Graphic Designers: Misunderstood (Often Taken For Granted) Renaissance People

[Originally posted 11 September 2008]

I don’t think people quite understand what it takes to be a graphic designer and the stress involved within the profession. There is so much pressure when we’re designing and busting our arses to meet deadlines while keeping our clients happy. I think people misunderstand what graphic designers are and do. I’m not exaggerating: when I was in college and I would complain about doing projects for design and studio classes, my friends would look at me like I was talking about going to go fingerpainting or something equally juvenile. No, it’s not at all like that and it isn’t all fun and games. Sure, it’s usually fun and I love what I do, but I’m here to straighten out some things about being a graphic designer that you probably don’t think about.

Graphic designers are businesspeople because we understand how to sell our product to the customer, how to present and speak publicly in front of others, and how to write up contractual agreements. We are proofreaders and copywriters and we are expected to find spelling and grammar errors. We are problem solvers by nature, and we must utilize those skills to design successful and effective work. We must be stellar interpersonal communicators because without expressing our initiative through emails and phone calls, work would never get done. And all of this doesn’t even entail all of the characteristics of what a graphic designer as an artist knows and does. We must continually educate ourselves throughout our career so that we are always up-to-date regarding current design trends and software updates. We must know rules of design when using type and graphics to design, numerous software programs (the entire Adobe Creative Suite as well as additional programs such as Dreamweaver, Final Cut Pro; Microsoft Office need not apply) we use in order to create the designs you see, we must understand the print process (CMYK anyone?), web design (RGB holler back), file management, what types of files to use and when, photo correction, how to effectively sketch and translate ideas into tangible (and intangible) messages for its viewers… I could go on for days. Do you get the idea?

It is rare that we get the creative freedom that most artists have. Instead we must accept ideas and suggestions from our clients, people who were not trained in nor have a degree in graphic design. Many times it pains me to so much as entertain some of these ideas, but as professionals we have to swallow our pride and everything we were taught to bring ourselves to use laughable typefaces (see Comic Sans and Papyrus) and graphics to please our clients. We also have to be gifted generalists within our profession. I don’t think I’ve ever met or heard of a designer who focuses on one particular genre. I find myself working within a variety of media including 3-d packaging, print (brochures, posters, invitations), identity (logos, business cards, letterheads, envelopes) and page layout. If I had a client who asked for a project that was something I didn’t know how to do, I would make damn sure to either learn how to do it and get it done for them, or have a list of people I know to whom I can outsource the work. Oh, does that mean we’re contractors too?

We may not be certified in Business, English, Interpersonal Communication and Critical Thinking, but with one simple Graphic Design degree, we certainly do it all. We’re supposed to be miracle workers and it is assumed that we know everything. Just so you know: we aren’t and we don’t. But we’re damn close.

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Categories: Design

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