A Letter From An Old Graphic Designer To A Young Graphic Designer

Dear Young Graphic Designer,

When I search for “young graphic designers,” Google shows me at least 5 articles on how cool young artists are—about how brilliant you are, about how much talent you have in you—all the glorification that will propel your ego. But when I search for “old graphic designers,” all I see are articles questioning our capabilities, our future, and our obsoleting skills. It leaves me wondering where I stand in the graphic design industry.


At this point in time, I can’t see how an old lad can win against you. You win this battle — at least for now. Your works are rad and your ideas are fresh. You’re hungry for recognition and starving for work. Any client would hire you in a heartbeat over me. You’re shiny; newly polished. You have your head in the game. Meanwhile, I am matte and in need of repaint. I’ve played long enough to memorize the game plan. But the thing is, I might have to make a new one because there are more players now — which is another win for you. I haven’t had a streak of wins recently but when I try to visualize what your future will become, I can’t help but write you.


The whiff of your tablet’s stylus does not scare me. When I was your age, we didn’t have CTRL+Z or virtual pen tools to draw shapes but we made them just the same. We didn’t have layers; we had to think of the big picture in order to calculate the stroke of our pens to avoid certain elements from overlapping. We did everything by hand with pencils and ink — you’re familiar with those, right, and you know that ink can’t be undone as easy as opening a new page? The kind of patience and drive that we have can only be attained with all the years of being underpaid and overworked employees, oftentimes second-guessed by clients.


The only reason why I’m still doing this is because of passion. I love being a graphic designer. I’m good at this that’s why I never stopped even when my parents and friends have repeatedly put me down. You’re young. You’re lucky that more people understand that graphic design is a legit job and not just a hobby for the lazy. So don’t sell yourself short. When you work for free or charge poorly for your work, you’re not only hurting your wallet but also every other designer’s because that would mean we’ll all have to adjust our rates to compete with yours. We can’t all compete with your new artist rate because most of us have been underpaid at some point and it’s about time we get what we deserve. And since we’re talking about age, you can assume that we have more mouths to feed and carpal tunnels to cure.


I am writing you not because I am threatened. Take this as a warning from one graphic designer to another. You may seem like the better choice now, but don’t forget that I have years ahead of you which equates to wisdom, experience, and a longer list of connections. I am not worried about getting ahead, all I think about is getting by which makes it easier for me to do my job. But you, you’re looking at years of butting heads with clients and graphic designers. You will revise an artwork more than twice. You will copy another’s work, change a few details, and claim it as your own. You will cheat and be cheated on. You will gain and lose friends. You will buy unnecessary sketchbooks you won’t use. You will overspend on art materials and international magazines. You will run out of ideas. And you will rethink your decision of becoming a graphic designer every Thursday.


There are a lot of things that I do know but there are also a lot of things that I do not know. Graphic design is continuously evolving. When I started out, gradient backgrounds were cool, Comic Sans was a default casual font for posters and  we were free to pair pink with neon green. But now there’s all these different art styles and designs that only use words or geometric shapes and even a hybrid of styles. Honestly, it’s getting hard to catch up with all these trends and new practices but thanks to these techniques, design is more acknowledged because of your generation’s good work. The more impressive work you produce, the more chances there are for graphic artists, old and new. The death and survival of design lies in you. So technically, my future as a designer is also in your hands.


I’m not here to put you down. Old graphic designers are here to support you. We do not wish to take anything from you. Some of us have quit, some have chosen other careers while a few have remained hopeful that graphic design is a sustainable industry. Stay afloat. Love what you’re doing. Keep yourself busy and inspired. Draw. Erase. Draw again. Choose unique color palettes and uncommon fonts. Modify the effects you apply on your work. Use the pen tool instead of brushes. Arrange your layers. Save your work. You probably know all these by heart already but it pays to be reminded every once in a while because you and I, we’re no different. We play for the same team and we use the same weapons. Use your talent well to inspire and breed a future generation that will continue what we have hand in hand started.


An Old Graphic Designer

This is written for all young, new and up and coming graphic designers from the point of view of  a graphic designer at his prime. This piece is purely fictional.


Share your thoughts through the comments box below.

