May 16, 2005

Parallel And Perpendicular Jumps

After a comment from an old friend, and a conversation with another who is thinking of making a parallel jump in his industry, I got to thinking what I would do if I had to change careers. What if I was forced to stop designing and quickly find something else to pay the bills? Not only is it an interesting question, but it could also be considered some good forward thinking. Or at least as forward thinking as it’s possible to be on a Monday morning. Please, do join me.

Let’s do this two ways, first, what would you do if you needed to make a parallel change in careers? Meaning, same industry, different role; like moving from waiter to cook in a restaurant. Second, what if you had to make a perpendicular jump and get out of your industry all together? Meaning, different industry, different role; like moving from rodeo clown to encyclopedia salesman.

I will be the initial cannon fodder. If I had to make a parallel jump, I would like to be a type designer. I am obsessed with typography and typographic history, and can stare at the nuances in letterforms for hours. I love the craft that goes into making typefaces, as well as the power typographers breathe into each character. They are making letters! The very root of modern written communication! This is of course idiocy at it’s best, since type design seems to be a very thankless field monetarily, but indulge me. Maybe I will have won the web design lottery by then.

Second, jumping perpendicularly and leaving the industry of graphic design entirely, I would lean towards some sort of woodworking trade. When I was younger I used to help out my grandfather (who was a carpenter) on the job building houses. I had my own tool belt and hammer, as well as a tape measure and a pocket full of 10 penny nails. Even for how young I was (nary 8 years old), I felt like I could do it forever. I still enjoy working with my hands immensely; the act of physically building something has always appealed to me. Perhaps I could be a carpenter like my grandfather, or a furniture designer. Either way, it would probably be for the best seeing as how my big hands were never meant for use on something as miniscule as a computer keyboard.

You’re up, what about you? Give me your parallel and perpendicular occupations, and back them up with some reasoning.

Commentary (39):

1. bearskinrug says… may 16, 2005 | 6:49 am

Hmmm. Is it cheating if I were to jump back into Design from Illustration? Although if you can make the jump from Design to Typographer, I will make the sub-genre jump into Concept Art. That’d be pretty fun, I think.

Perpendicularly, I think I’d probably have gone into teaching. Teaching History, maybe. The problem there, is that I tend to get impatient if I’m getting any lip. So I’d probably avoid the High School level, when teenagers are at their sassiest…

2. Steve Smith says… may 16, 2005 | 8:04 am

I think my parallel jump would have to be information architecture. I love getting down to the root of content, organizing and reshaping it.

For the perpendicular jump, I probably would have to stick with my original college goal and say acoustics. Architectureal acoustics to be more precise. I have always marveled at the physics of sound. My undedrgraduate degree was in physics, and this entire genre of science has always amazed me.

3. John Athayde says… may 16, 2005 | 8:30 am

I’ve kind of had my feet in different ponds for a while. I went to architecture school, then did 3d for architects, now do ecommerce. So I’ve been more or less parallel jumping for a while.

On the perpindicular front: I’d probably apply to Pixar for something like “Layout Artst” and go play in visual effects. I’ve dabbled in filmmaking and cg for years and I always have the desire to point at something I’ve created, and if you’ve not seen the tour of Pixar on the Monsters, Inc. Dvd, the culture seems pretty amazing there.

If I had to do something that was not computer based (*gasp* no!!!), I’d probably go into horses. My brother-in-law is a jockey, and they’re simply amazing animals. And there’s something about working outside that is great. No cubes. No climate control. No copier noises. Less politics (at least on the day to day basis).

4. John Nunemaker says… may 16, 2005 | 8:30 am

I think my parallel jump would have to be into design. Probably my favorite thing to do is to look at great designs. How much more fun would it be if they were mine?

My perpendicular jump would be towards either farming or something electrical. My dad is a farmer and save the long work hours I always enjoyed helping out. I took an electro-mechanical class in high school and absolutely loved it. I was planning on being an electrician until I decided to go to college and discovered the web.

5. Damian Rintelmann says… may 16, 2005 | 9:10 am

If I had to get out of design (web,print), I think that I would make the jump to making documentaries.

I would join my fiancé in her quest to save the world or some refugees. We could travel to these countries documenting some of the eye opening practices taking place. Then produce them for rest the world could see. I think that people, especially Americans could use some real life views of what the rest of the world is like.

