I just got an exciting email today, breathlessly telling me how I can learn all kinds of Down and Dirty Tricks with Photoshop CS4. And this lecture, one of the most successful seminars tours in history, is being presented by two of the best graphic designers on the planet. Wow!, I mean wow!!!!!
Oh pa-lease. What horse shit. I mean common. Do the people at Kelby Training really think I’m going to buy this shit?
Let me back up a bit, and explain my position. For those who don’t know, I have a fair bit of knowledge about Photoshop, and it’s use as a designer (hello, look around the portfolio, if you don’t believe me). Also, I have a fair bit of knowledge about pedagogy (look it up, I’m not your dad) both in general (I am a former teacher with a degree for such things from an actual college), and specifically with Photoshop (I’ve taught PS classes on and off for about 15 years). It is fair to say I have stood in front of lots of blank faces and tried my best to explain things like what resolution means, the importance of naming your layers, and how to use a layer mask. Granted, I am not nearly as well known as Corey Barker and Dave Cross, but I do have some chops.
So here’s the thing. When you get in front of a group of people to teach them photoshop, inevitably one of them will have the latest photoshop tricks book, and ask you to show them how to do tricks. Mind you, I don’t blame them for this; I too want to have a million dollars worth of knowledge, but pay only $16.95 for it. At some level, we are all lazy and would like to find the easy path. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. But here is the truth. Photoshop is a complex tool for doing an incredible array of interesting tasks. However, none of these tasks are easy. None. That’s right, its work. Most of it quite hard. Not just hard work, but sometimes, ass-kicking, tears in the eyes, pulling your hair out, hard work. Yep. In case you didn’t quite get it, no matter what you do, who you are, or how great a designer you are, at one point Photoshop will kick your miserable ass. And I mean HARD. Dude, you think I’m fucking with you? Look at my ass (on second thought…maybe not). Let me tell you. Photoshop will kick your ass, and I have the boot prints to prove it.
I know this is not a popular message, most of us would like to have the equivalent of gourmet knowledge at fast food prices. However, the real world is not like that. The real world is messy, difficult, and complex. It often takes knowledge, and hard won, sometimes painfully paid for, experience to tell the difference between a slight mistake, and a certain catastrophe. That’s why they call it a profession. It takes professionals to do professional grade work. That’s also why I charge and arm and a leg for my work, Because I have had my ass kicked so many times it practically has a calluses back there. I’m professional enough (or just plain weary enough) to not try and repeat those mistakes again. And when I’m working for you, I do my damnedest to keep you from suffering the same fate.
So when I see someone trying to sell an easy route to a complex task, it pisses me off. Not that I have anything against Corey Barker and Dave Cross, hell I wish them luck and wealth. Making money is always hard work, and I respect anyone’s hard work. However, I deeply resent that they are selling out our common profession, our birthright, for a mess of porridge.
Worse still, photoshop trickery has created the single largest group of crappy designs on the planet. One cannot open a magazine, or drive their car in a large city, without being bombarded with designs that rely more on tricks than concept. Hey guess what guys, good concepts are hard to find, tricks are easy. Mind you, I too have turned in my fair share of tricky solutions to complex problems, so I am guilty of this same crime. But good god, if you cannot even out a background image so your type will read (after all, you are designing an ad, not the fucking Mona Lisa) why do you think adding a drop shadow to the type will make it better? And if a drop show does not improve readability, why the fuck do you think making the type 3D chrome will be any better?
So what Kelby Training, with all their success, will not tell you, is that there is no trick to being a professional in graphic design All the photoshop tricks in the world will not make you a good designer. That only comes from hard work, and a few ass kickings. Sorry. I know it’s not a pleasant message, but it is the truth.
Oh, and one more thing. If you work in advertising, then for fuck’s sake, DO NOT FALL FOR IT. It’s bad enough that we have to sell crap to make our cash. For God’s sake don’t believe your own lies.