes, that's just abhorrent. Unfortunately, though, that was his only response, so - given my (incredibly undeserved) reputation as some kind of wunderkind - the job of fixing the problem was thrown at me. (For bonus pay, of course. I'm not complaining about that part.) As it turns out, his work is just as awful as his professional habits, so even where I have partial files to work from, it's slow going. Overly complex clipping mask shenanigans, crowded layouts, frequent spelling errors, low resolutions, and a complete lack of the required bleeds: these are case studies in What Not To Do for our precise design specifications, or even general benchmarks of legibility and (I think this demands a silly compound word) not-godawfulness. Are standards so low that even basic competence is treated as rare and special? Then, of course, there's the consequences of such treatment. Being a miracle worker is having to live up to that reputation. I know, I know, would that everyone had such problems...

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