I’ve always wanted to travel to remote parts of the world and backpack more. What better way to experience the world and help the humanity while you’re at it?

6. Rebecca says… may 16, 2005 | 9:12 am

My parallel jump would probably be into more print design (I currently do xhtml, css, and IA).

I think my perpendicular jump would be into forensic anthropology. My major in school was biological anthorpology and my favorite class was an osteology lab and I loved it.

7. rachael says… may 16, 2005 | 9:21 am

If I couldn’t paint, I would be an installation artist using fibers. You can get a lot of the same qualities of lumisescence and layering through the types of fabrics and the dyes used.
My perpendicular leap would probably be a writer. I’ve always been an avid reader and writing would still allow me to travel as much as I want without being tied down.

8. wayne says… may 16, 2005 | 9:23 am

i’m trying really hard to make a parallel jump right now, but i have yet to find a place to land.

i’m currently working in academia as a writer/editor/communications person, but especially since i got my doctorate this weekend, i’m itching to go back to teaching at a university. if not that, then i’d like to be a full-time writer/poet.

jumping out of the written-language-based field, i think i’d have to go for narrator/sportscaster/voice talent.

9. Michele says… may 16, 2005 | 9:27 am

I’m currently studying, so I think a parallel jump would be a course change.

At the moment I’m studying Computer Engineering, and if I had to change, maybe I’d go for Design or Medical School.

While a perpedincular jump might be dropping out and start working. So, if I could choose whatever work I like, maybe I’d choose freelance photographer or I’d start a start-up…

10. Jens Meiert says… may 16, 2005 | 9:46 am

Parallel: No idea (Project Management, probably?), quite happy with my profession (Information Architect) since it covers that many topics.

Perpendicular: DJ (fulltime), definitely. Music is of incredible power, and mixing tracks together is real art, if you master it, of course. By the way, I’d primary play House and Electro.

11. Jim Walls says… may 16, 2005 | 9:51 am

Amazing you brought this up. I was thinking about the same topic in the shower this morning. What is it about Monday mornings and career-change fantasies?

I’m currently a copywriter (well, associate creative director, to be more specific). But if I had to make a parallel jump, I think I’d like to be a video editor. I’m fascinated by the process, and am amazed how clipping or adding a few frames here or there can dramatically alter your narritive—and can make or break your work.

As for the perpandicular jump, I arrived at the same point you did: Carpenter. Advertising and design is so, so subjective. You can spend months pouring your heart and soul into something, only to watch it all go lopsided when one middle manager airs a minor concern. I get the impression that in a trade labor job, you have only yourself to rely on to say if you’ve done a good job or not. Sure, you always have a client, but you can instantly see the result of your work, whether it be crown molding, an intricate drain system, or a well-landscaped flower bed and decare it “great” without much of a chance of being shot down my someone else along the line.

Of course, I’m sure I’m romanticizing. I’m sure it’s not all Norm Abram in the Yankee Workshop all day. It’s probably more akin to framing out windows for your 20,000th Toll Brothers home.

12. Kristian Walker says… may 16, 2005 | 10:13 am

I’ve been jumping that way my whole career. I started as an illustrator, moved into photography, jumped to print design and added web design to the mix 7 years ago. The next jump for me would be into motion graphics/flash.

If I were to get out of the design biz completely, I would go into music and teach jazz and vocal performance. I don’t think I’d be able to really be good at something that wasn’t related to the arts in one way or the other.

13. avianto says… may 16, 2005 | 10:44 am

Parallel: User interface or experience oriented field. I’ve been thinking about this quite often lately and I might make a jump soon.

Perpendicular: Writing. Fiction. That’s all.

14. lawrence::otoole says… may 16, 2005 | 10:48 am

parallel : industrial design
if i had my druthers… i’m doing my darndest to incorporate it into the 2d stuff i’m up to now…

perpendicular : chef
similar to design, kinda, manipulating flavor, texture, smell to create an experience. i think that could be endlessly enjoyable, similar to a well executed indentity job. plus i love me some good eats!

and, of course, there is always professional race car driver - although i do already treat my commute to/from work as a stage of the WRC…

15. Charles Martin says… may 16, 2005 | 10:56 am

I’m currently a web developer (ASP/SQL).

Parallel: Network administrator/techie.

