"To be young (is to be sad)." Ryan Adams

Dear Designer,

You don't know me and I don't know you, which is why I'm posting this here where you won't see it instead of replying to your email with an eye-peeling rant. You are the second young designer in two months to tell me you work in Illustrator, not Photoshop. And you compounded the sin by informing us you do know Photoshop is the industry standard. It's one thing to be ignorant, but to happily announce your intentions to be uncooperative is not a recipe for success. Please warn me next time you're going to write something like that; I got angry enough I was light-headed[1], which is why I had to write this.

There's no gentle way to explain the problem here, so let me just say it: you are stupid. You don't know anything. Whether a designer or a coder, the classes you took in college didn't prepare you for much. That senior project you slaved over, even if it weren't laughably wrong-headed, represents about 1% of the work involved in a real project. If you ran into a dark corner on your senior project, something you couldn't figure out how to do, you just changed the project. Can't happen in the real world. Instead you rely on the advice of people around you who have gone through the process before.

I am a firm believer in Thoreau's maxim, "Grey hair does not confer wisdom." However, there is no implied corollary that youth does. It would be one thing if you were using GIMP instead of Photoshop; not only could I understand doing so to save money, but it would be evidence you've done some investigating to see what options are out there besides the ones you know. It would suggest an open mind instead of someone who assumes they already know what they need to know. And the solution to your anti-Photoshop bias is not to write the HTML yourself. I've seen your HTML. It sucks even worse. Learn how to do one job properly before you decide to add another bs title to your email signature. Accept it takes time to learn a craft. We are all standing on the shoulders of those who did our job before us.

Stop looking at every step in the process as a problem that needs solving. The steps in the process are in the process because they are solutions. Twice since I've gone out on my own I've run into problems with a young developer who had "a different approach" to the version control system we were using. Thing is, there's an industry standard for how to use Subversion. And I know what it is. Know how? Because the people who made Subversion wrote a book about it and made the book available to anyone who can use Google. And I played around with different setups until I realized they were right. When you work on anything, with anyone, use the industry standards. Whether perfect or not, standards make sure everyone is speaking the same language. They reduce friction. If you're not sure what the standard is, just ask me and I'll tell you. It's like it said in my wedding vows, "From now on, I'll do the thinking for both of us."[2]

I don't care if you work in Illustrator. And I don't care why, though I must say if you find it hard to place a 1 pixel line in Photoshop, the problem might not be Photoshop. Work in whatever the hell you want and then Google "convert from [my stupid choice] to PSD". Another reason I'd be ok with you using GIMP: it exports directly to Photoshop. It has to. Because, in the realm of image editors, it is no one. So it has to be cooperative or no one will work with it. That should be your role model. Be T.S. Eliot's "infinitely gentle/ Infinitely suffering thing". Don't talk, listen. When you get to the point where people are knocking on your door to give you work, then you can be e.e. cummings Olaf, saying, "There is some shit I will not eat".

But you won't. Because in five years, you'll realize how stupid you were now. And in ten you'll realize you're still learning. In fact, set a reminder for ten years and if you don't feel this way, you have a Very Serious Problem. You've become one of those old people who isn't worth listening to.

A couple of other free pieces of advice:

  • Tattoo this on your arm: "The perfect is the enemy of the good." Fail fast. There's no shame in not succeeding the first time. Writing is easy, re-writing is hard. No work is ever perfect, so if you keep tweaking until it's perfect, you'll never finish and no one will ever see your work.
  • This isn't a goddamn competition to see who's smarter, so please don't refer to your boyfriend the HTML whiz while telling the client how I should be doing my job. You aren't even bright enough to do your own job, so why not assume there's a reason I did things the way I did? Also, don't bad-mouth the people I work with as a way of trying to get me to send you work instead. That makes it clear we're not in this foxhole together and you'll do the same to me as soon as it looks profitable.

1. Given you don't know me, I feel the need to point out this isn't hyperbole. I almost blacked out in my car thinking about your email.
2. Clancy, Thomas, "Weddings Vows" (first draft only), 2005, as yet unpublished