Graphic design has changed dramatically within the last decade. During the heyday of the Advertising Age, as depicted on the TV show Mad Men, designers were making names for themselves working on ad campaigns and producing iconic looks for companies. With the advent of the Computer Age, designers are still as busy as ever. The processes and mediums may be different, but great design is still in high demand. What do you have to do to make your creativity a commodity? How do you channel your creative juices into a lucrative career?
Having an eye for detail doesn’t come naturally to most individuals. Were you the kid who was always mixing up paints in kindergarten to make your own shade? Or were you always doodling in the margins of your textbooks in school? Most successful designers share a common mindset of appreciating art and products which are well-made and well-thought-out. They are concerned with not just colors and shapes but textures and context. In all ads, commercials, printed materials, or logos, there is always a message that is trying to reach the user or audience.
When you think of all the most famous or memorable logos or commercials, there is usually a statement or message that has made you remember that. The amazon logo has a smile that goes from the letter a to the letter z of the logo. This conveys that shopping with amazon is an enjoyable experience and that you can find anything on their website, from a to z. This is called brand equity. Their logo is easily recognizable and their name has become a household term. People immediately think of shopping on amazon if they can’t find what they are looking for in a brick and mortar store.
To be able to create such strong brand equity for your clients, you must be thoughtful. You must open a dialogue with them and pick their brains, as to what their ultimate goal is. If their business plan involves getting rich quick and then disbanding the business, the way you approach the design would be entirely different than if they were in a business that needed to convey longevity and stability.
Sometimes, this can be an exercise in frustration because the clients themselves don’t have a clear picture of their business goals. They may come to you and tell you that they love the color mauve but if their business is selling boxing equipment, you must educate them as to what would work best for them. Coaxing your client to accept a design that is a good solution for their business is half the battle.
Sometimes, clients will approach you with a sketch or an idea that they themselves thought up. Or maybe it was done by a relative. They may think it is the best idea since sliced bread, but your design sensibility has you screaming in horror like the figure in Edvard Munch’s art. Swallow your pride and tactfully explain to them that while it is a wonderful idea as it is, your job will be done when it has been tweaked and perfected into a professional version that they will be more proud of. The adage “The customer’s always right,” also applies to clients. You work for them, they pay your bills. Don’t be a sell-out and give them something graphically hideous but an accomplished designer also knows how to compromise and improve, instead of insulting a client’s tastes and wishes.
Be Delightfully You
Competition for designers is fierce. With computer hardware and software making it possible for most anybody to be a “designer,” you must stand out from the masses. Bidding for a job against a designer who is half-way around the world is futile. Doing spec work in the hopes that you will earn a contract is also more detrimental to your career than you would think. Why should you give away your creative ideas? The ability to come up with great design solutions is something that you should be proud of. Don’t cheapen it by giving it away to the first bidder.
Instead, become a marketing pro when it comes to marketing yourself. You are the “product.” Tell yourself that the product you’re selling is worth the investment that companies need to make. Tell your clients that they will get a great return for their investment in you. In the end, this investment will result in wide visibility and recognition which will mean significant cash flow for them. How you construct this relationship with a client will directly affect your future success.
In order to build a solid reputation for yourself as a design diva, you must continue to strive and achieve perfection. As you gain success for your design business, you need to consistently measure your level of standard and aim to improve upon perfection. The client who recognizes your special gifts and your commitment to their company will reward you with customer loyalty.