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Balancing Corporate and Creative Life as a Designer

By Mary Lang, Creative Coordinator, Spring 2021

The aspect of professional design I find the most difficult is designing work that functions in a corporate setting, while still maintaining creative integrity. As a designer working in the public relations realm, I often feel like an outsider with a vastly different academic and professional background. The majority of my classes take place in the fine arts department, and my public relations knowledge is limited. While the value of functionality is always stressed in design, aesthetics, and creativity are also emphasized. When working on corporate projects, I often struggle to find the line between creating work that is both artistic and professional. My first instinct is to make work that is visually striking and unique as with fine arts courses this is normally the goal, but the need for this type of work in a corporate setting is rare.


It has been a major learning curve for me to navigate client requests, and learn how to create work that is appropriate for a corporate setting. I often think designers struggle to let go of the need to make the “next best thing” and instead make work that is simply functional. The idea of making strictly functional work may sound negative, but it is often what is necessary. When creating social media graphics for a company it is not appropriate to be using fancy display type or outlandish colors, but instead creating legible, clean and functional graphics.

I have found that the best solution is to look at agency work as strictly work, and have another creative outlet outside of the agency. I think it is common for designers to get wrapped up in their agency work, and then feel discouraged when they don’t have as much creative freedom as they would like. Design is unique in that it can function both as a hobby and as a career, and many designers are very passionate about their craft. However, this way of thinking may not be conducive to the corporate environment. Instead, a solution is to work on creative passion projects outside of the office, which fulfills the need for creative freedom.


As I prepare to enter the workforce and begin to navigate the corporate environment, I am creating more of a divide between the designs I do for clients and the designs I do for fun. I make time for myself, where I work on “passion projects” and create designs entirely for my own enjoyment. Design is a major passion of mine, and is something I hope to remain interested in for a long time. My goal is that this division between design for work, and design for fun will aid in the longevity of this passion, and will keep me continually motivated in the future.

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