As graphic designers, there are some struggles that we all must endure on a daily basis. Here are some of the biggest challenges graphic designers face today and how they can be solved. Or at least, how to avoid getting all riled up about them and pulling our hair out.
These are graphic designers that have no formal education, and yet call themselves graphic designers because they have Adobe Creative Suite at their disposal. Although these DIY designers are bringing graphic design to a larger audience, they are reducing the professionalism of the industry, creating a lack of authority for graphic design, and reducing client respect.
Some of DIYers are skilled technically, and can produce good work. However, they lack the research and development skills that an educated graphic designer will have. So when a client is dissatisfied with their work or asks questions, they will not be able to defend it the same way. A real designer solves problems and can back up their solutions. By maintaining professional standards and creating meaningful work, we make it obvious who the professionals and amateurs are.
Some clients are, well, difficult to deal with. They don’t know what they want, but they sure as heck know what they don’t. Or they ask for constant revisions with little direction, go back and forth between two very similar versions, the list is endless. They can drive you mad, but graphic designers wouldn’t exist without them. As difficult as it can be, you must maintain composure and professionalism.
Never design below your competence level, even if a client is driving you insane. If you produce work that is below what you are capable of, you will continue to get clients that you don’t like. It’s simple: bad work equals bad clients. Strive to produce your best work possible, no matter who the client is, and eventually you will land a job or work for clients that you actually like.
With the rise of DIY designers, availability of design apps, and proliferation of online videos and tutorials to learn design techniques, it can be difficult for graphic designers to ask for adequate fees for their work. There are also more designers out there and less opportunities available, so employers are able to pay graphic designers less for quality work. In effect, some clients have a lower perceived value of graphic design work.
Unfortunately, lack of decent pay is a common occurrence in the design industry. Even if you feel forced to take a design job with inadequate pay, try not to. Always try to negotiate with the client and come to a payment agreement where you are being adequately compensated. As a graphic designer, you represent the graphic design community, and agreeing to inadequate pay lessens the perceived value of the work we do. If the client doesn’t want to pay you what you think you are worth, let them find someone else with lower abilities or experience. Then they will receive work equal to what they are willing to pay.
Design, like everything, has trends, and it is easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Whether it be hand-rendered type, hipster logos, or sea creatures, most likely your clients will have seen it and will ask for it. It’s great to stay on top of trends and remain current, but if we all do similar work, it’s bad for the industry. It limits progress and makes design work seem less creditable. If it all looks the same, then anyone could do it.
Make sure your design is solving the problem at hand. Work towards a style that fits the project, instead of implementing the same style for all projects. It’s okay to be influenced by trends and your favourite designers, but keep a fresh outlook for each new project. In the end, you want your design to stand out from the crowd, not hide in it. So design to solve the problem in a way that works for the client, even if it means being a black sheep at first. You may find that soon everyone else wants to be a black sheep, too.
Although image rights can be a bit of a grey area, you want to make sure you are always being credited for your work. Sharing your work in public is a great way to get clients, but every graphic designer needs to know where to draw the line on sharing.
One suggestion for maintaining copyright is adding a watermark to your work before posting so your name is always visible. This will (hopefully) prevent your work from being used without your permission. You should also be aware of the copyright laws in your jurisdiction and know the resources you can use if you run into tricky situations, such as the RGD. There are also many sources available online for understanding your copyrights as a graphic designer. I have included a link to a blog post about copyright below.
Graphic designers are expected to be able to do it all: photography, illustration, typography, layout, animation, the list can go on and on. While it is certainly admirable to have many skills, the average graphic designer will be skilled at a few things and knowledgeable but not expert in others. Part of the beauty of working in a team is relying on the skills of others to create amazing work. If you are a freelancer, you will freelance in your area of expertise and not pretend to be an expert where you are not.
It’s important to keep your skills up to date. This may mean additional training or education, which will only increase your credibility as a graphic designer. But being realistic is important, too. Continue to improve on what you’re good at, and don’t doubt your abilities because you aren’t great at everything. That is impossible.
Maintaining Personal Interaction
In our technological age, young graphic designers are relying on social media and email to interact with their clients, which is one-dimensional and open to interpretation. Meeting people in person or calling them on the phone has become old fashioned. However, there is still merit and value to interacting with clients on a personal level.
Personal communication is the best way to nurture a strong relationship with a client. Not only will you get to know them better, but verbal interaction and brainstorming often leads to better solutions to problems. It also shows a higher level of dedication to the work – you are taking time out of your busy day to meet with them. It shows that you care, and builds your credibility with the client. In addition, solutions to problems or misunderstandings can be cleared up much faster in a personal interaction rather than emailing back and forth and waiting for replies.