Have you ever seen a design that just looked, well.. terrible? It could be an ad, a poster, an album cover or maybe even a logo. But you saw it and you thought, “no.” Chances are a business owner or maybe a musician, who was clearly NOT a graphic designer or creatively inclined at all, tried to do it himself in order to save some cash. Or maybe this person hired a designer who was fresh out of college and still a little wet behind the ears. Or possibly, he hired his nephew’s friend’s sister’s boyfriend to do it. ‘Cause he had Photoshop, was willing to work for a case of beer and could have it done by Friday.
Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is, but it happens. There’s usually some train wreck of a story behind every dreadful design and it always starts with a small budget and ends with wasted time and money.
Let’s also not forget the frustrated business owner or musician who isn’t drawing the business or crowd that he’d hoped for. The eyes grow sad and tired. The frown lines begin to show. Anger rears it’s ugly head and children run screaming into their mother’s skirts. It’s not a pretty sight. As they say.. hindsight is 20/20. I know because I’ve met business owners who have gone down similar paths. And they said that. But they’ve all repented their destructive ways and are doing much better now. So let’s get to it!
1. There are actually rules to effective design.
Your brand image (this applies to musicians and other artists too – do not deny your brandness!) is a crucial part of your success. In other words, if it looks janky it’s no doubt wanky. Or at least that’s the message you’re sending. That’s because there are rules to graphic design.
There’s a little voice in our head that determines whether a brand appears reputable or not. It takes training, lots of practice, years of experience, an abundance of coffee (or tea – for my tea drinkers out there, holla!), a general grasp of business and a thorough understanding of different industries in order to develop and master the skill set necessary to design in a way that is appealing AND effective. “Effective” is the key word here. You can have the coolest looking website in the world, but if nobody cares and it’s not making you any money, it’s not working for you.
As a graphic designer, there are so many things to consider when starting a new project: Who is the client? Who is their current audience? How does this align with their preferred audience? Where does their audience first learn about them or their product? Who are their competitors? What sets them apart from their competitors? How does the client view himself/herself or their business? The list goes on.. And speaking of lists, there are actually do’s and don’ts of design. A long list of do’s and don’ts that I’ve even seen “pros” botch.
Think of the eye movement of a viewer when first introduced to a design (seeing a sign, scanning a web page, viewing an event invite or poster, looking for a new album to check out). Now think about where they are first introduced to this design (on the bus, flyby Facebook ad, handed to them by a stranger on the street, in a store). It matters. This is when it’s imperative to use spacing and alignment, imagery, backgrounds, typography and colors in your favor. It’s important to note too, that this list is constantly evolving and the way we design has to be adapted for new mediums.
Just think of how stylistically different websites are today compared to websites 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago.
2. Your time is better spent doing what YOU do best.
This is how every individual, business, band, you name it, becomes successful. Whether you’re a musician, a lawyer, a chef or a dog walker, the marketplace is a massive sea of competition.
With everyone relying on the internet to pull in fans or clients, there are distractions, quite literally, everywhere you look. How will you ever get noticed? This is why It’s important for you to get people on your team that will research your field and identify how to make you stand out in the ever growing crowd.
The kind of designer that you want on your team has years of experience, including tens of thousands of dollars spent on their education, has been trained to identify opportunities to create visually effective solutions to help clients achieve their goals, has worked hard on a large variety of projects and has a well rounded portfolio to show for it. Not to mention some sweat and tears in there too. It adds value, trust me.
I should also mention, finding a designer that you feel comfortable with and with whom you are able to maintain a good working relationship with is going to benefit you in the long run. Just be sure to choose someone that can easily communicate their designs and concepts in a way that makes sense to everyone involved in the decision making.
If they send you holiday baskets overflowing with sweets every year, even better. If they actually show up in a holiday basket covered in sweets, run. Unless you’re into that sorta thing… Well, no. You should still run.
3. Perspective is everything.
There’s something to be said about objectivity. Because sometimes there really are “too many cooks in the kitchen.” This is especially true if the group of people involved in a decision about the future of a joint endeavor find themselves gridlocked over aesthetics as it applies to marketing or sales.
This happens more than you think.
Sometimes the only obvious next step involves everyone arming themselves with broken branches and beating each other. But that’s not cool and you could get sued. It’s time to alleviate that stress!
Let your designer be the mediator between you and Karen. It’s the designer’s job to understand what the client is saying and to be able to weed through even the most conflicting responses. Even when there are multiple decision makers involved. I’ve done it on many occasions and it’s actually kinda fun. Like a puzzle. Clients just want to be heard, and we get that. And it IS actually possible to appease everyone. It just takes a little extra creativity, but that comes with the job description. Besides, Karen clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about and the designer will prove it. We got your back.
As I mentioned earlier, designers are trained to see the big picture and to be able to translate information and facts into effective design, no matter the project.
A good designer will paint a clear picture and get you moving in the right direction by answering questions you didn’t even know you needed to ask. I’ve even had some clients that began feeling more optimistic and excited about their business and/or career after working with me on the questionnaire part of the process. Some of the questions actually forced them to view themselves in a new light. Shining an actual light on them when this is happening is riveting, but rarely feasible.
I’ve also had many clients that find it inspiring to see how quickly we are able to work together in transforming their brand and to be able to visually reflect what they were unsure how to otherwise communicate to their audience.
As with hiring anyone, make sure that you put in a little research first. Remember hiring a designer is actually an investment. Make it count!