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Graphic design: how to become a better designer

June 26, 2011

Are there rules to help us become a better designer? Maybe there are. Definitely there are tricks based on the common sense and experience, that can help us to be better professionals.

Dear designer,

  • be honest – this is no secret! actually is quite an obvious statement, but I am frankly convinced that honesty should be the root for every fruitful professional relationship. Do not try to place projects rejected by other clients. Don’t try to place prepacked solutions. Don’t copy! Don’t steal other’s ideas!
  • yes is a magic word – whether you are a social animal or a loner don’t hesitate to use the magic word YES!
    Use it but don’t abuse it.
  • no is the other magic word – we are professionals and clients buy our expertise and our professionality, besides our creativity. Some time no is the proper thing to say. If you are convinced, just say no.
  • write contracts – GET USED TO WRITING CONTRACTS! a contract means being honest and professional. It says what you are going to deliver and how, the way of payment and possible discounts. It is not about boring or annoying, it is about being precise and professional.
  • write offers – they are a pain in the ass big time but they do help you to avoid evaluation mistakes and, more important, to work for free. Try not to amend offers. The only time you are entitled to do that is when the client strive from the original requests – in all the other cases… you are to lose m0ney.
  • ask for written confirmations – nowadays is very easy to do this, an e-mail would do it properly… an e-mail for correciotns, an e-mail for further requests, an e-mail for further revisions or comments… it has never been so simple. Learn to archive your clients mails and, if necessary, store them into sub-folders organized by projects – doing so you will have corrections, drafts, confirmations and requests just one click away.
  • keep your files organized – create a portion of your hard disk and call it WORK IN PROGRESS: all the projects you are working on should be store in it. Create a folder for each client and various sub-folders for the different projectss. Use names that make sense. Learn to place the creation date of your file INTO the file name itself and keep the last two versions – i.e. NARA_CATALOGUESS11_2605.idd could be a proper name for a Spring Summer 11 catalougue InDesign file created on May 26th! Move the entire projects to external storage (DVD, tape, etc) once the projects are completed and delivered. Always backup your works!
  • no client behind your back while you work – set up meetings to present the state of works. If the client insists to sit at your back while you work on their project, kindly say no.
  • take all the time you need, but not a second more learn to calculate precise time frames. Learn to say no to impossible reductions on the time dedicated to designing. A job that is supposed to be completed in three weeks cannot be delivered in three days, no matter how much they will offer to pay for that – you will regret every single dime. If you make a mistake that will remain in the client’s memory while their absurd requests will magicly disappear.
  • know your costs – it is fundamental! knowing the costs of your structure is vital. split the costs on an hour rate, it will help you when asked to prepare an offer and when asked to understand whether you are making or losing money.
  • track your projects – track the hours dedicated to the different projects and teach all the people who work for you to do so. Keep track on a notebook or in a database. Another pain in the ass, but you will be thankfull for doing it.
  • present only a few solutions – avoid presenting dozen of solutions, they will only contribute to confuse the client. Produce a lot during the designing phase, but learn to filter a lot also and to cut down to a few solutions. Present no more than three or four solutions and make sure that they are all STRONG. Present all of them all properly. The solution is either there or nowhere. It is not by presenting twenty pseudo-solutions that you will convince your client of the quality of your project.
  • prepare the presentation – think of the presentation as a little show. Tell your client where you started from, show the research process you have been through, involve your client with the mental steps you took to land on the final solutions.
    Make sure that everyone attendind the presentation meeting are able to follow through, prepare printed material and make it available to everyone while you talk and illustrate the project.
  • research – 80/20. Dedicate the 80% of your working time to… work and the 20% to research. Some time try to invert the proportions. We usually allocate too little time to reserch and way too much time to billable hours and with the years our creative skills and approach get rusty to the point that we will end up crafting the same project over and over.
  • respect the deadlines – guess this doesn’t need to be explained, right?!
  • don’t bill the air you breath – bill everything you think it is necessary but always use common sense. Weigh your client, evaluate the project and consider the impact on your structure, try to foresee possible future partnerships. Once done this, issue your invoices.

From → Communication

  1. Totally Agree!
    thnx for posting..It was very helpful

    • Hey thank you! I am glad you like it and glad you find the blog insteresting – don’t hesitate to contribute

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