When it comes to being a graphic designer or graphic artist, I think people outside the field really have a hard time ‘getting’ the designer. You think that being a graphic designer is (for some odd reason) glamorous, fun, thrilling and exciting! We graphic designers are rebels- we’re all artistic, we’re a bit off our rockers, we despise anything professional and business-like and … and … Yeah, no. Sure, we are some of those stereotypes but people forget that graphic designers are professionals and though we may deal with design and art, we are far from slackers and have to regard our work just as you do – it’s WORK. We have deadlines, we have to approach our work with a certain level of professionalism, we have to deal with clients and teams and b the end of the day we’re just as worn out and tired as the next guy.
I’m going on four years of being a ‘professional’ designer – meaning one who has a steady job and position post-graduation. I’ve encountered many design tasks, clients, personalities, issues and what seems to get me each time is how little regard people have for graphic designers or graphic artists. Here are a few things I suggest you consider if you’re dealing with a graphic designer if you’d like to keep them on your good side:
1. Don’t tell a designer “Be creative!” Whenever someone gives me a long list of things they’d like, or changes, or are asking for advice and a mock-up, nothing sets me off more than the final line that usually reads, “Be creative!” Why? Because graphic designers HAVE to be creative with each project or task that comes to them. Most of our work is recycling the same project or idea that’s already been done before and figuring out how to design it and spin it to look new and fresh. If you’re dealing with a graphic designer or artist who has been out of college for a while and has a portfolio of work demonstrating he or she has obviously worked on a variety of projects or has a style unique to them, then hey, guess what … they’ve demonstrated they’re creative! Telling an artistic type to be creative is like telling a cop to go out and save a life, or telling a firefighter to put out a fire. Just don’t do it. Ever.
2. “Uhm, I don’t know, just do something.” Okay, look, we love work, really we do. Not because we enjoy being busy or having every hour of our life accounted for. Because work for a graphic designer means money, and money means we can support ourselves and pay the bills. Please, if you’re coming to a graphic designer with a request for them to help design something for you … know what you want! It gets me when a person seems to just brainstorm and they’ll present random, unrelated thoughts and a list of things they like to me and will expect me to take random thoughts and wishes and turn them into a thrilling reality. This is not ‘Medium’ – we cannot make some psychic connection to you and just know what you want. If you’re paying a graphic designer to do something for you, take the time to really know what you want and present that to him or her upfront. Which brings me to my next point …
3. The graphic designer’s world does not revolve around you. It really gets me when someone calls you up or E-mails you with work they’d like done and they want it done NOW. Sure, they have no idea how they’re really going to use it or there’s no real need for the work to be done right away but hey, graphic design is like fast food, right? You make your order and you have it in hand a minute later. Right? AAAANK, wrong. Graphic designers are working professionals – we have a million different things going on at once, some are just freelancers meaning they have full-time jobs to attend to first – stop thinking the world orbits you and for some reason your work or job warrants full attention. It doesn’t. These days, many aren’t really willing to pay much for a graphic designer to even do a proof for them let alone put their entire life on hold, skip eating and sleeping, just to deal with you. Be reasonable with your requests and turnaround demands.
4. Show me the money. Unless you approach the designer stating that you want them to do spec work and they agree to it, don’t try to skip out on paying for the work you’ve had done. I’ve had more than a few clients who’ve asked for a lot and then just because of poor planning on their part or never really knowing what they wanted, they decide they want to go in a different direction – or to another designer – and they shouldn’t have to pay you a cent. It kills me. Then there are those who don’t want to pay anything upfront or provide you with anything more than an E-mail address so you can’t track them down. Then there’s the promise of being paid at the end … but they want the finalized work first and it takes weeks if not months to get anything out of them. Stop. How’d you like to go to work, do your job, deliver your results and have someone say they’ll pay you ‘later’ with no set time or that they see what you’ve done but have decided on something different so thanks for the wasted hours but they have no intention of paying? Doesn’t sound all that great, does it?
5. John Doe Project, Take 366, Action! Look, revisions are all a part of the job. What’s not part of the job is for a project to be strung out and for it to linger on for weeks or months because the client decides to change the copy a million times or sends revisions spread over weeks instead of everything at once. This goes back to the issue of time, thinking the world revolves around you, not knowing what the hell you really want out of the design and money. Come to a graphic designer with a clear idea – know the concept, the copy, what imagery you want, the style. The more you bring a designer at the start the better end result you’ll get. Plus, you’ll save time and money by cutting down all of the unnecessary revisions and changes and you’ll also keep the designer happy and willing to work with you in the future.