Extracurricular Activities

Dress Code

Yesterday when I asked, “What does an ‘art director’ do?” Erin replied, “I dunno, exactly, but I do know they have a club!” To which I replied, in turn, “Those directors, and their clubs!”

Then, after work, I went out to have some beers with my club.

Which brings on this public service announcement: People, if you don’t live near a professional club, or if you don’t feel like the professional clubs in your area are the sort you’d like to join, start your own damn club. It doesn’t have to be clearly defined. It doesn’t have to be defined at all. It doesn’t have to even meet—maybe your blog friends constitute a club, as I like to think that mine do. But do try to have some kind of professional group you can call your own, however informal. It tastes good, and it’s good for you!

My club started about four years ago, when I was working as managing editor for a certain scrappy independent publisher and thought I might, just possibly, be losing my marbles. I needed a reality check. I wanted to know if other managing editors at other independent publishers were encountering the same, er, challenges, let’s call them, or if I was just particularly incompetent. So I mentioned this wish to a couple of people, and some e-mails started flying, and pretty soon I was sneaking out of the office to meet some mostly-strangers for bag lunch in a park. I think there were maybe five people at our first confab. We didn’t have an agenda. We didn’t even talk much shop, as I recall. But we became acquainted. And about a month later, we picnicked again. And then we did it again.

When the weather got cold, we took to meeting indoors. Then, so that farther-flung members wouldn’t have to hustle around on the subway at midday, we started meeting for postwork drinks instead of lunch. (The inaugural drinks meeting was such a success that we scheduled our next for just two weeks later. Clearly, we’re a bunch of lushes, but I must stress that alcoholic consumption is not required for these meetings to work.) Some “members” came and went, as people shifted jobs, but most of the original attendees still attend. It’s still a small enough group that we schedule meetings via e-mail (though I have started resorting to Excel to manage the Rsvps). Last night’s meeting was our largest ever, with three first-timers and most of the founding members. A total of eleven, if I recall correctly. (I may not be recalling correctly, however—after the first beer, everything became rather hazy.)

Who are we? Well, I think we had four designers (1 x jackets, 2 x jackets/interiors, 1 x DVDs), four production people (various titles), one editor, one sales/marketing manager, and, you know, one kind of confused art director. Some work at independent presses; others work for major multinational conglomerates; one’s at a university press; five work for nonprofit entities; one freelances full-time; most moonlight at something.

What did we do? I believe we ate two baskets of fries and one of calamari, and that an average of 1.75 drinks per capita was consumed. Some of us ranted animatedly, while others listened politely. Some of us reminisced about the shitty jobs where we’d met. Some provided me with or pledged to provide leads on promising illustrators. One of the newbies revealed that he is also an illustrator and gave me his portfolio URL. In the past, members have hooked each other up with freelance editorial or design work, job leads, and references.

This, comrades, is apparently what our college career counselors called networking, but without, bleccch, the work. Cthulhu knows, I certainly did not set out to “network.” I just wanted to get a reality check from some people at similar companies. The group still serves that purpose, but it’s more just for fun. These are my friends, not my contacts [shudder].

So what I’m getting at is, formal professional organizations are fine and nice, I’m sure, but they’re not always appealing or available. They can seem especially daunting if you’re new to the field, or changing careers, or have what seems to you to be a vague or weird job. Or if, like me, you suck at mingling. Whatever your reasons for not being a joiner—hell, even if you are a member of ADC, TDC, AIGA, EFA, Webgrrls, YPG, Overtime, whatever, and you go to every Mediabistro party that’s on the calendar—I encourage you to roll your own exclusive professional society, with escutcheons, secret handshakes, and whatever else makes you laugh. Find, or create, a group of which you would want to be a member.

This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by the Royal Stet Lodge. Stet!

Photo: Alba-quirky – 31 by Steev Hise; some rights reserved.

13 thoughts on “Extracurricular Activities

  1. Great suggestion, India. I think you’ve convinced me to go find some fellow journalist types and band together in a club. I’ve always wanted to belong to a club, anyway.

  2. T-shirts, coffee mugs–all that fun stuff (like the kerning jacket) should follow. The conference won’t be like BookExpo, but we still need the loot. Then, of course, all the vendors will have to ante up to host a cool party for us!

    This is, in a very small way, why Publisher’s Group West’s demise is so sad–they had the best parties at BEA.

  3. For years I’ve pined for a real brick-and-mortar club. It needn’t be grand. A few large-ish rooms for socializing and a few small-ish rooms to which people could retreat and read quietly. Perhaps a little galley kitchen as well. A liquor cabinet. And a bathroom closer than “down the hall”.

    You know. A place that is neither home nor work nor public space.

    “Where’s Sheila?” “Oh, I think she’s at her club. She’ll be along ’round ten-thirty or so.”

    Or: “Sheila usually stops in at the club before toddling on home.”

    Doesn’t sound impossible.

  4. Hoodies would be perfectly fine. But Sheila, brick and mortar clubs would require major league cash and for us to deal with landlords and such…we mayneed to build up to this. How about a sublet situation–you could still refer to it as “your club.” Or maybe we need a wealthy patron? Someone who would like to hang with the cool kids?

  5. I’m more the fez type. Maybe those will be reserved for the higher mystic orders, like the Shriners. And hey, half of these fraternal orders had their first meetings in bars or barns. You can work up to the Greek-style temples and the Stet Yacht with time. (Unless you go the Stonecutters route and work behind the scenes. . . . )

    Excellent post and congrats on creating a lasting group where folks feel comfortable and are friends. At AIGA or Mediabistro meetings, I’d kinda feel like I was at a high school dance, staring at my feet in the corner with my drink (this time legally purchased).

  6. Y’all need to get in some parades. A float (perhaps a giant CMS?). A color guard with red-pencil batons. Pantone-chip placards. You can throw commas and semicolons to the children lined up along the street.

  7. Excellent suggestion, especially the placards…BUT floats are such a pain to make. I think India will need to Art Direct this project. I’ll sit and sip my coffee and eat double-chocolate biscotti, attired in the Stet Collection, OK?

  8. I thought the Stet Lodge was just for designers, and typesetters, linotype operators, bookbinders, and such. I know you said one of your members was an editor, but I figured that he or she was a token, and probably from the book trades besides. I could actually start a branch of the Royal Stet Lodge??

    (feeling hopeful, and honored, that I might qualify)

  9. Well, I propose that the Confederation of Stet Lodges should admit any group the majority of whose members understand and professionally use the term stet. That might cause us to incorporate a few graduate-level Latin clubs, but I don’t think that would be a bad thing.

    Incidentally, the RSL was originally a group of production people, not designy types (and the editor in question works at a small press where she has some production responsibilities, as well; but the title on her business card is “editor”). But like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, existing members keep meeting new simpatico people and dragging them along. And then those people bring people. You might call this process Dorothization.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.