There are many things a graphic designer can’t do without. These are a few essentials that make or break creativity when the pressure is on. And, although we all have different preferences and pre-conceived expectations of our err… monitor size, great success is usually down to clear communication, good planning and keeping a cool head and a calm heart when it comes to meeting your deadlines.
Tools of the trade
The crafter’s tools are also essential when it comes to working in a digital agency. I have always been a fan of PC, as I always thought of Apple as being overpriced and a little gimmicky. While this may be true in some cases I have come to love my IMac like a new puppy. It’s great. It’s a machine that was designed to do what I do superfluously, a machine that helps me create kick ass images to blow people’s minds. I would definitely recommend one to a designer, but fail to see the importance of owning one otherwise. The whole PC vs. Mac argument is becoming pretty much one of personal preferences and I must admit, I work on both dependent on whether or not I’m at work or at home. Adobe’s creative suite works perfectly for me although I’m sticking to CS6 for now. My conspiracy theory filled mind is not quite ready to welcome a massive Cloud that wants to gobble up all my hard work – perhaps I’m being a bit of a technophobe and have yet to properly research it but CS6 does it for me personally. In addition to this I have found Apple’s Final Cut Pro 10 or Final Cut Pro X a beautiful piece of software that makes editing a lot less technical and a lot faster. Having had quite a bit of experience using Adobe premiere, I find FCPX a little quicker to navigate, but both are highly recommended for your video edits. One thing you must always have on your body at all times is a notebook. A notebook can save your life and earn you a big promotion. In our industry, creativity is expected to be available on tap and sometimes it’s difficult. As designer’s we’ve all made the mistake of doing everything digitally, but sometimes something a little more tangible can be useful in getting yourself out of a block.
If you’re not a designer and think it’s easy as pie, try creating 100 different designs using only a red square and a blue circle on a single canvas. Your notebook safeguards all your thoughts. Whether it’s a silly picture you drew to laugh at or a quick idea that could be incorporated into a social media campaign. You will use this book as a guide for when those ideas just aren’t flowing. Writing down everything is not only essential because you’ll forget less but also due to the fact that you’re actively brainstorming which is then leading to better and better ideas. Other things such as positive reinforcement also help with efficiency. For example, I have my beautiful girlfriend set as my wallpaper and a note of encouragement from Mr. Coughlan, a good friend of mine and previous lecturer. It’s these little decorations that help you set goals for your future and your career, little reminders as to where you are headed in life and why you are prepared to commit to your role – seeing things from a bigger picture if you would.
The right attitude:
As with most jobs, being a designer won’t always be stress free and the pressures can mount. I’ve found that staying organised and calm is the most efficient way to deal with the stress. Communication is also key since you work in a very fast paced industry across multiple projects, artworks and miscellaneous images and deadlines on a daily basis. There’s no harm in admitting your mistakes or that you’re only human. If anything you’re doing more harm than good by not admitting your strengths and weaknesses, remember you are working for a company that expects, or at least should expect the following:
I say innovation because it’s very easy to become a robot and simply fall into a routine or style. The whole rubberstamp approach that almost always leaves all your designs looking the same. Visually this tastes like stale bread when compared to what you’re potentially capable of creating. Take that design fad from a few years ago when everybody was using a black circle in conjunction with white Helvetica. It was easy to make and it looked good, but was it really original? Ground breaking? Or were you just following the herd and calling it “inspiration”? I understand that we each have our own design style but that should apply to your illustrations perhaps, you’ll find that you won’t grow as quickly if you’re always resting on your design laurels. Never stop learning, learn, learn and learn some more. Some great resources I occasionally make use of are sites likeHongkiat.com, David Niblack’s imagebase.net and CG textures. For inspiration, I need a guide and Designspiration are wonderful sites. Your earphones are your best friend and will keep you company for most of the day. For some or other reason I prefer listening to talk radio as I feel stimulating conversations keep my mind sharp rather than music that I end up singing along to and lose track of my work or emotions. So as I work, Mr Grund and the rest of the Fringe keep me company and the coffee keeps my energy levels up.
In this industry, you have to be extremely self-motivated no matter the cost. Being a designer can have its highs and lows. Sometimes you will have clients who feel they are the designers or believe they know what’s best for their brand. In my opinion they are both right and wrong. The reason is because they will most likely know their brand better than you, they’ll also better understand their consumer base and how their industry is run. Unfortunately, the difference between good and bad design can often lead many potential consumers away from your brand rather than acquiring more businesses. How many websites have you closed based on the general look, feel and navigation and gone on to seek a similar site that’s better presented? When I was working as a freelancer, some of my clients dictated so much of the artwork that I was ashamed to put my name on it. Perhaps I’m being pessimistic but it happens more often than most designers would prefer. The problem is that, in this day and age, everybody is a “designer”. It’s very easy to hire someone who’s taught themselves Photoshop or attended a Mickey Mouse school and has the tenacity to charge clients exuberant amounts for work that is virtually stolen and processed in their Adobe chop-shop with other questionable and risky work. This is happening more and more and is one of the reasons our industry is so flooded.
OR You may be the business owner himself and feel that you prefer illegible serif text in your logo, because it reminds you of a menu at a restaurant you once ate at before proposing to your wife. While your intentions are good, never underestimate the power of people, There are certain rules which apply to designers and you could be implementing a lot of no-no’s that negatively influence your brand image. I understand that art, in general, is subjective but let’s face it, this is business. You have competitors and therefore you want to be visually competitive, if not better. A great designer can do wonders for your image because if a business looks good it’s usually expected that the business is good. Therefore, trust the designer if he’s proven himself in previous scenarios. As a designer, you may also come across many frustrating changes. If you’ve worked on something for a day, your brief may change and you may have to scrap half of your design. Most people’s natural reaction would be to throw their notebook to the ground and have a massive fit but in all honesty, it’s your job … deal with it. Changes will always be there, even silly changes such as adding a logo or tweaking the copy. These things happen so get used to working on the fly because being a designer is not just smooth sailing and knocking out a gazillion designs that are spot on all the time.
Leave some designing to the designer:
Often enough clients will have a detailed idea of how they see their website, logo or other piece of online artwork. The trouble is that, when it comes to marketing, there’s more to it than personal preference. To get real results one needs to understand something about consumer psychology and how we mammals react to colour and other cues. Detail is key, even colours can have a strong psychological impact on your audience. Just because my favourite colour is grey, doesn’t mean I would use it in an advertisement for an old age home. Sometimes your reds will clash and you can use this contrast with other colours to make something quite appealing but if your colour theory is clashing on the colour wheel, it had better be well thought out and work with the concept because I can assure you, it rarely works. Colours also follow general trends and whilst emphasis on colours are not as great as say, your kerning of words or composition, it definitely aids in effectiveness. Does black and orange work better than red and green? You’ll find that the black and orange works more harmoniously than your green and reds. But I’ll be more likely to use red and green if my client was selling organically injected GMO sweets to unsuspecting children (side bar – none of them are).
Never give up:
Somewhere there’s an agency that will look after you. You will find a professional working family as I have and you will learn to love what you do with those who love what they do. In unity your company will grow both in internal operations and efficiency but also when it comes to client work, which will deliver much better results and a higher office morale. Humility to others pays. Honesty to yourself pays – alternatively there are always rocket launchers.
Adam Wordsmith stares at his unshaven, weathered face in the mirror.
As a Social Media Manager you will probably find yourself engaging in more than your fair share of competitive landscape assessment.
In terms of digital marketing, most South African companies remain years behind the US and UK.