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  /  Art   /  Overcoming the Struggle with Identity: Artist Vs. Designer

Overcoming the Struggle with Identity: Artist Vs. Designer

As a “creative entrepreneur,” I have struggled with creating a space in the world for myself that felt rewarding. With so much visual competition going on and so much pressure to brand yourself, I experienced a battle with identity.

Within this battle came much anxiety, indecisiveness, and depleted joy.

For a long time, I could not figure it out.

Whenever I would talk with my other fellow creatives, I found we all were experiencing similar struggles (especially with clients). After observing so much through these passionate and venting conversations, something finally clicked. While I had committed so much focus toward graphic design and branding for small businesses, I also carried a new foundation and activated love for art after obtaining my B.A.

Through this process of “finding myself,” I realized that there was a difference between an artist and a designer and I was sitting on the end of the spectrum that opposed my hearts desire.

Now, of course, everyone is different. And the answers I have cultivated on my journey through self-discovery will not be the same for others, but I hope opening up about this struggle will enlighten another to find their own clarity and liberate themselves from this identity-crisis that is so common and so real.

As a “designer,” it is expected of you to serve and create for others, which is cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, its common to find that serving in this form… you often have to remove yourself and “the way you see things” in order to bring another’s vision to life. This is the perspective I have gained over and over again from my unique experiences. And being on this end of the spectrum felt like anything but freedom.

And freedom was my priority.

On the other hand… artist are expected to taste freedom and be themselves. No one tells an artist what to do. They just do, they just are …. they just be. And this is the side of the spectrum I realized I belong on.

I found myself disliking the restrictions and the guidelines that often came with being a designer.

I always found myself saying, “I just want to be an artist. I just want to create …. freely.”

I fell in love with the way my art classes were structured. There was no structure. When we came to class, our visions, emotions, and real-life experiences were welcome and invited to influence the way we worked and what we produced.

I remember once, I went on a job interview for the Atlanta Hawks. The job description was titled “Production Artist.” I thought to myself, what in the world is a “production artist?” Later, I realized that even corporate environments were trying to appeal to “artist” but still expected them to disregard all their ideas and visions about the projects. Our job as a “production artist” was simply to produce. After leaving the interview, I knew that I was in the wrong arena. I was open about how involved I was in the creative process and they were so turned off by that. They were looking for an employee to simply produce like f*cking robots. The art director stated “we don’t care about what looks good, we just want to get the work done.” After this experience, my eyes were wide open to what was going on.

So again, I thought, Wtf is a production artist? There is no such thing. That title is a joke. They were simply looking for robots to spit shit out with no questions asked. But as an artist, I knew this wasn’t for me. I had a voice and that voice mattered! Long story short, I didn’t get the job and my recruiter was open about the Art Directors opinion about me. They simply didn’t care about my vision as an artist, yet that was our title.

I called Bullsh*t and then realized that….. there is a difference.

I am an artist and my vision matters. My voice matters. And I had no interest in giving up my power. I was interested in creating an impact.

I am interesting in telling stories through my eyes with no one editing the details. I realized this difference at this moment. I am an artist and I decided I want to be respected as an artist that embraces freedom.

My inner peace and happiness was way more important than a paycheck. However, so many people around me were scared that if I took the artist route, I would be unsuccessful.

I remember back in high school, I told my counselor who was responsible for our class schedules that I was interested in being an art major. She told me to pick a Plan B. I was so appalled. Very few believed in me. Very few believed that artists had an effective and successful place in the word. In their eyes, we were “starving.” I plan to change this narrative, especially for women of color.

But here’s the thing … everyone’s truth is unique. Maybe you were brought to this article because you too are struggling with this identity. Maybe you too find yourself discontent with serving as a designer and would thrive more in happiness serving the world as an artist. Maybe you’ve already identified yourself as an artist and find that being a designer is best for you. Maybe you just realized that you are both! Honestly, the title really doesn’t matter too much but being aware of how much control you have over your happiness through the form in which you make a living is crucial! This self-realization is more about how you feel, clarity, and being grounded in purpose. What makes you happy? Where are you most valued and respected? If you desire freedom, where do you most receive this essence?


Thanks for reading and I wish you more love and prosperity on your journey through self-discovery.



Joslyn Pickens a.k.a (artistically known as) "FancyJ" is a recent graduate of Georgia State University, currently practicing art and entrepreneurship. Joslyn leads conversation in Art & Design, Business, Millennial Trends, Visual Branding, Self-Discovery & Inspiration, Holistic Health, & Feminism.

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