I wake up before my alarm even has a chance to make that sound that fuels me with the desire to kill things. I’m not surprised that I beat the alarm, this usually happens when I’m really excited. I made a mental agenda of how my morning was going to happen the night before. So far I’m right on schedule, but this is only the beginning. Breakfast is next on my list. I don’t normally eat before 9 am, but it’s a special day so I’m chowing at the stroke of 6. A fried egg over-hard between two pieces of toast; the breakfast of this champion.
I need to make a playlist for my ride to Valhalla. That’s what the ‘V’ in VSA stands for if you didn’t already know. I want my playlist to be a well rounded variety of ear candy since I haven’t yet decided what mood I’m trying to go for. I’m feeling a strange combination of excitement and terror. The perfect recipe for success. I want to be confident enough to get the job done right, but not too much that I come off as an asshole. No one likes an asshole. I start the music syncing sequence to my iPhone. I know that it can take a while so I’m doing it early. Everything is still going to plan.
I hop in the shower. Correction: I carefully stepped into it because hopping into any shower is dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals. I don’t need any accidents on such an important day. I turn the hot dial to seven o’ clock and the cold to ten fifty-five-ish (give or take a minute or two) creating the perfect bathing temperature. I need it hot enough to wake me up, but not too hot that it fogs up the bathroom mirror. I have a schedule to keep and a foggy mirror is a time waster when your are trying to look pretty. I wash with a bar soap that is supposed to smell like grape seed oil and lemon grass. WTF! I think is smells like crap but I use it anyway because it’s all I got. I carefully step out of the shower remembering my own disclaimer and smelling like a chick. Hopefully my deodorant will mask my dainty fragrance. Note the reader: I smelled like a woman all day.
I buttoned the last button on my new collared shirt. Actually everything that I’m wearing is new. It looks like I fell into the GAP… Tool. I check on the progress of my music. My phone finishes syncing, right when I pick it up, as if it where meant to be. I put it in my pocket, grab my head phones and kiss my wife and daughter good-bye. Daddy is going to come back a new man.
I head out with good tunes in my ears. I’m still undecided about the setting of my mood so I go with a little Radio Head, In Rainbows, Disc 1. It’s a good combination of up and down syncopation and right now it feels like the soundtrack to my life. I’m taking the train – Red line. It’s been a while since I’ve been on any form of public transportation. I’ve never been fond of it. Too many weirdos. Thankfully I’m riding during business hours so there is nothing but straight laced, man purse carrying, pant suit wearing, working professionals. I suddenly feel like I’m being sucked into the mundane routine of every other drone just doing what they are told. Thankfully “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” starts playing and it snaps me back to reality and then takes me back off again to a better place. I transfer to the Brown line in a lucid musical trance. I barely remember doing. It wasn’t long before the doors open at Chicago and Franklin and I begin the 3 1/2 block walk to the gates of what felt like an the most exclusive club in my industry. It still doesn’t feel real.
VSA is located at 600 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. They’ve only occupied their new space on the second floor for a year and they are already starting to out grow it. I arrive at the front door 45 minutes too early, which is actually a good thing because I just realized that I’m sweating bullets and I can use a cool down. I have a seat in the lobby of a café next door. I switch up the music to something a little more mellow. I take some deep breaths to the soft acoustics and warm rounded vocals of Kings of Convenience, the Declaration of Dependance album. By the end of the third song my body temperature starts to regulate. I switch up the music once again to somthing that will get me pumped up before I head upstairs. The name of it is a secret. I’m afraid if you knew you’d judge me.
VSA’s crew of 150 employees are a masterful group of finely tuned professionals, hand picked and well versed. I still question whether or not I’m supposed to be here. I make my way upstairs after getting clearance from the security guard. I feel special telling him it’s my first day at VSA, but he remains straight faced and unphased. My buzz is killed by 20%. I walk through the glass double doors and I am immediately engulfed by the power of the atmosphere. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I saw everyone walking around wearing a t-shirt that read “I’m kind of a big deal!”, Because they were. I’m soon met by a familiar face. One of my interviewers from my previous visit gives me the penny tour and then shows me to my desk. The agency is in a massive warehouse; the volume of at least 1 1/2 football fields, easy. There are no cubicles and no walls out side of the offices belonging to the higher ups. Just open space where you can pick your creative ideas right out of the air. My desk is side by side with the Senior Designer who I will be working with closely. It’s nice to not to be crammed in a corner where you are made to feel as temporary as possible. My guide says a bunch of stuff that I’ve heard on the first day of just about every job I’ve ever had. She hands me packet of paper and fills me in on what I will be working on first and then walks a way.
I’m barely sitting down before I’m met by a fast talking I.T. guy who shoots me through VSA’s office networking 101 in the most esoteric computer jargon I’ve heard in a long time. Good thing I speak the language, other wise I would have been twelve different kinds of lost. Within minutes I’m wired into the system with usernames, passwords, email addresses and server access. This is really happening. I was then given another packet, this one on file naming structure and folder hierarchy. I get a quick walk through of the print facilities and then we part ways. I’m starting to notice a theme. Everyone who hands me a packet of paper leaves me shortly after. Hmmm… I should write this down.
I hop back on my computer. Correction: I sit down at my desk and access the contents of my computer. Hopping on computers gets you fired. I get cracking on the busy work that they gave to fill the time, trying not to be distracted by the fact the at I’m actually at F***ing VSA! My first official task is to take a bunch of chart data for a “special client” and transfer it to a pre-existing InDesign Document. All in all there a couple thousand data entries that were expected to be entered manually, but I found a trick. What was suppose to take me the majority of the day only took me about an hour. I won’t reveal my secret, but lets just say that I started off the first day with a good impression.
The Senior Desgner was out on a business trip and wouldn’t be back till in the afternoon. Since the busy work didn’t really keep me busy (which apparently was completely unexpected), no one knew what to have me do. I decided to get myself more acquainted with the file naming system since it was the most confusing thing that I’ve come across so far. After about thirty minutes of examination I understood no more than when I started. I didn’t want to bother anyone with questions since they all seemed very hard at work so I decided to take a bathroom break where I had the pleasure of experiencing the Dyson AirBlade hand dryer. The Dyson Chicago branch is actually located right down the hall from VSA. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing this grand piece of technology I recommend finding the nearest one right now and become acquainted. I have a feeling I will be taking frequent bathroom breaks just to wash my hands. Perhaps I’ll claim to have OCD. I digress.
I filled the remaining hours decoding the file naming system and thumbing through all the available fonts in Universal Type Client. It was about 3:30 pm when the senior designer strolled in, luggage in hand. She delivered kind salutation then pulled a superman (changed clothes quickly) in the bathroom. When she came back she gave me my official brief on the current project. It was a website redesign for a very well known client. There are a lot of components involved, with a site map of over 200 pages, and it was my job — drum roll please — to make a 328 px X 140 px reoccurring label. Ta-da! And that’s what I worked on for the rest of the day. I bet you thought it was actually going to be interesting.
I left VSA that day with a bounce in my step. It was the best first day that I have ever had. Their employees live up to high end agency standards, but underneath it all they are just a bunch of design and computer nerds like me, which is comforting. I could have been told that it was my job to change the blades on the all the Exacto knives and it still would have been the best day. To the contrary, I’m working on the biggest project of my life. I finished that small (but very important) label, and have moved on to full page layouts. When it’s finished and the website is being viewed by millions I will be able to say that I was apart of it, and that’s a really good feeling. I’m proud to be part of a team at VSA Partners.
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