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I'm a Graphic Designer in a Digital marketing and design agency startup (8 months experience). I'm the only designer there. There's one person for copy writing and one director who checks my designs. There are no senior designers and art directors.

Whenever we have to make social media designs/ads for campaigns, I do the following: research, brainstorming, consider how to promote the product, how it affects the market, what its message should be (the actual message of campaign is decided after I have made the designs).

When I present these ideas to content team and director, their only response is, "Yes, try that".

Most of them time it works but sometimes it doesn't, so I work harder and smarter.

Consider my current situation. I present my concepts to my director, he agrees, I make the designs, but he then immediately rejects them because he prefers the previous ideas. Okay, for the current product it wasn't possible to do that way. So, I researched further ideas but at the end result was the same.

I receive no support from my director and content team. There is a lack of constructive feedback, most of the time it's limited to "try something different" or "I don't like it, try again". (I'm not sure if I should expect this type of support and feedback)

Often I am criticized for "wasting" time on ideas that prove to be unfeasible or unrealistic. Even after 3-4 attempts things work, I'm criticized like why I didn't think like this at the beginning.


At this point, I find myself questioning my role and skills as a Graphic Designer. The lack of specific directions and the multitude of expectations confuse me as I'm not confident this is the role of a Graphic Designer. As soon as I know what my job entails, I'll be able to move forward in my career and make better choices in the future. But without knowing, I'm losing confidence in myself.

(If you'd like to know the design problem, please read HERE on Graphic Design SE).


Given all that I know, I realize that somewhere there is a fault.

  1. The missing specific communication/feedback from my director, which results in every type of expectations and roles from me.

  2. There should be an art director who can help the way I want (Again, I don't know much about their responsibilities much). Currently I'm handling everything including Graphic Design.

  3. As I'm the only Graphic Designer there, I have to take full responsibility. A Graphic Designer has to research what will work best for the public, decide what the campaign message is, know the market, how to promote the product, and what theme to follow (e.g., Monsoon based, Cricket World Cup based etc.)

  4. I'm in a wrong startup among the wrong people. The expectations of my role are far greater than I currently understand them to be. They are using me as Art Director + Graphic Designer

  5. Something else?

I've mentioned these points, but I'm not fully sure if I'm right.

I'm not afraid of my ideas being rejected or of working overtime. I feel bad only when I begin doubting my design skills, and what is my job role. If I have a clearer idea of what my role is, I'll be able to take better decisions about my career, for example discussing my job role with my director.

I understand that my problem may appear to be self-focused but I would like to know the answer in terms of what usually happens in other companies. When you're not an art director/project manager, how moral is it to expect most of the project related things from you, when you're a Graphic Designer?

As a Graphic Designer in most of the digital marketing and design agency, do I have to take responsibility for the entire campaign? Am I being used more than my role demands? Is it normal that I should handle everything almost single-handedly?

closed as too broad by gnat, Nimesh Neema, Jay, Michael Grubey, Chris E Jul 28 at 18:35

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Seems to me that you are the implicit art director, and being the sole Designer makes you the senior – DarkCygnus Jul 10 at 4:07
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    VTC, totally unclear what is being asked for. Yes you have to deal with it either by internalizing it or working to change the situation. Same as any other adversity in your life. – Myles Jul 10 at 18:55
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    Completely outside my domain, but, if I were you, I think I'd start calling myself the Art Director and Graphic Designer. Maybe it'll stick. Then, just keep working at it all until you're more comfortable. – kmort Jul 12 at 13:43
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    For better answers, the question needs improvement. In a few bullet points, what is the situation? In one sentence, what, specifically, is the desired improvement or change? @Vikas, if you can edit this down to a short (5 bullet points + 2-3 sentences) version, you'll get better answers. There's just too much here to consider and comment on. – Jay Jul 13 at 11:40
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    those 5 days will bring 10-15 more down votes. Don't be so pessimistic. Users on Workplace are generally supportive. – Mari-Lou A Jul 15 at 17:17
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Does your boss give you any feedback? If he did and you didn't follow the advice then it's kind of your fault but if he just said "No, its crap do it again" then you should probably find a new job.

Also by what you have written it seems that your boss okays the concept but then rejects the final product, maybe try working on the concept a little longer before showing it to your boss. This way he may find a reason to reject this idea before you spend more time completing the design.

When you show the concept to your boss make notes about what he says, ask him which bits he likes, dislikes, thinks are fine. Also ask him "What would you do differently?" or "How would you improve this?".

If he doesn't engage in this kind usefull evaluation and analysis then he sounds like an unreasonable person and you should start looking for a job where you will be able to improve your craft and contribute to the business.

