Many of the posts on this blog are geared at potential clients, such as How to Make a Media Kit That Sounds Out, How to Choose the Perfect Color Palette for Your Small Business, and How to Create Your Signature Brand Style, but I thought it would be beneficial to share little bit of my own background in the field of design for those new to the blog and may be interested in transitioning into a creative role.
Upon graduating from design school I immediately accepted an internship at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in their design/production dept. It was my first taste designing a cohesive visual identity across all platforms and mediums for a large brand.
After that I held at role at a marketing agency, working on various campaigns for small to medium-sized businesses before starting my own freelance business for small business owners in need of graphic design services for their brand.
Whether you hold a 4 year degree or are self-taught, I really think there is room for everyone with a passion for design to pursue it. So if you're just starting out in the field of graphic design and looking for some advice, I'd come up with a few key takeaways from my years of experience in the field you may benefit from..
Always Start With the Fundamentals
Design is all about communication. You should always strive to effectively communicate the right message to a viewer, foremost.
With the technology right at our fingertips, it's easier than before to dive right into these programs in hopes of creating pretty things we think will resonate with our ideal customer.
Before you get occupied trying to learn the latest version of Adobe Creative Suite, it's really important to have the basics of design in your back pocket.
Have you ever viewed a magazine and thought the layout just didn't 'flow' in a way that is natural, or thought a logo or website didn't accurately reflect a business' mission?
Designers solve complex problems visually through the use of fonts, colors, graphics, illustration, and patterns.
If you're interested in learning more I suggest starting with the principles of Visual Hierarchy, Color Theory, and Typography to hone your skills. One you understand the reason why certain colors work together, why a pair of fonts compliment each other so nicely, and why certain layouts contribute to a better user experience for a website, you'll be able to clearly communicate your design decisions to clients and build credibility with clients.
Foster Postive Client Relationships
When a customer takes the leap to invest in their business with me, they are entrusting me to help establish their online presence. I don't take that investment lightly. whether it's a purchase in my shop, or a brand design package.
Clear and easy communication is therefore essential. In order to clearly visually communicate the mission or purpose of a brand, I have to understand the business behind it. The best way to do this is to ask as many questions as you can upfront before the design process begins, ensuring you and the client are both on the same page.
I have an in-depth questionnaire I give to all branding design clients, and I make sure to check in with them throughout the design process for feedback and input. Once the project wraps up clients are welcome to email with with any questions about their brand or advice, as well.
With my online store I've gotten numerous requests for tutorials to walk customers through how to edit the templates in Photoshop, so I've since implemented a video tutorials section that helps them easily navigate Photoshop and make adjustments to their template.
Listening to customers can take many different forms for your business, but I'd start by clearly laying out your design process, create in-depth questionnaires, and being receptive to feedback throughout the process. The more clarification you have upfront, the more the design process and client relationship will the built on trust, honesty, and respect.
Want to make sure you're hitting every mark of the design process? Download my FREE design process cheatsheet below and make sure you're including them in your brand design process.
Build Your Portfolio
If you're just getting off the ground, utilize the time you have building up your business by developing a portfolio of the work you'd like to do. If you don't yet have paying clients, create your own hypothetical design projects. I'd suggest sticking to a timeline when creating these projects, that way you have a realistic picture of how long it will take you to complete and can accurately estimate when your paying clients come. Don't be afraid to put these projects in your portfolio, as these self-initiated projects are still an example of the quality of work you can deliver.
Related: Mark Bowley has penned an excellent article on preparing and talking about your design portfolio.
Done is Better Than Perfect
As designers we tend to be perfectionists. While this can be an asset, it can also hinder you in many ways, too. If you've ever struggled with finding a stopping point with a project because you think there's something missing or it can be better, you know what I'm talking about.
This is another benefit of adhering to a timeline and having designated steps within your design process - it forces you to utilize your time wisely, do a great job, and leave the endless tweaks and adjustments by the wayside.
It's important to note that even designers that been through rounds of critiques in design school, have field experience, and hold a degree even have bouts of self-doubt at times. This uneasiness can show through and affect how seriously a client takes you.
This feeling of uneasiness will dissolve with time and experience. Looking at the examples above of how to foster a positive client relationship is one jumping off point. You should do everything you can to show the client their in good hands, including educating them throughout the process, explaining your concepts, and helping them through decisions, showing confidence in your own abilities even in times when you're not 100% feeling it yourself.
Continue to Learn
The only constant about the design field is change! Just when you think you've learned every software, tool, or trick of the trade, something new comes along to keep you on your toes. By staying up-to-date and adhering to these new methods of learning it's so much easier to stay inspired and avoid burnout. So subscribe to design blogs, take a class and learn a new skill, or simply update your software or download that new app to keep your skill set current.
I know I only brushed the surface of what being a Graphic Designer entails, so I'd like to take some of my own advice and ask fellow designers if you have any advice of your own you'd like to add?
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