Tips For Businesses, Tips For Designers

The Manipulation Of Design

A chilling winter Saturday found me on an urgent journey to Drug Mart, desperately seeking a pack of Ramen noodles to comfort me while I battled an unforgiving cold. I was quite single-minded in my quest, until I was jolted out of my aggressive search by something that could only be described as stunning. There, gracing an end cap, was this can so beautifully designed, I stopped dead in my tracks and Ramen noodles quickly fled my mind.

I didn’t think twice about purchasing it, without second thought it joined the suddenly lesser-appealing items in my cart. I have a habit of this. My desk and surrounding surfaces are ornamented with various packages and papers that struck a chord and demanded that I obtain and promptly display them.  

This is how designers interact with the world. We love making beautiful things, and we equally love admiring beautiful things. Sometimes it seems surreal when I become actively aware that the way someone designed a product is the sole reason I’m compelled to buy it. In reality, this happens on a regular basis. We buy branded products because they have a logo we recognize. Or when looking between two similar items, we instinctively reach for the better-looking one.

When asked to describe what I do, I’m tempted throw out buzzwords like “branding” and “visual elements.” But I think the best way to explain my job is by saying I control people without them knowing. Not surprising, this gets a few raised eyebrows and a few steps taken back. But it’s an accurate way for a designer to think of themselves. Our task is no easy one. We have to create something that will compel a person to pluck it off the shelf without hesitation, just with an inane sense that it’s the superior choice. We are needed to put elements together in a way that can lead someone through a task without any wrong turns or mistakes. We have to embody the soul of a company that can be reduced to a one-color image.

This post doesn’t have a three-step process to make better designs, or the top ten things you should look for in a beverage. It’s simply the acknowledgment of the manipulation of design. There’s a high chance you aren’t aware how molded you are by design, how easily it plays you like a puppet. Becoming aware might not make you a better businessman, designer, consumer, or whatever you are. But I hope it makes you more in awe of the power of design.  

If you’re a fellow designer, this is just one big “congrats” for doing the near-impossible. If you have the pleasure of working with or hiring designers, this is a boosted signal for how powerful design is, how valuable it is. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be publishing posts breaking down what I love about some of the packages and products that have been collected on my shelves, including that gorgeous Bai can. But for the moment, no matter where you find yourself though, whether walking down the aisle or browsing through Amazon, I hope these few words have cause you to become more aware of the manipulation of design.

Tips For Businesses

5 Tips For Giving Great Feedback

This might be a surprise, but a design project is not one-sided. Even when you hire a solo designer, it is still a team effort. You, the client, are on the same team as your designer, so to make sure everyone is happy and effective, you need to be a good team member. Your role in the team is initially informative: you provide the designer with all the material and knowledge they need to fulfill the scope of the project. But once they hit the ground running with the designs, you step into a very important role: the critic. A good designer will seek your feedback often to make sure they maintain the right course and neither time or money is wasted on wrong directions.

Offering feedback can be very intimidating, and giving poor feedback can be very hindering to a designer. Below you’ll find five tips that will help you become a great critic and an outstanding team member!

1. Be specific.

This is the first thing learned in any creative class. Saying “I like it,” or “I don’t like it,” is a waste of time, because it gives the artist nothing to work with. We need to understand the WHY, so get down to the nitty-gritty details. Instead of saying, “I don’t like it,” say “The color orange is too bold for my taste, I’d like to see other color options.” Even just saying, “I like it,” isn’t as helpful as you might think. While we appreciate the kudos, it doesn’t help us understand how you interact with the work, which is a designer’s constant goal. So instead, say “The colors make the important information stand out, and readability is always at the top of our priorities.

2. Be honest.

Many a project has been sabotaged because someone withheld their true feelings. Here’s an insider tip: Designers have thick skins. It’s a job requirement! Our livelihood is built on satisfying strangers, so we’ve learned how to take it. When asked for your opinion, don’t hold back, because it will just lead to both of us being unhappy, and a lot of time and money will be wasted.

3. Look once, look twice.

When you get the emails with the designs you’ve been anxiously waiting for, before opening it, grab a pen and paper or open up a Word document. When you first lay eyes on the designs, jot down your initial thoughts and reactions. Remember, be specific and honest! Walk away for a while, then return again and jot down your thoughts and opinions on your second interaction with the designs. The first look often is biased, influenced by your expectations, emotions, even how the designer worded their email. It’s still insightful, but not necessarily a clear vision. Returning for a second look allows the shock or newness to wear off and you can see things that might not have been evident the first time.

4. Do research.

A good designer will often ask for samples of related work or styles you like or don’t like at the start of a project. But as the project develops, continuing to identify elements in other designs that strike a chord with you can give your designer a clearer path.

5. Be open.

An important part of feedback is allowing your designer to explain choices they made. There should always be solid reasons behind their designs, and sometimes those reasons must trump your opinion, especially in regard to production or distribution. So be open to your designer’s choices and suggestions!

These tips should help your communication with your designer thrive, and result in happiness for both of you!

Tips For Businesses

3 Things Prices Tell About Your Designer (The Elephant in the Room, Part 2)

Last week, we covered the designer’s side of the price talks, which you can read here. Now, we’re going to dive into the other side.

Although money is a weighty topic between designers and clients, it can also be a tool in finding the right designer for your project. And no, I’m not saying just go with the cheapest! In fact, I strongly urge you to never go with the cheapest. If you’re on the hunt for a designer, always bear this in mind:

You get what you pay for.  

So many times, I encounter people who are dissatisfied with the results their designer delivered. And so often, they are paying meager dollars for them. It’s nice to think that no matter what you pay for a designer, they’ll always go above and beyond, delivering the most stellar designs they can imagine, blowing your expectations out of the water. But here in the real world, that rarely comes to pass. To avoid that scenario from unfolding, here are three things that prices can tell you about your designer.

1. How much they value themselves.

Believe it or not, most people don’t like making $4/hour, and designers shouldn’t be much different. Except there are many designers out there whose prices are so low that they’re lucky to bring that home in the end. When factoring in their time marketing, landing clients, maintaining their website, communicating with clients, honing their skills, keeping the books, networking, etc., you realize that the hours a designer actually spends designing needs to cover a lot of unpaid hours. A designer who charges low doesn’t value their time, and you shouldn’t expect them to value yours.

2. How much they value their clients.

It’s a simple equation: the more money you pay me, the more I value you. If you’re paying someone $50 to design a logo for the business you put your blood, sweat, and tears into, they value you and your business at $50. If that doesn’t sit well with you, that’s good. Design is an investment and you’ll get out what you put in. A good designer knows that and will price their services accordingly.

3. How much they value their work.

I’ve never been proud of a project that I only spent an hour on. And that’s not a testament to the speed at which I work, but rather the fact that great design takes time. I’ve encountered many people who think it’s ridiculous to charge anything more than $50 for a logo, because in their mind, a logo can be done in 45 minutes. You might get a logo, but it won’t be on par with a logo that someone invested 20 hours into. A good designer knows their process and won’t sacrifice the quality of their work just to land a job.

You can peruse Upwork or Freelancer and find bucket loads of designers that charge $5/hour, or promise a logo in a day for $35, or can build a website in two hours. Choosing designers in that pool is like playing the lottery. You might be the jackpot winner, but you’re nearly guaranteed to sink money into something that leaves you disappointed. Design is no different from the real world. You get what you pay for.