By: Shelby Clarke
Shelby Clarke

7 Things a Graphic Designer Isn't

web design, graphic design

Do you ever notice that your business card never quite sums up your actual job? You have a job title, sure, but I doubt it really captures the many hats you wear while performing your day-to-day duties at work. 

As a graphic designer, I feel like this a lot.

On any given day, I can end up working on anywhere from five to 15 separate design projects, depending on the complexity of each. These can be eBooks, calls-to-action, website updates, podcast edits or PowerPoint presentation tweaks. The deliverables I create are all over the place, and this can cause some confusion about what it is I do, and what I can handle.

This happens to a lot of graphic designers.

Because of this, I want to tell you clearly who I am as a designer, who I am not, and how you can help take some stress off the designers that you work with.

I Am Not A Vending Machine

Don’t ask me for cheap work and a quick turnaround. It’s not what I do, and it’s not professional. There are plenty of other places you can turn to if you need quick and dirty design work. And please-please-please, don’t ever assume something is easy to do, just because you think you could do it yourself. If that’s the case, you should have done it by now.

When you want design work done well, and done with the care and focus it deserves, then come talk to me.

Suggestion:

Be mindful that any design work takes time – no matter how big or small you might think it is. Your designers need time to just think, before they create. Good ideas and creativity demand time, strategy and a plan of attack. 

Yes, some work might actually be pretty small and may only take 15 to 30 minutes, but we may not have a spare 15 minutes in our schedule until tomorrow. Talk to us, and we can figure out how to get you the work you need.

Hint: The more you respect our time, the more willing we will be to work on your projects when an unexpected 20 minutes opens up in our calendars.

I Am Not A Time Traveler

Don’t give me a deadline that has already past. Nothing says “let’s set ourselves up for failure” like an email telling me that the ad I’m about to start working on was actually needed two weeks ago.

Similarly, watch those tight deadlines. Every “emergency” project that pops up is another distraction from the design work that was scheduled for that day. Deadlines get pushed back, and projects are delayed. (Sad emails of regret sent. More cups of coffee consumed… you get the idea)

Suggestion:

Start working with your designers as soon as you know a project is coming up, even if all the parameters haven't been set yet. Plan your timeline, even if your designer doesn’t have finalized content to work with. This will help everyone remain accountable for their parts of the project.

With tighter deadlines, see if the design work can be spread out over two or three days. This will help keep stress levels down and to give everyone a better chance to review and refine the project. And then, with the inevitable “emergency” design work, see if you can help give your designer some time back in their day by postponing less-urgent work.

I Am Not A Jack Of All Trades

There are limits to my design capabilities. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. Sometimes I am asked to help with projects that fall out of my field of expertise. And though it’s tough, I have to say no. I can’t do it all, and I don't want to attempt a project with passable results when we could hire someone who is skilled enough to help.

Suggestion:

Always give your designer access to the tools and training they need, but also give them time. There are only so many hours in the day.

More important work often takes precedence over education, so encourage us! Learning is wonderful, but sometimes you just need someone to prod you along. And when it becomes obvious that there is a talent gap you need to fill, consider hiring another set of skilled hands.

I Am Not A Copywriter

Similar to the above, I may seem to wear many hats, but I can't do everything and I definitely can't do it all well. Please don’t expect your designers to write content for you. It’s not impossible, but it is an awful idea. While I enjoy writing, it is not what I went to school for, and it is not my passion.

Suggestion:

Have at least one other person involved in the content process along with your designer. Someone needs to plan out the content and actually write the copy. More than that, though, the designer and content creator can work together to refine and improve copy and design alike. It’s a win-win.

I Am Not Your Mother

Don’t make me nag you. I don’t like to be nagged, nor do I like to waste time nagging. There are better things to do. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about nagging for content, edits or – worst of all – for paymentOur time is valuable and so is yours. We value your time, please value ours. We don’t want to nag you – it annoys everyone.

Suggestion:

Keep in touch, and show us you still care about the work we are helping you with.

If a designer has planned to work with you on a project, they are then invested in it, at least as much as you are invested. It’s a give-and-take relationship. If you seem to lose interest in the project or ignore us when we reach out to you, we’ll lose interest too.

I Am Not A Mind Reader

This should be obvious. I literally cannot read your mind. It would surely help, though.

Suggestion:

Meet with your designer in person. Speaking face-to-face does wonders with creating clarity. Let them ask you as many questions as they need to understand and make sense of what you are thinking.

Even better, create some doodles of what you’re imagining in your head. You don’t have to be great at drawing. I for one excel at Pictionary, I am a great stick-figure whisperer.

I Am Not A Wizard

I can’t pull something from nothing. No content, no design. Enough said.

Also, I don’t add “pizazz”, I don’t “bedazzle” and I definitely don’t make designs “pop." There is no magic wand, special phrase or fairy dust. Just hard work and careful thought.

Suggestion:

Be reasonable and respectful when requesting design work. The man behind the curtain is just your designer. They have limits just like you do, so work with them and get them what they need to help you get amazing, well-designed content.

And again, please, for the love of all that is decent in this world, don’t ask us to make our design work "pop."

I Am a Graphic Designer

As a graphic designer, there are many things that I can and cannot do. I’m always growing and always learning, though, so that list is ever-changing, too.

Likewise, when you work with your own graphic designers, remember that good design takes time. But urgent work can be done, too, with some help and time management. Keep in mind that your designer probably can’t do it all, and that a team of multiple, skilled professionals is the best way to approach any project. Touch base with them often, explain your thoughts and ideas clearly or make your own visuals.

"When you work with your own graphic designers, remember that good design takes time."

Designers are pretty amazing, in my personal opinion. Through design, we help to provide clarity and color to well-written content, both online and off. We have a variety of artistic talents, and we wear many hats.

But we can’t do everything. Collaboration and communication are key.

And I’m just not a wizard, okay? So give me a coffee, let’s have a chat and we’ll figure out how to tackle your project from there.

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