I was chatting with an old friend of mine a couple weeks ago. She's been out of the design business for about a decade now, and asked a few questions about how things have changed. She noted that the last time she was doing agency work, they all lived and died by FedEx deadlines. Things had to be on the client's desk the next morning, so you had to have comped up in time for the last FedEx delivery guy the night before.
I noted that considerably less of an issue these days. Obviously, we're able to shoot files around electronically a lot more easily these days, so the deadlines are almost exclusively the clients' and not those of any middlemen. What that means, though, is that instead of staying late at the office to finish something where the FedEx guy will be able to pick it up, you wind up working from home at all sorts of odd hours. I know I've worked on more than a few projects at 2 and 3 in the morning.
But those are largely electronic presentations. I'm working on web pages and emails, so the end products are all supposed to be electronic anyway.
Not long ago, I was working on the Fantasy Fest poster I mentioned yesterday. I had asked about submitting it electronically, but they noted that the judging would be done in a print format. I could submit my piece electronically, but they'd just print it on letter paper off their standard ink jet printer and tack it up on the wall against full-size final art pieces. So I resolved to have mine professionally printed to size and send down the physical object.
I finished working on the piece at around 11:00 one night, well after everywhere was closed. But I could still submit it electronically to FedEx/Kinkos and pick up the finished piece on my way home from work the next day. But that was only because I wanted to do a final check myself before sending it on. I could have, just as easily, had the file delivered to the submissions office from a FedEx/Kinkos that was already down there. It could have been there the very next day, having been sent well after the normal pick-up/drop-off hours.
How many folks do this for conventions? Obviously, creators try to prepare as much as they can for them, but it's not uncommon for something to get pushed to the last minute. And so a creator can submit files electronically at midnight, get on a flight to San Diego first thing in the morning, and have the printed documents (comics, posters, banners, whatever) waiting for them at the show.
It used to be that time was our enemy. We needed to have things complete in order that the objects themselves could be physically transported. We had to get our jobs done by 5:00 (or whenever) because that's what our mostly arbitrarily imposed limits were. Now, we're able to work more on our time and our own schedule. Though some people complain about this notion of bringing more work home, I dare say we're able to make up for it by reading comic strips at work or check Facebook and Twitter.
Stewe Boyd recently brought up an interesting point and one that seems to be gaining acceptance in the modern workplace. That is, that we're all working more like freelancers. We're working more on our own schedules, just getting the job done. If that means being online at 3:00 AM, then so be it. My job is to get my projects done. Sometimes that'll be 40 hours a week; sometimes it'll be 50 hours a week; sometimes it'll be 30. It's the results that matter, not the numbers you've punched in on the metaphoric clock.
The only question that really remains is: how long before that really becomes integrated into businesses? That's more or less how comic creators work -- I can't tell you the number of Tweets I see from writers working at 4:00 AM -- but there's no reason publishers can't do that as well. They don't need to be in the office for that meeting. They don't need to get the actual art files to send off to the printer. All that can be done from just about anywhere. So why not work on the schedule that suits your individual needs?