17 comments on “A Letter From An Old Graphic Designer To A Young Graphic Designer”

  1. Tasha Louise Pain Reply

    I for one as a junior designer, have all genuine respect for senior designers and try to learn everything I can from them.
    I’m not one of those people who think I’m crash hot just because I was one of the designers from the younger generation.

  2. Boris Chevreau Reply

    Claire, who did you get your inspiration from? This article is a masterpiece (Ang galiiing talaga! that’s for the pinoy pride hehe).

    My father is an (old) graphic designer, and this is word for word what he would have written.

    Honestly, my heart got pinched and I almost cried while reading you, this makes so much sense to me, I really saw him struggle over the last few years with the economic crisis and the rise of so many “self-made” graphic designers who think they know better, and don’t listen to their mentors anymore.

    However it is true that graphic design evolves fast nowadays, and it is really hard for older generations to follow or even try to catch up with new ones. My father started with those old gut cutters, elaborating artworks with the “collage” technique a million miles away from vector shapes of Adobe Illustrator or the layers of Photoshop.

    I truly hope older generations and the next will manage to merge their skills and wisdom to push Design forward, instead of competing for lower prices and making this industry a shadow of its own.

    Long Live Art !

    PS: Daddy I <3 U ;-)

    • Claire Jariss Manlapas Reply

      Hi Boris,

      Thanks for sharing your dad’s story. I hope he’s well. I have high regards for old graphic designers because even if I don’t know a lot of them, I *am* that young designer who grew up learning design with ease through the technology we have today. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been for them during their time when design was such an underrated field and art was only meant for the privileged. I also hope the same for future generations.

      Thanks for totally getting this piece. Salamat! :)

  3. popsyjunior Reply

    It reminds me of the young programmers who jump in to learn jQuery without actually learning javascript first. ;)

  4. Nick Roberts Reply

    “You are not better than me because you know Photoshop.” The syntactic ambiguity here is a good example of why designers still need copywriters.

  5. hashker Reply

    i almost cried.. It’s a touching one honestly.. No matter what, Old is always Gold. !

  6. BrennaJue Reply

    Claire, you have several good points here. I have no doubt there are many talented young ones, as well as very humble ones who respect their predecessors, but some of them also do not understand the art of designing for their audiences, or WHY they’re being asked to perform a task. If I, as the client, ask a novice designer to create a graphic of “X,” as long as they’re being paid they may not question “why” or “who is the audience” or “how about this idea instead” — they’ll just go and do it. One skill that comes with experience is understanding people, not just what looks “cool.” One cannot learn in school how to work well with a variety of collaborators, clients, and audiences. This comes only by real-world working experience which will come in time for them. Another quality of a great graphic designer is the ability to communicate well, in person or remotely. I have interviewed younger junior designers for my team. With a generation brought up on abbreviated texting and expression in less than 140 characters, I find that some in the younger generation have difficulty with communicating professionally and verbally off-the-cuff to clearly express themselves or their ideas. In my younger days I spent much time with people of more maturity and I learned a lot from others. Peers are good to grow with, elders will make you more well-rounded.

    As for the craftsmanship: It burns me to see people (young or old) who are so-called experts with Illustrator or Photoshop and offer to make a logo for $5. I’m not exaggerating, people really do this. It hurts all of us who have poured blood, sweat and tears into the craft. I think the veterans have a deeper understanding and appreciation that help us to create with a level of skill that’s not obvious to the untrained eye because we HAD to create with our hands. For example, does anyone remembering hand-kerning letters with Letraset? Cutting Rubylith with an Exacto? Dodging and burning in a darkroom? Exercises like this taught us to plan well, and treat our art forms with careful respect. We all, as a design community, should help educate each other across age gaps or skill levels by sharing our wisdom when we can. I’ve learned much from the young ones, and many elders still have their head stuck in the past, so it definitely goes both ways. And you Claire are doing your part to extend some wisdom to all generations of designers who care enough about our trade to read this blog. Thank you.

    • Claire Jariss Manlapas Reply

      I appreciate the time you took in sharing your views and experiences with junior designers. I’m happy that you were able to see the article positively. You’re very welcome. :)

  7. Chidiebere Reply

    Nice write up. I will keep learning and also follow the trend. i love y
    you all

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