February 17, 2022No Comments

Errrmmmm…

Are you talking to your clients?

Being a designer, having a regular stream of paying clients is a big deal. Without them, we’re nothing more than hobbyists. But here’s the thing; we have to know how to talk to them to have people hire us. It’s essential that we speak their language and not bamboozle them with our jargon.

If people don’t understand what we do, and more importantly, what we can do for them, why should they ever want to pay for our services?

Talking to your clients is a skill that is hard to master for some, yet it’s so important that we learn it. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the subject.

You’re not selling to designers.

Picture this: You’re at a party, and you get chatting to a friend of a friend. They ask, “So, what do you do?”

If you’re anything like me, it’s a question that strikes a blade of fear into your very soul. I’ll admit that every time I’m asked that question, my brain freezes up for a moment while I stumble to find something that sounds remotely intelligent before I utter, “I’m a designer.”

Usually, that’s followed by a string of incoherent babble as I try to express to them what, exactly, that means, before I excuse myself, half-embarrassed while their eyes glaze over…

Back when I was in college, one of my tutors said to me, “Remember, you’re not designing for designers.” We forget that, sometimes, don’t we? We are creators by nature, and perhaps we’re a bit apt to show off what we can do – but it doesn’t help us when it comes to marketing ourselves. Because we’re also not selling to designers. People don’t much care about the technicalities of design – they just want to know how we can make their websites and branding speak for them.

If we can learn to adapt our language to speak to them on their level, rather than using design jargon, they’re much more likely to see how our vision can work for them – and hire us to do that. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about what it is that they need and the outcome of your design projects for them.

Use positive (and simple) language, always.

We tend to over-complicate things that really should be simple. Maybe it’s through a lack of confidence in ourselves, or maybe it’s to do with ego. But there really is a lot to be said for keeping things simple, including how we describe the design process.

Again, we need to look at each new project from the client’s point of view – they usually have some clear ideas on what they need (but not always), and it’s up to us to coach them to understand the scope of what can be done.

There might be times when what they think they want isn’t in alignment with their brand, or they’re just asking for the impossible. Rather than saying, “No, I can’t do that.”, try to use positive, straightforward language to help them to visualise how things should work. Perhaps, “I understand what you’re saying, although I think if we try it this way instead, we’ll get better results”, or “In my experience, that can appear confusing to your customers – can I suggest we try and do this instead?”

Help them see that you know what you’re talking about clearly and simply. Don’t assume that they will know design terms just because you do.

Who are you talking to?

What about you? Does the way you speak to your clients impress or confuse them? Does your marketing appeal to your ideal customer, or is it geared towards other designers? If it is, perhaps you could look at simplifying your messaging in a way that will grab the attention of future clients.

Need help or advice with your branding or design? Give me a call – I’d be happy to help.

January 7, 2020No Comments

The Benefits of a Design Community

I wanted to talk about a subject that I touched upon in a couple of earlier articles, where I write about why I went back into education to complete my design MA, and then about being a designer working within a smaller community. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own working location, a small-ish market and college town, and how perhaps larger places have a much closer design community.

Shrewsbury, where I live and work is quite a unique, and in some respects, vibrant town. It comes with a lot of history, and is also a great hub for businesses.

What surprised me, though, is when I began to look around at my own industry, there really isn’t much of a community at all. It’s not for lack of designers or design agencies in the town – if you know where to look, there are some very successful designers here. But they seem to be quite isolated; hidden away from view. Seemingly keeping to ourselves, not through lack of interest, but more because we don’t go out of our way to know about each other. There is simply no interaction between us.

The discovery led me to look around, at other places, and how they have come together to collaborate and communicate, creating a ‘hub’ for their design communities. I looked at some of the most successful ones – the Graphic Design Festival Scotland, and closer by the Birmingham Design Festival. These designers seem to not only willingly collaborate, but celebrate doing so. They come together for events such as these – perhaps because, rather than see each other as competition, they see the value in working together on occasion, in pulling together to learn from one another, and creating their own ‘hub’ in their own communities.

The positives of design communities

There are many positives that can come from being part of a close design community – and creating local festivals and exhibitions to celebrate and collaborate. Of course, it does have the obvious benefit of showing off our work in order to give publicity to our individual studios – but I think it does much more than that.