Perpendicular: I’d probably would want to work in a bookstore or jump into working on a landscape crew (either maintenance or design).

16. Jason Beaird says… may 16, 2005 | 11:03 am

For a parallel jump, I’ve really enjoyed tinkering with and doing a few freelance projects with 3D modeling. There’s quite a learning curve with programs like 3dStudio and Maya, but once you have a base knowledge, it’s a lot of fun.

This may just be because I spend so much time in front of a computer, but I’d do something physical and outdoors. I would love to be a white-water rafting guide for a while.

17. Dean says… may 16, 2005 | 11:08 am

Interesting questions Jason.

Parallel: I’d like to devote my artistic energies to photography. Maybe tack on “travel photography” to satisfy my travel fantasies…

Perpendicular: Home remodeling or carpentry type of work. Building physical “things”.

18. Harry says… may 16, 2005 | 11:53 am

||: I’d be a product designer.

T: Bush pilot, or an actor, or a writer. Be Indiana Jones, play Indiana Jones, or write about Indiana Jones.

19. brian says… may 16, 2005 | 11:53 am

parallel: product design - making cool physical objects.

perpendicular: I really want to start my own brewery. i’ve been homebrewing long enough to know I love it.

20. Jeni says… may 16, 2005 | 12:03 pm

I always thought it would be interesting to move into print design after years of working as a web designer. There’s something about papers and inks and color manipulation that I really get into, and it would give me a new set of challenges to sink my teeth into.

As for a perpenticular jump… oy. I sometimes entertain myself by dreaming up what I’d do with myself if I ever changed careers. One of the things I’ve seriously considered is custom photo developing. I used to work in a photo lab and really enjoyed it, and would probably be happy as a clam in a good custom shop. I’ve also considered returning to school for a degree in entomology, since it was a dream of mine as a kid to be a “bug scientist.” In my less sane moments, I consider moving to the mountains, growing herbs and exotic botanticals, and making luxury health and beauty products.

21. jordan says… may 16, 2005 | 12:39 pm

Parallel: web design. I’m currently doing a bloody horrid job in a grocery store.

Perpendicular: any number of things. Artist, author, teacher (bit hazy on that, though), something with the outdoors… maybe even a tour guide or hobo in some other country.

22. Tony says… may 16, 2005 | 12:50 pm

At this point, I’ve changed industries and jobs about every 18 months since graduating with a B.S. in Arts Management in 2001. I’ve been at my current job for almost two years, and I’m trying desperately to change industries and job functions. I wonder if there is something wrong with me? :)

23. JunaD says… may 16, 2005 | 1:01 pm

Right now I am part of a small graphic design studio. Just 2 of us.

Parrallel: I would like to experience working for an advertising agency. I heard it is hard work and long hours but it might be fun.

Perpendicular: Video gamer designer, Food Critic, or own a restaurant.
Because, basically besides Graphic Design all I really do is eat and play video games. :)

24. AkaXakA says… may 16, 2005 | 1:04 pm

Want to learn about what perpendicular actually is?

Here’s a rather good sing-song, rivaling JSM’s own singing Stan :)

25. AkaXakA says… may 16, 2005 | 1:15 pm
26. Ian says… may 16, 2005 | 1:50 pm

||? I’d be editing video.
T? Nude modelling.
Building things has always turned me on. However, I’m prone to splinters and sunburn. Myrmecology is also an erstwhile goal of mine.

27. Jordan Moore says… may 16, 2005 | 1:52 pm

I’m currently a Web developer/designer.

Parallel: Lately, I’ve been interested in print design.

Perpendicular: I’ve been playing music for ten years (piano/keyboard and guitar specifically), so I would probably make an attempt at something related to music. Performing? Teaching?

28. patrick h. lauke says… may 16, 2005 | 1:59 pm

ok, currently working mainly on front-end web stuff.

parallel: back-end, server-side development (not wonderful, but i’m fairly nifty with simple things like PHP interfacing with a variety of things, even up to Oracle databases and integrating web services, XML feeds, etc)

perpendicular: film and video editing and/or photography. both are fairly serious hobbies of mine, and i have in the past worked on large scale multimedia multi-screen live events…so anything in that area would be ok with me. heck, if i got the chance, i’d even consider special effects / compositing.

