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Open Manifesto

Design Myths: The Freelancer’s Identity Crisis, with Fifteen Footnotes.

An essay by J.T.

{18th of December 2008}


Repeatedly, I meet designers, who maintain full-time jobs, while running their own freelance studios outside of their day-to-day duties. Why do these hard-working entrepreneurs keep a steady 9–5 job, and also gig after hours or worse yet, during their 9–5 job? And which office is which?


Do they call their full-time office the office, and the one where the freelance magic happens the office? Maybe they defer to tax filing jargon and call it the home office. No matter the name (freelance, gigs, experiments, labs, research, authorship, home business, extra work, personal work, self expression, small business), it seems like a financial success because these folks earn outstanding hourly pay when working on home office gigs between 9–5 at the full-time office. Short of extra money, why else would you juggle two jobs?


When it comes to the cause of these sleepless nights and longing for creative autonomy, the motivation begins in one place: school. In most education settings, young and budding designers act as researcher (market analyst, anthropologist, fact checker), writer (in most cases, you need written content), creator (designer), and audience (seeing things with a discerning and objective eye, albeit speculatively). Rarely is teamwork employed or prescribed. Is it any wonder that designers are born (or bred) to work around the clock on self-directed projects later in their life as freelancers?


(The rest of this article is available, in print, in Open Manifesto #5)


Jason Tselentis is a designer, writer, and educator living in North Carolina. He has completed print and interactive design for: Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum; Henry Art Museum; Intel Labs; the National Park Service; Sony BMG Music; Continental Tires; and 20th Century Fox. As Assistant Professor at Winthrop University’s Department of Design, Jason teaches graphic design and typography. His work has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts and How magazine.


Jason has volunteered as Development Director for Charlotte’s American Institute of Graphic Arts, and his writings about design and visual culture have appeared in Arcade, Emigre, Eye, and How magazines. Since 2003 he has contributed to the award-winning design forum Speak Up as an author.