Learning to know Edgeryders: paying attention

Beta testers in Edgeryders were asked to play what we call missions. Many did, and the most popular mission turned out to be one in which players were asked to tell the community the story of their own transition to an independent adult life. The reasoning is this: if we all share our stories, we can understand each other’s strategies to build a satisfying life. This way we can learn from each other - and also figure out what we, as a group, really want, what kind of world young people are trying to build. With Ale’s consent, we report her story - and the interaction between her and the community around that story - on the blog.

AleThe sharpest edge I’ve ever ridden is when I decided to quit my well promising career as a researcher in Economics and to start all over again. I was writing my PhD dissertation and I felt quite unsatisfied about academic life. […] it became clear to me that I needed a big change. I could not see myself working as an economist outside of the university. […] I decided to start studying again, and I went for the most risky of all options: art academy. The first obstacle was to get in. I wasn’t sure at all that I had sufficient talent and skills to be accepted, and got the help of a friend to practice drawing. It turned out I was not that bad so I decided to face the challenge. I had to pass a selection to be accepted and that went well. I was in. The journey started. At the same time I kept working on my PhD dissertation and then you can immagine what the next obstacle on my way was: managing to divide my time between two impossible tasks at once, and still not forgetting to eat, drink, sleep and of course see some friends every now and then. The challenge was too big for me. I did managed to finish my dissertation and to defend it with succes, but immediately after I got sick. Kidney stones. Terrible pain. Even though not a dangerous disease, it did put me out of running for a while. And even when I got better, I still could not work at full power as I used to do before. […] It took one year and some more months before I was back to my full capabilities. My new life had started for real. I needed to earn some money in order to pay my studies and the rent of my flat. So I took a job at an international call center, helping customers maintain and use their GPS systems. The salary was low, and the customers where often angry and unrespectful on the phone.

I managed to find a better job after one year thanks to a friend of a friend who worked in a factory where they needed someone to model 3D drawings of chocolate bonbons. This was a nice opportunity. I could use my technical skills and creativeness together. I learned to use the software very quickly and was able to keep the job for three years. After that came the financial crisis. My job went lost, so I got fired even though I was a very good employee. In the meanwhile I finished the studies at the art academy, but I did not have any working experience in the field of my choice: graphic design. Every single job offer in this area required at least three years of experience, in that period (in the middle of the crisis).

This gave me no choice in fact. I had to start on my own and give myself a chance. I got some financial support from the government to get started, but it was clear that it would be tough. And it still is. After almost two years I still do not manage to make a living out of my work as a designer, even though I do have some assignments and I really love my work. Part of the problem is that I do not like to sell my work, […] I am a creative person and my creativity is bound to authenticity. I do not fit the majority of the market, that is looking for commercial, cheap, standard kind of design. I always look for content and I prefer to work for ideals than for the money. That’s why I am very happy I have found a nice side job at the local theater. I sell tickets for a couple of days in the week and this way I am able to pay the rent. In my atelier I make design and free works of art. I also sometimes give lessons to art academy students of graphic design. I teach semiotics. I live month by month, always wondering whether I will be able to keep “surviving” as an independent graphic designer and visual artist. Somehow, after the first really terrifying weeks I got used to this situation. Until now I managed to keep going on and the feeling is that I am learning and that I do get a lot of satisfaction from my work. So I hope that I will be able to do it for much longer.

Tudor In reply to Ale’s story, Tudor sends a thoughtful comment that same evening: "Hello Ale! Congratulations for doing what you felt to do. Really, there are people out there that consider the 3-4-5 years investment in something a reason to continue all their life on the wrong path. Now I think you have a few simple options. Graphic designers are working: For big companies (like specialists, on the graphic departement usually with well trained individuals), for studios ( which are doing their work focused on the creative part and not on the business part) , or as a freelancer so working project based for different companies/projects. I really think that working in a Graphic Studio will suit you. Someone told me once that when you think or feel or something at some moment there are at least another 10 people that ar thinking/feeling the same things at the specific moment. So dont lose your sight. Try to find that people, theyre out there. "


She replies by slightly picking up on Tudor’s sheer optimism:Thank you Tudor. This is an option that I keep considering. I graduated in the middle of the economic crisis and many studios were having troubles and did not want to hire, especially not unexperienced designers. Perhaps in the future there will be more opportunities, and I will be a little more experienced as well.

AlbertoAlberto jumps in equally encouraging, wanting to know more: “Thanks for sharing this, Ale. It is super instructive - and a little touching too. What I am learning from you here is this: you keep your eyes on the ball - in your case the need to express a creative drive - and you derive your identity and your sense of purpose from that. <After almost two years I still do not manage to make a living out of my work as a designer, even though I do have some assignments and I really love my work.> And you are a designer, even though design does not pay your rent. You made a choice, paid for it in blood, and you carry it on. You do many things in your life, but you are a graphic designer, full stop. My question to you would be: do you feel anybody or anything provided you with useful resources to make the leap from academic to designer? By “resources” I mean opportunities, or assets (like a place to stay near the Art Academy), or even just recognition, encouragement, respect? (I have many more questions, actually…)”

AleAle: Dear Alberto, thanks for your feedback and encouragement. About your question, I actually do not feel I was much supported in my choice. I had to bear the costs all on my own, and not only the financial costs (college fees) but also the “management” costs if I may call them so. For instance, when in my third year at the art academy I was expected to do an internship in a graphic design studio, nobody in school helped me find one. I think there is much to win there, by creating more connections between the school and some studios. And not just that, the school also did not provide me with time to actually spend in an internship: they expected me to keep working on my school assignements as usual (the hardest in fact, in your third year) while doing an internship and at the smae time paying college money (and supporting myself, which is impossible with just an internship of course, so I had to keep my side job as well). I think there is a lot to win there, for instance by providing good information and advice on how to finance and time manage such a situation, and by giving students actual time to do an internship. …

Obviously, this conversation will continue, and we are curious to see whether people in graphic design have advice for Ale, maybe direct her to an employer; or maybe people who need to buy design will convince Ale to accept payment for her work. Why expect this? Because Edgeryders relate to your story on some level, they are facing their own transition don’t they? Finally, they are interested and pay attention.