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I gave up Design for Marketing for a year. This is what I've learned.

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

2020 was a year that the whole world will never forget. It started with rumours of a 3rd World War (the whole US vs. Iran thing if you don't remember) only to end with a worldwide pandemic – that is unfortunately still not over. But 2020 will also be remembered by me as the year I gave up on graphic design and jumped headfirst into marketing, something that I always said I hated.

People who know me always knew that my ultimate goal was to leave Brazil (I won't get into details but you probably already know why). My dream was to go back to London, go back to 2013-2014 and re-do my exchange year in a loop. It was a utopia. Really. Pictures below.

I never imagined I would now be in a tiny Island in Canada that I absolutely never heard about before only to work with one of my nightmares: marketing. Yeah, I always worked at ad agencies and in London my exchange year was basically graphic design for advertising, but marketing? No, thank you – not for me. I like creativity, not sales and goals and metrics.

Tiny island in the middle of nowhere, an ocean away from London and and hemisphere away from Brazil.

I had to bite my tongue. I actually now enjoy marketing. Not as pleasing as design, of course, but it wasn't too bad. In fact, 2020 was the year that I worked more with marketing than with design – I almost forgot all Photoshop shortcuts! The horror! I went from Creative Director to Marketing Intern to Marketing Assistant. From being strict when it comes to Portuguese grammar to being corrected when I made English spelling mistakes. From turning briefs into design to making briefs to the design team. And I found out I wasn't so bad in it.

The lack of design was partially my fault. I didn't want to get freelance work from Brazil anymore (have you seen the currency rates now? Not worth it). And even though there are visual communications courses in the marketing program, I simply transferred my credits. But, on the last semester, I was faced with the Digital Marketing course. Because of my exchange year and the weird subjects in London, I wouldn't be able to transfer my credits. I had to do it. And I would need to work with design and UX and video again.

The first assignment? A visual story telling without words. I hate working with video – that means, editing video – so I decided to make a stop motion like I did when I was 15. Gosh, I miss my song lyrics animations, thanks Youtube for suspending my account forever.

I decide to make a video of my pandemic grocery shopping trip, a video that people that never lived in 2020 wouldn't understand.

Then I thought, "Ok, done. No more videos!" Aaaand I was wrong. The next one was my absolute nightmare: sell myself in an elevator pitch. I hate talking about myself. I'm more of the type of proving myself through my actions, not my words. My London tutor knew that. I asked him for a reference letter and he told me that I should write it. I got so mad, why would I write a reference letter for myself? But I did. And it was just his strategy to make me sell myself, lose a bit of the fear of saying I'm good at what I do. In the end he wrote another one and said that I needed to be more confident. I'm still getting there though.

I feel embarrassed even posting this video here. My face in this thumbnail! Argh. But here you go. Thanks for the "you can't eat your cake and have it too" reference, Unabomber manifest.

The last video – YES, there was another one – was better. I needed to teach something. And I'm NOT a good teacher, but it's better than talking about myself. I thought about doing a "how to shoot a polaroid picture" video, something that I always do when I need to teach something, but then decided to make one about Instagram stories' gifs. I will make a blog post talking specifically about it because it's long, but here's the video if you're not tired of seeing my face (I know I am).

Is this blog post also a task of the Digital Marketing course? Yes. But I meant to make a blog post about that a long time ago, so win-win. And I kind of need to update this blog more often. But in the end, the experience of being away from design a whole year made me realize that I like design better.

Wait, what? After all this, you're saying you hated marketing, Sarah? No, that's not what I mean. I guess working on the other side, making the content, strategies, and the briefs instead of the design made me miss design and made me value design so much more.

I was always on the fence between creative writing and graphic design, and not experiencing both, I think having design skills and marketing skills make me a better graphic designer. I guess it's true to say that having graphic design skills also make me a better marketing professional, but working with design is rare while in a marketing position, and I missed it. I don't mean making a simple social media post, I mean creating logos, websites, brochures, you know, the fun stuff. It was terrible to make a content, imagine the final design and then, not being the one actually designing it...and going on an opposite direction.

When working in design, I have more opportunities to work with marketing too. And having skills on marketing now make be a better graphic designer, that can assist the marketing department with strategy, content, or publishing, or monitoring, or making reports, the possibilities are endless.

I guess I should say that my year working on the other side of things made me expand my perspectives and skills and appreciate the skills that I already had. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side, right? Maybe I might take a sabbatical year from design now and then to make me value my profession more. Or maybe I'll just do both from now on. Because if you've seen the terrible video above, you can have your cake and eat it too if you want.

Are you a designer that is also terrified of being called a marketer? Or maybe a marketer that wants to learn more about design but is also terrified? Let me know in the comments and we can fight those fears together.


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