Guest Writer: David Airey
Before computers entered the mix, the production of print material was firmly in the hands of graphic designers and printers. It took a very clued-in client to have any idea about the print-production process. Therefore, people were mentally prepared to pay substantial amounts for their logo designs, brochures and annual reports.
That was then. Now, however, things are very different.
Ask most people how they would design a logo or prepare a newsletter and they’d automatically point to the computer, placing their faith in software packages to do the job.
So if a novice can work their way around a photo manipulation or page layout program, why do designers still charge large figures for their services?
Today’s designer must wear many hats, and I’ll talk about some of them here.
The problem solving hat
Designers are presented with a problem, and it’s their task to find a solution. The problem could be to set a business apart from its competition by using an effective logo design, or to increase product sales with a cleverly designed advertising campaign. Whatever the initial brief, there’s a clearly defined problem and the designer puts on their thinking hat.
The teaching hat
By educating clients, customer-satisfaction is improved and the designer is more likely to be called upon in the future. What might a designer teach? File preparation is an important part of the print production process, and a lot of my time is spent educating clients about file types. You’d be surprised just how many of my clients don’t understand that a thumbnail image off a website can’t be used for a full-size A3 poster. This design guide for print provides a little more info.
The graphic designer hat
This is actually just one function of a modern-day designer. Ask any self-employed designer just how much time they spend designing and you’ll probably be surprised at the answer. I can’t say for sure how long I spend actually designing, but I think it’s between 25% to 40%.
The salesperson hat
Whether it be attracting new clients or selling an idea, graphic designers need to have enough confidence in their own ability to persuade a client that they’re making the right decision. Every design pitch must be treated like a sale. When meeting people for the first time, I make sure to focus at least my first three questions on topics not related to business. It’s much easier to develop a relationship with a person than it is a business, so don’t be pushy.
The manager hat
Accounting is a vital aspect of my business operations, and I’ve not yet reached the stage where I need to outsource, or take on an extra employee. I process my own tax returns once every year, and calculate my VAT returns every three months. This needs the manager hat, taking a step back from the creative side of work and focusing on the numbers. Time management and project management are also encompassed by this hat.
Whilst it’s clear that the role of graphic designers has changed, it still remains an extremely creative industry. Of course, designers aren’t the only ones who must wear different hats in their profession.
What’s your line of work and how many different hats do you wear?
Thanks, David, for this grand explanation of what the folks in your profession do!
Come back again to tell us more, anytime.
–ME “Liz” Strauss