To make it as a designer in any shape or form these days you need to be well-rounded, and have skills in almost every department. Sounds crazy, right? It is. But clients and businesses expect more from their designers.
If you’re a logo designer but know how to animate too, then you’re quids in. Clients will likely use you more if you can provide them a multitude of skills. It’s good for them as it helps with costs, but even better for you as you’ll get work on a regular basis.
Working in an in-house company is a great example of this. They want designers that are skilled in all areas. From graphic design, to WordPress capabilities, video production and photography – all of these things are desired. It saves businesses from hiring extra staff or outsourcing to freelancers if they have it all within their marketing and communications team.
So, what is really expected from a designer these days?
There are two types of designers: the ones that just design the minimum and the ones that think about what the design really means. If you’re just starting out the latter will come with experience. But if you’ve been in the industry for a while you’ll know that a designer can no longer be seen as just a designer. Nor can we think purely as a designer. While we are there to support teams to make their message look pretty, or “shit hot” (a favourite of mine), we have to think beyond colour schemes and placement of typography.
We are visual communicators and need to think as such. What does this design mean to you? What will it mean to customers? Does that image represent the tone of voice for the brand? Design is no longer about what you’re making, but why you’re making it and for whom. Visually the design needs to be more than pretty, it needs to have purpose.
EVERYONE IS A DESIGNER
This one is not brand new information. Anyone can get their hands on a copy of the Adobe Creative Suite these days. The way your client sees things and the way you see them will always be different. As visual communicators it’s our job to visually show the client the alternatives that will better suit their needs, whether they want to see them or not. While your client will think they’re giving you constructive criticism as feedback we probably view it as them trying to dictate how something is designed. A very normal situation, but the reality is very different. A detailed brief suggests the client understands what they want and the ways they need the design to have impact.
We as designers need to have a sixth sense where we can understand the most basic of briefs to the most complex. We have to please a lot of people, and everyone will have an opinion. You may be the designer, but everyone else likes to think they are too.
THE MORE SKILLS THE BETTER
As visual communicators we obviously need to be able to deliver visually on more than one platform. Social media has been a game changer and designer are now part-time marketing executives, understanding campaigns and how to run them effectively. This is now bad thing. The more skills you can offer the better. Think of yourself as a design consultant. Do your research. If you understand what works for campaigns – the right type of imagery and copywriting – then you’re a well-rounded designer who knows the visual parts of a campaign as well as the strategic. The same goes for web design. If you can manage, design and maintain a website then you’re improving your visual communication skills.
LEARN EFFECTIVE DESIGN
You can be a print designer, like me, but you know that you need to put print online too. Maybe it’s a quick resize to fit Instagram or Facebooks image sizes, or maybe it’s something more engaging. You won’t be asked to design for one platform anymore. If you are then the people you’re working for need some lessons in marketing. Learn about effective platforms and design for them. Social media may be really hot right now, but what else is out there that your client may have missed? Are the static images failing to generate impressions? Change the situation so it works better. Design for a competitive market where you have a five second window to grab someones attention.
Of course some of this is all common sense. A lot of the time you do this without even realising. But it’s also good to question yourself. Don’t get too comfortable in your routine and what you can offer to clients. Keep them guessing. You’ll be rewarded long-term with better clients, detailed briefs and opportunities that you may not have even considered.