I'm currently a Graphic Designer at a small design / illustration studio. I've been here for a year and a half. Our team is myself, another designer, a project manager, and two partners / directors. Our clients are non-profits, tech companies, book publishers, newspapers & magazines (editorial illustration), start-ups, etc.
To be fair, there are some positive things to be said, but most of what I'd like advice on is the nightmarish, horrible aspects. I'm literally losing personal integrity every minute I stay at this place, but I'm afraid to bounce knowing it might be worse somewhere else. (I've only had one full-time position since graduation, despite getting offers from tons of places). Some of the major red flags:
- Manipulation of employees, in order to stay late, skip lunch, complete tasks outside the other partners radar. I'm talking blatant lies.
- Expectation that designers will generate concepts, and execute design and illustration (with mostly half-baked art direction) with the understanding that the partners ultimately own that work.
- When not executing concepts, partner will lift project from designer to complete themselves and thus take credit for, despite the concept not being their own.
- A work pace so fast that it leaves no time for critiques, or potential to fail, or try out new ideas or concepts. I'm talking like sketching to Illustrator comp for 3-5 directions in less than 3 hours. Could be solved with more employees but partners are too critical to hire someone new.
- Zero teamwork mentality in the office. All projects are handled individually with one partner serving as art director.
- Verbal abuse from partners when one tries to bring up employee concerns / problems in lieu of HR department.
- Yearly performance reviews with no other time to discuss concerns.
- Confusing feedback / critiques, which often are often so subjective that it's impossible to follow. Criticized when one doesn't understand.
- Etc etc
Please feel free to ask me to clarify if you'd like to know more.
I'd like to know from you guys, if you've encountered anything like this in your careers. What did you do about it? Is this the industry norm? Did things ever improve? Are all places like this? Is ad agency life different? Is in-house life different? How did you go about job searching while still employed, knowing what a small world the industry is?
I'd also be willing to hear your horror stories if you provide your position, size of studio, and type of work, etc -- so that we all could benefit from hearing it.