  • @iLuvLogix thanks for fixing my numerous gramatical errors – Woodie 2714 Jul 10 at 9:29
  • You are welcome ;) – iLuvLogix Jul 10 at 9:31
  • I like the things you said. These will be helpful. And yes it's just like No, its crap do it again. – Vikas Jul 10 at 16:12
  • Also, I quite didn't get your 2nd paragraph. You mean I should spend more time on the brainstorming the concept before start making the design actually? If yes, it will result in same thing. Overall, I will get same feedback i.e., you've spent so much time! – Vikas Jul 10 at 16:13
  • > "No, its crap do it again" then you should probably find a new job. This may be a warning flag for mature companies, but it happens often in startups. There are many more problems than people, and oversight can be lacking. – Damouse Jul 10 at 16:42
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From a graphic designer with similar experience. A sole GD cannot be expected to produce a fresh/unique/outstanding project. You might get the odd idea here and there but the job burden is just to much to execute them.
I would advise to look for, what I consider, red flags:

  • are they giving you any feedback (and "fix it" "not like that" "something different" is not feedback)
  • is the feedback applicable? So can you cut it into pieces that can be used in pushing the design further. So leave the design as it is but change font, or photo etc.
  • And more important - is the person who meet with client acting as a gate keeper? So if they pass 1:1 what you have done to client and vice versa or do they say "client didn't like it"?

After looking at your question on GD.SE: Are you sure you are a graphic designer there? It looks like you are doing a role of Art Director but without an account manager and brief. IMHO in brief you should have emphasised things you need to use and keep them in mind when creating a design for the client.
Also what has been written on GD.SE is THE THING that your director should tell you OR it's what client should point out.

Personal notes: your designs and overall production quality are fine. You just made ads for multivitamins and immunity enhancers instead of asthma drugs.

Answering question after edit: Yes, you are used as more than just Graphic Designer. But you shouldn't take blame for everything. Manager/boss/owner should be aware of the fact that you cannot handle everything, everytime in the best possible way and either you would need more support (in the form of short brief for example) or you should be given some slack.
Mind reading and expectation of it is a terrible trait in manager especially when you are a sole recipient of it.
I would ask if before doing anything you could sit together and make a short brief for yourself (and maybe for the client? It would be faster and easier for them to correct written word than critique finished work).

  • You caught the right point. They give exactly same feedback which is actually not feedback. Mostly they say "something different". Here I quite didn't get your second bullet point, maybe I'm not that good in English. Basically, once my director likes the design, they send it to the client online. The client sometimes like it and sometimes reject it. Client gives feedback to my director and is forwarded to me. So would you please let me know what you wanted ask in 2nd bullet point? – Vikas Jul 10 at 16:25
  • I've edit my question. Kindly check, made it clear and answerable. Would you like to tweak your answer now? – Vikas Jul 11 at 2:36
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    @VKS I added an answer. Regarding my second bullet point what I had in mind is "can the feedback relate to what you show?". "something different" is not one. Applicable would mean that they are ok with font but not the color. Or they like the text placement but would change people on photo. I like to use metaphor of balls. If you have steel one you can say it's too cold, or to silver or too shiny. There is something you know what would need to be changed. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jul 11 at 7:22
  • @ SZCZERZO KŁY really sorry for a misunderstanding. Actually I got your 2nd point but I was talking about 3rd. By mistake I wrote 2nd. I didn't get the bullet point about 1:1. I hope you won't mind explaining it here :) – Vikas Jul 11 at 16:51
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    @Vikas What I meant is if comments/critique/request from client are passed to you without any change OR are they boiled down to "client didn't liked". There are two option if the second. First is that client really had no input BUT then person meeting with them should work with them to get anything to help you make better work (you cannot read minds) or second option they are withholding information from you and deciding by themselves that "it's bad" is what client said and is enough for you as a feedback. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jul 12 at 7:30
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I do not know the design world so I will try to see this more as a project management situation.

As a Graphic Designer in a digital marketing and design agency, do I have to deal with it, doesn't matter it's too bad for you and your self esteem?

You will always deal with undecided people, your goal is to understand the need and find a work-around the undecision. It's not simple and it can be surely frustrating but it's part of the job, especialy if you're in a small start up. You have an opportunity to fully manage your project on your own, get the experience for later in your carrier.

Or there's something else which can be improved, and which can improve whole situation?

You can discuss this with your director/content team. How can you make it easier for everyone ? When I have a client that is struggling with his idea and doesn't really know what he wants, I work with him step by step. I put him at the center of the projet so that he can build his idea as I develop it. Is is possible for you to work like this when you notice it's gonna be a hard one ? Again, design is not really my thing...

