No, this isn’t some self-glorifying article, or a ramble to feel validated. It’s rather a much-needed prompt, a call-to-thinking, if you will. As a graphic designer, I think my job is pretty important, but you could easily say that I think that so I don’t feel useless or unnecessary. But by being a designer, I run into plenty of people who don’t think the industry is important, or when it boils down to it, they don’t think it’s worth paying for. This needs to be addressed!
Many people will say, “Oh, I’d like to hire a designer, but it’s too expensive, so I’ll just do it all myself.” The price attached to hiring a designer is directly related to the value they offer, so if you don’t pay for one, then you’re missing out on valuable assets. Doing it yourself does not equate the value of a professional designer.
But what is the value? If we’re saying that the value they bring to a client impacts the importance designers have in the world, than we need to accurately identify that value. There’s three main areas in which a designer provides value.
This appeals to the person who says, “I’ll just have to do it all myself.” As businesses grow, people who used to run a one-man show start to realize they don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish all the tasks that needs to be done. That’s when they start outsourcing them, either through hiring contractors or hiring team members. So, if someone had been designing all their promotional materials for their company, and the company grows, that person will find value in hiring a designer because it relieves them from time previously spent doing design work themselves. This is the most rudimentary form in which a designer delivers value. That value will be pretty low, since it’s essentially replacing one body at a computer with another. If you’re not requiring the quality of materials to be improved, all that designer needs to do is create designs that are equal to the designs any untrained person would produce. It’s like replacing one production line worker with another.
2. Production Knowledge
Production knowledge is two things in the design industry: software usage and material output. Software usage is understanding the tools of the trade. Just like a construction worker would know which tool is better suited for a job, a designer knows which software to use for different projects. The everyday person won’t know these things, this is knowledge gained through training and on-the-job experience.
A common example in the design world of software usage knowledge is using Adobe Photoshop versus Adobe Illustrator. If I see a designer build a logo in Photoshop, I know right away they are a newbie, and might not even qualify to be called a designer. That’s because any designer with training has the knowledge that logos must be built in Illustrator, because Illustrator creates images with vectors, instead of pixels. This is incredibly important for utilizing a logo design, and if it’s not built properly, then a business will run into many problems when trying to use their new logo. For more on this, you can check out an article outlining this topic.
The second part of production knowledge is material output. This is specifically in relation to how designs are implemented into the real world. Just because someone can design you a vehicle wrap in Photoshop doesn’t mean they know how to take it from the computer onto your company van. A designer should know how to export designs for printers, web developers, or any other manner of output.
The production knowledge that comes with a qualified designer is quite valuable to a small business owner. This is where a bad designer, or doing it yourself without proper knowledge, can cost your business real dollars. If you want to print new business cards, but send the wrong files to the printer, your whole project can be delayed. If you are going to be buying 10,000 brochures for your company, but there’s low resolution images in the design, it’s going to look pixelated and amateurish. You’ll either have to reprint those brochures or use marketing materials that don’t make your company look professional.
This is harder to put a value on, because most people think, “hey, I’m pretty creative!” But the difference between a good designer and someone who can noodle around with Microsoft Word and Clipart is intentional creativity. This means creativity with a purpose. Something a rookie designer learns from the get-go in design school is that creativity means nothing if it accomplishes nothing. Art is creativity for creativity’s sake. Design is creativity turned into communication.
Design always has two purposes: tell someone something and get their attention long enough to tell them. How good something looks isn’t the end purpose. Things look good so people want to look at them, and once they’re looking, you can communicate with them. A designer needs to be creative in delivering both requirements. This is why many artists aren’t good designers, because they know how to make things look visually appealing, but they aren’t good communicators. And many marketers aren’t good designers, because although they can captivate people in telling them something, they don’t know how to make things look good so people will listen in the first place. Designers bridge the gap.
Creativity is the most valuable aspect of a designer. It goes beyond the rudimentary exchange of time for money and is much more difficult to develop than technical skills. When you hire a designer to create a new logo for your business, you’re paying for their creativity. A good designer will dive into your company, understand and help you identify your brand, and create a logo that resonates with your audience and can support the growth of a brand. It doesn’t matter to you if they spend one hour or a hundred, all you want is a logo that captures who your company is. If you’ve hired a great designer, they’ll design a logo that looks good while communicating who you are. Not everyone can do either or both, which is what makes designers important and valuable.
This article isn’t a big PSA saying, “pay the people what they deserve!” It’s difficult to put a universal, concrete number on what all designer really do deserve. But what you deserve, as a business owner, entrepreneur, or whatever position you hold, is the understanding that a designer can help any business grow. If you run an event, but have trouble getting people to turn out for it, your problem could be in your designs. Suppose you run a charity but your online interactions are lacking, a designer can be your solution. If your company is constantly getting beat by your competitor down the road, a designer can help realign your brand and turn things around. To find a designer that can do any of these effectively, you need to start by understanding what value they bring. Then you can properly begin the processing of finding the right designer for you.