Increasingly over my career in design, I’ve noticed that only about 40% or less of my work for clients is the physical act of me putting together the design they need. This personally observed statistic is just about the same whether I’m working as an employee for a company or as a freelancer with individual clientele. So what does the other 60% of my time and work entail? Many in the marketing or graphics industry will use the term Consulting, however I believe the more accurate term is Therapy.
When you think about this for more than a few moments, you’ll realize that I’m essentially saying that I’m more of a therapist than a designer, and in a basic way this is true. A graphic designer is essentially a problem solver. A client never approaches me unless they have a problem that cannot be solved without someone of my skill set. The problems can vary wildly in degree, but I have never sold my services to anyone who was not at least a little stressed out about a problem that they do not have the ability to solve effectively themselves. We are human beings, and most humans put off solving a problem until it either squeaks at them or until the wheel falls off.
Usually, when a client approaches me, all the wheels have fallen off and the engine is smoking. Maybe they’ve nearly killed themselves trying to put together their own graphics and marketing all on their own. Perhaps they’ve been burned by another less professional designer or discount design site. Either way, I usually find that before I can put pencil to paper, I need to console, reassure, and diagnose the true problem.
This is a similar process that a physical or mental therapist goes through, as it is only after I have heard the whole story from a client of what their problem is that I can begin to fix the problem and hopefully lead to a design solution that leaves them happy and better off than what they were before.
So, how can knowing this help you?
The reason why I am talking about this is to help you get the most out of your experience in hiring a graphic designer for your project. A therapist cannot fix a problem if a patient isn’t honest in their communication, and the same thing applies when you are talking to a graphic designer. Before you meet with the designer, it can be helpful to jot down a list of what you need or are looking for. Many clients I talk to know they have a problem but have no idea what they need to solve it, so if you aren’t sure what you need, make a list of your problems or what you are lacking.
Example: You wrote a new book but it isn’t selling well. The people who have read the book have been giving it good reviews so quality isn’t the problem. Ask yourself: Are you not getting a lot of traffic to your store (Amazon, Nook, personal eBook page, etc) or are you getting plenty visits to your e-store but purchases are low? Knowing the answer to this question will mean two entirely different solutions. If you are getting plenty of traffic to your book but no purchases, then you probably need a new cover design to make your book look more attractive, however if you aren’t getting much traffic to your book in the first place, perhaps all you need is ad graphics that grab your customers’ attentions to promote your book on social media and the conventions you travel to. A book cover design vs promotional graphics vary widely in cost. If all you truly need is promotional graphics, a promo package is going to cost you much less than a new book cover. You just saved money on a cover redo, your sales increase, you are happy with your graphic designer and they are happy that they were able to get the results you wanted. Without communication, you may have assumed that you needed a new cover and you would have spent more money than you needed. Your results would have been minimal because you had no promotional graphics to attract customers with, and both you and the designer you hired would be disappointed.
So to conclude this article, communicate with your designer. We can sometimes be miracle workers when it comes to design, but one thing we are not are mind readers. Don’t wait for your graphic artist to ask you questions, ask yourself what you truly need or what your central problem is, and you’ll get the most value for your dollar.