  • The point is, I'm ready to learn those extra skills. I'm already doing them. I just wanted to know if I'm the person to be fully blamed here. Is it totally my fault? – Vikas Jul 10 at 16:16
  • I've edit my question. Kindly check, made it clear and answerable. Please edit your answer if you think :) – Vikas Jul 11 at 2:33
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    You surely have a lot of responsibility but, you are not to be fully blamed here. There's clearly a lack of communication and good feedback. They can't expect you to do some miracles in these conditions. – Tom W. Jul 11 at 7:39
  • After the edits, it doesn't match my question. The fundamental question remains unanswered. – Vikas Jul 13 at 9:24
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+25

I hate to say this, but I have to: Your question is off.

If your company were a big company, like Amazon, Apple or Facebook, yes, the question makes perfect sense. You want to have a clear definition of your job role, you want to have some artists working with you so you can come up with better products.

Unfortunately, you work for a start-up. Every start-up has its own style, its own way to deal with business. Some startup is like a mini Amazon, I saw one before. They have a sales dept, a design dept. an engineering dept and an accounting dept and some other departments. Guess what, the CEO is the director of three departments and the CEO's wife is in charge of accounting and design.

The answer you are expecting may or may not exist in the company you work for. I think you are asking too much.

My suggestion, stick with what you have now and try to improve the situation by communicating with your boss, or quit and look for a company that suits your idea about what a graphic designer should be.

  • Your answer is off. You want to have a clear definition of your job role, you want to have some artists working with you so you can come up with better products No! Please read my question again. – Vikas Jul 13 at 8:33
  • There's a reason I've put so much details. – Vikas Jul 13 at 8:38
  • @Vikas I already read your question before I wrote the answer. Your problem is simple, you lack of support and colleagues to collaborate the design so your boss put the blame on you and you don't know what to do next. Typical problem in startup. One person to do many people's job. You want to do it, stay. you don't want to do it, quit. Simple as that. My answer is another way to say it. – scaaahu Jul 13 at 8:56
  • But it doesn't answer according to the details I've put in bounty's comment. – Vikas Jul 13 at 9:21
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    @Vikas I am not answering for the bounty. In my opinion, the question should be closed because it's company specific. As I said in the answer, Every start-up has its own style, its own way to deal with business. This is like everybody looks different (twins are the exceptions). You expect to have a general answer. Based on my experience(+30 yrs career), there is no general one. You just have to deal with it on company by company basis. Good Luck! – scaaahu Jul 13 at 9:27
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They are using me as Art Director + Graphic Designer

Absolutely this. No one is in charge of direction and you lead the creative effort. They are expecting you to deal with things to the best of your ability, which means taking more creative direction and owning your results.

This is par for the course for young startups-- people often wear many hats, and direct mentorship is usually not available. Don't think about this situation in the context of titles, think about it in the context of the work that needs to be done, and who is best suited to do it.

By the way, its totally ok to be uncomfortable in this situation, with added responsibility and increased workload, as startup life is not for everyone. On the other hand, if you enjoy more responsibility and stretching your wings into direction and project management, then I suggest you abandon the idea that you have a traditional manager and treat these people as peers: by endlessly helpful, minimize the amount of stuff they have to worry about, and go looking for problems to solve.

I'm hold responsible and blamed for all (time spent, rejections), without any support and a direction to begin solving the problem.

Exactly what I'd expect from a startup. I don't have any advice for dealing with the confidence issues if you're just starting out except that talent, grit, and a deep passion either for your work or your venture help a lot. The feeling of inadequacy and uncertainty will go away, but expect higher levels of stress until then and probably after. If you can get through the hard parts, you stand to gain large professional and personal growth.

  • I've edit my question. Kindly check, made it clear and answerable. Please edit your answer if you think :) – Vikas Jul 11 at 2:37
  • It doesn't answer my question. – Vikas Jul 13 at 9:20
  • I'm answering quoted parts of your question directly. "When you're not an art director/project manager, how moral is it to expect most of the project related things from you, when you're a Graphic Designer?" Its nothing to do with morality-- its a startup, and you're being pushed to take more responsibility where there's no one currently handling those things. This is normal in small companies: you can either seize the opportunity or find another company with better defined roles. – Damouse Jul 13 at 18:23
  • If you had 5k+ reputations, I would believe you. So I'm more dependent on others :) It's my nature, good or bad I don't know. – Vikas Jul 13 at 18:57
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    Heh, my answer is not a reflection of my Workplace experience, it comes from my professional experience: I'm currently on my 5th startup. Despite the downvotes, I think you ask a good question that other people will also ask. What you do with my answer is your prerogative. – Damouse Jul 13 at 19:37
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Some things leapt out at me in the question:

I'm the only designer there. There's one person for copy writing and one director who checks my designs. There are no senior designers and art directors.

and:

There should be an art director who can help the way I want (Again, I don't know much about their responsibilities much). Currently I'm handling everything including Graphic Design.