29. Craig C. says… may 16, 2005 | 2:06 pm

Parallel: I’d go back to my childhood dream of drawing comics. Though I’m a crap penciler, so I’m more interested in inks and colors. And with the new-fangled digital coloring (farewell Zip-a-Tone) it’s not even so far removed from web design.

Perpendicular: I could totally build sweet custom choppers. I watch the Discovery Channel, I know how it’s done.

30. Joshua Lane says… may 16, 2005 | 3:40 pm

Parallel: I’d probably try my hand at drawing comic strips. I’m not the best artist in that area, but I have a few characters already created. And with enough practice, I’m sure I’d get decent at it.

Perpendicular: I’d go back into retail, but it would have to be a management position. I used to work at “Gadzooks” in college and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

31. Matt Johnson says… may 16, 2005 | 8:41 pm

Parallel: 3d Interactive designer

Prependicular: Master Mechanic - My dad has been a mechanic his whole life, racing cars, building cars, fixing cars etc. I’ve spent many many many hours of my childhood passing tools to him, so i think working as a mechanic would be perfect.

32. Terry Tolleson says… may 17, 2005 | 6:27 pm

My parallel jump would likely be from designer to developer (for the web). I am already kinda being pulled in that direction and feel that, before long, I will be developing sites more than designing them (not to mention dropping print design substantially).

My perpendicular jump…? Well… I am crazy for model making. I mean real hardcore model construction as seen in movies or for architecture firms. Or stop-motion animation. That stuff rocks.

33. Jan Brasna says… may 17, 2005 | 6:47 pm

From almost self-employed (creative director of a small team) to some consultant, accessibility/usability/IA/UX specialist or a senior designer in a renowed web design shop ;D

I’d love to be a punkrock guitarist and a photographer ;) /but don’t have the skills :’( …/

34. Maaike says… may 18, 2005 | 11:49 am

Right now I’m a graphic designer (web/print) but I’ve spent 2 years in medical school before I switched to art school. I still have a soft spot for anything related to medicine though, so I guess I’d go in that direction if I’d have to switch.

But I’d rather not ;-)

35. Kurt says… may 21, 2005 | 12:42 am

Para: TV/broadcast design

Perp: Rally Car Driver (they’re hiring right?)

36. Kim says… may 23, 2005 | 1:33 pm

Current: web/print designer

Parallel: Making monkeys and other crafty items on a full-time basis. I get much more enjoyment out of making something with my hands.

Perpendicular: Massage therapy or the like. Guess that’s along the same lines as doing something useful with my hands.

37. Jeremy Boggs says… may 23, 2005 | 9:37 pm

Currently: Historian (currently in a PhD program)

Parallel: Geologist or Lawyer (both as an academic, teaching college/law school. I loved geology as an undergrad, and a lot of the history I do deals with legal/constitutional history).

Perpendicular: Web Design (which is why I read this site so much!)

38. Beto says… may 25, 2005 | 12:22 pm

Currently: Web/IA designer, 10+ years in the field.

Parallel: Definitely would be into creation of comics and sculpture modeling (ala Todd McFarlane, I used to make these at college and I’d love to get the chance to get back into it.

Perpendicular: High end audio engineering / mastering. I jumped the audiophile bandwagon some years ago and I’d love to exploit the art of creating recordings as true-to-life as possible. Pity the low-res MP3/iPod generation won’t appreciate this at all… but there’s still hope.

39. Jason Liske says… may 27, 2005 | 4:07 am

Jason, you can do both! I am a web designer and a carpenter. I sell ceramics on the side but that is more of a hobby. So you can never have too many jobs!

First of all, I have realized I am a generalist, not a specialist, so trying to do any one thing is futile and against my natural grain. I have a very short attention span and like to have alot of irons in the fire. Being honest with who you are as a person is a must in career happiness.

Secondly, I find that my arse gets kind of flat sitting in a chair all day, so finding something on the more complimentary side of things is a nice balance.

So far I have built the house we live in, a 2500 sqft in the California central valley, and remodelled a duplex that I bought from the proceeds of this house and some web work. I am now in escrow on my next project. I work in front of the dual 213Ts from 8-12 in the morning, and then throw the toolbelt on at 1 or so.

As a generalist I suffer the mediocrity of never going in one direction very far, but I can relate to many different people and enjoy a balance that I can’t live without. Well its working for me at least at this point in my life. I admire specialists and experts in their respective fields, but heck, I get bored too fast!