Meng Yang
Graphic Designer


Hindsight: Goodbye Chicago. Hello World?


HINDSIGHT: In spring of 2016, my wife and I embarked on a National and International road trip. This post recaps some of those experiences.

Time off. Trip on.

Back during my post-college days, I followed Stefan Sagmeister's work somewhat religiously. He was a graphic design persona, not a mere QuarkXpress layout lackey like me. I'd read about the oft-naked, oft-sliced-up designer and his work as well as his yearlong travel sabbatical for his every 7-year work cycle. For those uninitiated, Stefan Sagmeister is an international, award-winning graphic designer and principal at his namesake agency that stretches the traditional client-design service formula and operates on a designer-as-artist model. It's clearly contributed to his success since he's a notable, respectable and contentious personality. There's an interesting TED Talk by Stefan with a more in-depth rationale worth a watch.

At the time, the thought of taking a year to travel and allow my creative perspective to expand sounded romantic, promising and rewarding. Granted, I previously worked as an unpaid intern and juggled weekend catering gigs then thrusted into the working world with an in-house gig. So of course, a 1-year leave of absence to rejuvenate and see the world was charming but merely fantasy. So, I shelved that thought into my mental filing cabinet under the category of 'highly unlikely'.

...we spend about in the first 25 years of our lives learning ... another 40 years that’s really reserved for working ... at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement ... I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off 5 of those retirement years and intersperse them in between those working years.
— Stefan Sagmeister on taking time off

As time went on, I jumped into the creative industry and ingratiated myself into its environment and cultural norms. Early-morning jaunts and late-night sessions. Last-minute deadlines and impromptu client proposals. Coma-inducing lunches and weekly happy-hours. Crazy creative directors and frazzled account directors. And, surprise weekend shifts. That's how the industry keeps you on your toes. Lo and behold, 10 years had passed and I forgot when I even entered the industry I was trying to break into.

Shortly after getting hitched in fall 2015, my wife and I started rethinking our life and career directions. In comparison to our previous agency gigs, our careers finally moved along the trajectory course that all career-oriented folks wanted to move towards; upwards and onwards. We were finally hitting a comfort zone with stable hours, creative and rewarding work, job and financial stability and even enough time to catch Pat Sajak and Vanna White do their nightly spins. In the end, we both looked at our WWJD bracelets (kidding) and decided to go on a sabbatical. 

In spring of 2016, my wife and I moved out of our apartment in Chicago, put our Graphic Design careers on hold, moved our goods into storage and decided to embark on an intended 2-month long road trip across the US. Unarchiving Stefan Sagmeister's initial seed of thought as well as years worth of travel banter from friends and colleagues alike, we figured it was time to expand our horizons and go see a smidge of this world. Maybe, it wouldn't be as career-reaffirming nor deep and meaningful as ol' Stefan had portrayed it. But, it'd be a helluva fun trip. And who knows, you might see me posing in the buff with typography carved onto my torso. Highly unlikely.