In smaller organizations this notion of having a broader scope than what your title alone may imply is going to be very much the norm. I'm not a graphic designer myself but I've worked with more than a few - both in-house design teams and where we were an agency providing services to third parties. While all were relatively small (ranging from 12 employees to a couple of thousand) not a single one of them ever had an "Art Director" and in the majority of cases a good chunk of what you are considering extraneous to your role would have been very much expected of someone with the "Graphic Designer" title.

I receive no support from my director and content team. There is a lack of constructive feedback, most of the time it's limited to "try something different" or "I don't like it, try again". (I'm not sure if I should expect this type of support and feedback)

This sucks. And I feel for you, I really do. But sadly it's all too common - taking as an example a web design/digital marketing firm I worked for some years back I'd say that over a third of the clients would give similar "feedback". It drove the designers nuts! But it was (and most likely remains) part of the game - and being able to draw out the right requirements from a client (be they external or internal) and therefore deliver what the client wanted even if they weren't good at articulating that is a really valuable skill for a designer. Executing those requirements well is only part of the job!

I'm in a wrong startup among the wrong people. The expectations of my role are far greater than I currently understand them to be.

This hits the nail on the head IMO - they aren't "wrong" for wanting a role to do all you describe, but you aren't "wrong" for that not being a role you want either. I've known designers who would hate there being another person that took those elements from them and visa versa. So to answer this:

When you're not an art director/project manager, how moral is it to expect most of the project related things from you, when you're a Graphic Designer?

It's totally "moral" for them to expect these things, but it's totally moral for you not to be okay with that for you.

I'm not afraid of my ideas being rejected or of working overtime. I feel bad only when I begin doubting my design skills, and what is my job role. If I have a clearer idea of what my role is, I'll be able to take better decisions about my career, for example discussing my job role with my director.

It sounds like you need to have a frank discussion with your boss about how they see the role - if it's too far from how you see it and you can't find a compromise that works for both parties then it's probably time to move on.

0

It sounds like your complaint is that you're doing a lot of work solo, without your colleagues actively contributing.

A lack of collaboration is likely driven by combination of (a) your own behavior, (b) the processes of your team and (c) the attitudes of your colleagues. Put the greatest effort into what you directly control - your behavior.


(a) Your own behavior has a strong impact on whether or not others want to collaborate with you and contribute to projects you're working on. If your colleagues feel valued and trusted when they work with you, they will enjoy contributing to your work. If your colleagues feel belittled or criticized when they offer an idea to you, they will avoid working with you.


(b) Additionally, there are potentially some process improvements that might help boost collaboration - consider what you can personally do to make it easy for your colleagues to contribute:

  1. Invite others to participate in brainstorming. During the brainstorming phase, invite your colleagues to join - ideally in a room with a big white board. Prompt the group with the issue and invite them to start throwing out ideas - anything that comes to mind. Write down everything, never dismiss or re-word an idea, regardless of how strange. Offer your own ideas last. Let the group pick several favorites to pursue.
  2. Make your in-process work available for review. Make it super-easy for someone to see your work very early in the process in case they have ideas or feedback. Post sketches/ideas that you've been developing on a wall in the office or a meeting room. Let your team know what project the work is for and that you welcome any feedback.
  3. Actively collaborate with the copy writer. Ask him/her for a few minutes every day to check in on the projects you're working on together. Show him/her the design and ask him/her for ideas about the copy and to share any copy that might be in process. Be ready to change your designs to match his/her ideas.
  4. Find time to debrief each project with the full team that was involved. Ask the account manager to share feedback from the client. Invite the team to share what they think went well and what could have been improved. Keep track of both the strengths of the team and ideas for improvement.

(c) Trying to change your teammates isn't going to accomplish much. The most you can do is directly ask for feedback and contributions from your colleagues and let them know how you feel when they don't contribute.

  • This doesn't answer the question. It's more of an advice, which would be helpful, but not the answer. – Vikas Jul 13 at 11:38
  • @Vikas, your question should include a goal. What is the goal you are trying to accomplish in your workplace? See: workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2693/… – Jay Jul 13 at 11:40
  • Goal: To give my best as a Graphic Designer, only if 1) handing all things is the responsibility of a Graphic Designer in most (say 70% companies) of the companies AND 2) My salary is increased (current salary is too less as compared to offers my other same level companies) – Vikas Jul 13 at 11:51
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    @Vikas, then I suggest posting two new questions. One should be about how to clarify the responsibilities of a graphic designer with your management. The second should be about negotiating a better salary (or see the many existing questions about negotiating a raise). – Jay Jul 13 at 11:58
  • I don't believe in clarifying it with my current management. The question is about myself and my future and what happens in most other companies (excluding top level companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple etc.). My management expects everything from me. I'm not afraid of handling all things. I'm already doing it. For me, if doing X and doing Y were duties of a job, I would do it no matter how much work is there (salary thing would come second). Does it make sense now? – Vikas Jul 13 at 12:13

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