Ageism & Design

By kellyannraver on January 22, 2016 in Ageism

I am 48 years old and have been estranged from my parents for more than a decade, from a falling out we had. I wouldn’t change how things are. However, I recently saw a recent photo of my dad with white hair and broke down and cried. I never thought about being old before that. Age had always been a number. My husband is eleven years older than me, and he acts very childlike and goofy. But, now when I think about the number, it scares me sometimes.

I was in my early forties when I decided to go to college for graphic design. I had done pastels for years and had some international commissions. I even illustrated a children’s book.

As a student, I was very competitive. I hated critiques till I got use to them, and once I did and opened my eyes and ears, my work got better. I graduated in the top of my class. I won a regional design competition. My work has been tweeted by the AIGA twice. My resume states almost all of my accomplishments. But, It also states I was in the US Army in the late 80’s.

You know the feeling when you have a design interview to prepare for, and you get your hair done, set your clothes out the night before, only after you print out resumes on fancy paper, and meticulously go through your portfolio and make sure it is just right? I have been through a lot of interviews since I graduated from design school and I have been thinking that there was a common thread at my rejection…my age.

So, this past week, I was at an amazing design firm  which I was so excited to have gotten the chance to interview with. I am probably much older than most of the designers this guy had interviewed. So, I just came out and said the obvious, that I am not young, but I also followed that with a summary of my  major accomplishments  as an artist, and in design. In response, he said he was not young either. But, then he went on to say the words that cut me like a knife. “The young designers we have hired have gone off to….” I do not even remember where he said these people ended up working or who they were that he was talking about. All I heard was YOUNG DESIGNERS. If he meant “new designers”, he could have used those words. I sat through the interview with my heart in my throat, making small talk about the awesome package design they did. Package design is something I love and is something I have worked very hard on to build up my own portfolio. I realized I did not have a chance in hell of getting this position. I shook his hand, said goodbye, and still wrote my thank you letter. I am thankful for his honesty in confirming my suspicions.

This situation reminds me that all of my favorite designers are now older. They might have started young, but they are as old or older than me, and still design. In 2014, at 84, Milton Glaser looked back to his earlier roots for inspiration to create work for AMC’s Mad Men. This is discussed in an article here. The iconic poster designer, Luba Lukova was born in 1960, and she still designs as seen here. And, Stefan Sagmeister is 53 and he is still making the zany, strange, and amazingly creative work at Sagmeister and Walsh.

I am not saying my work is equivalent to the great designers of our time. I just don’t have one foot in the grave, any more than they do. I have so much ambition to succeed and a ton of creativity brewing inside me.  If given the chance by someone that can look at my work, and not at my crow’s feet, they may someday be telling other applicants that I started out there, too.

If you have feedback on what I have said this week, please leave me a comment. And, as always, you can follow me on Twitter at @KellyARaver.  And, judge for yourself. My work can be seen here.


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