Many times during my career, I’ve heard the phrase “Can you make it pretty/look good,” or it’s assumed that the craft of graphic design focuses solely on aesthetics. While that’s occasionally the byproduct of certain projects, there are many more things that graphic design is about. It’s almost like dating someone who’s good looking and hoping that there’s an intellect somewhere to tap into. Design without intellect is as singular in dimension as that good looking person that didn’t take the time to develop themselves.
As a designer, I certainly don’t expect my clients to look under the hood to understand the nuances of typography, the complexities surrounding grids or all of the know how that goes into mastering software applications that generate graphics. However, the client does need to understand that there’s more value in the craft of design than aesthetics, otherwise it’s difficult to rationalize the full value of what design has to offer. Subsequently, this factors into the monetization of design services.
Just off the top of my head, here’s a list of things (in no particular order) that I think exist within the design ecosystem and expertise that graphic designers offer;
- Typography (Understanding the history of it and having the ability to choose the appropriate type for a specific project, capturing the essence of what’s being communicated.)
- Knowing the difference between lettering and typography
- An understanding of photography
- How to create original visual and digital assets that enhance the messaging
- An understanding of various printing techniques
- Understanding of technology (platforms), software and hardware
- Strong communication skills (Clients come into the picture with a range of experience working with designers and expectations)
- Vulnerability (Not taking things personally when you don’t get it right, right away)
- Working within various mediums ranging from handmade to digital
- Understanding the business of design
- Ability to effectively tell stories or communicate messages in a concise, interesting and delightful manner
- Informational hierarchy
- Cultural awareness
There’s plenty that I didn’t list but you get the idea. If ever you find yourself in a position to work with a designer, make sure that you communicate with specificity versus asking for “pretty,” or “just make it look good.” Random descriptions are just that until you can articulate what the intention and goals of a project are. The goal should never be to just look good because that’s singular in dimension and leaves the work feeling flat and often ineffective.