Being so isolated, in many ways, can be such a negative. For starters, by working in such close quarters, you lose that sense of the world around you – you become self-absorbed in your own work. And yes, you might argue that we are all part of the ‘online’ community, but is that really the same thing? Is there really any substitute to getting to know what’s going on in the immediate community, what’s happening in your own industry, in your own town?

The opportunity to bounce ideas with each other, to learn for each other’s experiences, to come together to work on bigger projects, can only help us to thrive as designers.

Being part of such events as the ones mentioned above can be such a positive experience, a moral booster, and give us a sense of where we are going, as an industry collective. There’s such a lot we could learn from each other.

Can we create our own communities?

This is where I am right now. This is the big question I’m asking – how can I facilitate putting together something in my own community which can bring together other designers?

I’m looking at other local events – there are regular, and successful events for other creatives in my town. There are exhibitions for local artists, both traditional and modern, festivals for writers and comic book artists, amongst others. So there is scope – and some really great venues in which to host such things.

I’d be interested to learn how other places do it – perhaps you have even been where I am, and have seen the opportunity in your own town or city. If you have, maybe you could give me the benefit of your experience. Tell me how you did it, what obstacles stood in your way. Were you successful?

Shrewsbury, I think, would be the perfect place to host a festival for graphic designers – and I’m hoping that in the future, I can facilitate that. I can see a huge benefit in raising the industry profile in the town and surroundings.

August 29, 2019No Comments

Reasons for Graphic Designers to go back into education

Graphic Designers – never stop learning

I’ve worked as a graphic designer for a long time, graduating from Wrexham Glyndŵr University in 1993 and working in various studios, bringing me to launch The Severn Agency in 2017. You might say that I’ve made it – that there’s nothing else that I need to achieve from here. But you’d be wrong. Graphic design is a fluid industry, ever changing, ever evolving, and to stay in the game, it’s important that I don’t sit still, because chances are, if I do that, I’ll fall behind, and things will move without me.

Digital Evolution

In the early 90’s, things took a real leap in the field of graphic design, as it was in 1990 when we saw the first version of Photoshop arrive on the scene. This changed the industry a lot, as it meant that designers could experiment with graphics in a way that we’d never seen before. The techniques it allowed were ground-breaking, with overlapping text, image overlays, and faded elements, which previously had been impossible to achieve on-screen.

A tribute to the war poet Wilfred Owen

By the 2000’s, the tech had become much more powerful, and we saw a surge in portable devices. Graphics evolved again with this new technology, and images with movement came into focus. Corporate design and logos began to look much more like they were in motion, using new techniques with angles and shadowing.

Now, trends change year on year, and there are so many styles and techniques open to us in the graphic design industry. But both design and technology continues to change and evolve.

The next step

This year, I have embarked on a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design. Why? Because I want to safeguard my future in this industry, and I want to be the best that I can be.
And that is the reason for my writing this article. Whether you are a graphic designer, are looking to get into the industry, or are pursuing another job entirely, I think there are huge benefits in going back into education in order to get better at what you do and advancing your knowledge.

It can be a great refresher on what you’ve already learned, or it can take you to the next level in the evolution of your career. And of course, it gives you the opportunity to learn about advancements within the industry, whether that’s technological changes, changes in trend, or changes in the industry that you might otherwise have missed out on.

As well as this, you could be connecting with people who are at the same point in their career as you, which gives you the opportunity to learn about what others in the industry are doing.

Why go back into education?

For me, going back into education, to get my Master’s Degree in Graphic Design, is about me keeping up with the industry, and becoming an expert in what I do. But there are many reasons for you to seek further education, whether you’re already working in the industry or not. And you can do it at any age.

It could be that the career path you’ve chosen is no longer a good fit for you, and you’re looking to change. There are plenty of people who decide very late on in life which career path they have a passion for – it’s a myth that everyone who leaves college or even university has a clear idea of what they want to do for the rest of their lives. People change, and so you shouldn’t be afraid to make changes in your career, no matter your age.

Some advice…

Perhaps you are in your chosen career but have come to the end of your potential, either by salary or skill. If this is the case, you might decide to take the next step and go back into education in order to climb the ladder and further your career.

Or it might be that you simply want to learn something new, to accompany the education you’ve already got. There are plenty of jobs in which graphic design feature, and having some kind of formal education can do wonders in enhancing your skills.

Graphic Design never stays still – and whatever your reasons, learning the skills needed to keep yourself current in the industry is always beneficial.

©2017–2022 Tony Clarkson/&Something Limited