I have been graphic designing for the last 11 years and along the lines, I did learn a thing or two about designing. These are not necessarily related to the art per se, but rather to the attitude as a designer and the interaction with the clients and work.
1. Client is right (almost always)
Don’t take this as a universal statement. I am not saying that “the client is actually right”. But having presumption that the client is right, while you are approaching a client or discussing the design requirements, gives you a positive and open-minded attitude. You as a designer, when you become more open to ideas, you get better equipped to deliver designs that your client will love. On the contrary, having an i-know-all attitude makes you more rigid and increases the friction of thoughts.
2. If you need to explain your design, it’s not working
As a designer, the actual audience (or end customer) is often not your client. They are the people in general – whom you as a designer might never know. And hence you can never get a chance to explain your design to the actual audience. In the end, your design has to do the talking. If your design can’t speak for itself and you have to be the interpreter, that design is not good.
3. You always evolve
Pick any of your old designs – say when you just started designing. Chances are you will not like them and compared to the designs you make now are much different. The same would be true 5 years down the line for the design you created today. The design taste will always change and as a designer, you also should always evolve. The day you stop evolving – you are a dead designer. Mind you, I am using the word evolve and not improve.
4. You can never know everything
There is no one who knows everything. And sooner you realize this, a step closer you are to the non-existent horizon of knowing everything. There are things you can learn from others. For passionate artists, they learn from everything around them. The moment you assume you know everything, it becomes tough to learn. And practically speaking art is an ever-evolving subject and the moment you feel you have learned all – something new gets created. Don’t shy away from accepting what you don’t know and never lose a chance to learn what you don’t.
5. Take a break and come back later
This is something that works for me. When you are designing something and feel that you are done, shelve the work. Come back after a few days (if your deadline permits) or the next day and look at it with a fresh mind. Do you still feel the same? For me, this actually gives a different outlook to the creation and I am able to find flaws better. I guess there is a sort of semantic satiation that kicks in when you are designing a particular design for long hours. This trick breaks this pseudo-satiation.
6. The first person to satisfy is yourself
As a designer, I believe that unless you are yourself happy and satisfied with the design, the design won’t work. I personally take this a bit further. For me, the design is good when I want to keep that for myself. Kind of selfish you might say.
7. Don’t be too attached to your design or style
This might seem contrary to point 6 but is not. What I mean is that you must not be too rigid towards the design you created or the style of work you do. Maybe the design is good – great, but not necessary it would suit your client’s purpose. Or the style you follow might not work for the job you have in hand. While you should definitely have your own style, you should be open to explore and experiment. And also have enough guts to shelve your design and start afresh.
8. Have your own style and know that
Every artist, be it an actor, singer, or designer, everyone has his/her own style. It’s not a matter of – if you have or not, it’s just a matter of discovering your style. If you are passionate about something, you are bound to have a style of your own that sets you apart. It’s just a matter of time you discover it. Your style defines you as a designer.
9. Don’t search for inspiration right away
This is something that works for me but might not work for others. Usually, when I get commissioned for a design, I usually absolve myself from Google search at least for the initial brainstorming session. This keeps my mind free from any preconceived notion or design idea. This also gives me the freedom to think out of the box. In designing most of the time the concept you think of is already done and created by someone else. After all it’s a permutation and combination, and it’s bound to be similar. So to keep the design fresh and unique, I try keeping my mind blank until I have the first draft ready and conceived in my mind.
10. Creativity is essential, tools are secondary
I have always believed that creativity defines an artist. The ability to use a particular tool is secondary. A person who knows how to use a tool but lacks creativity is a designer, not an artist. He/she can make but cannot create. I remember creating my first commissioned design when I was in the seventh standard. It was a logo designed on paper with a pencil and a pen. To this day I still find a pen and a paper my best mates while designing.
11. Presentation is crucial
Whether you are showing a draft or the initial version or the final work to your client, it is crucial that you don’t just “show” it to your client, you should “present” your work – and in the best possible way. When you are showing your design to the client, you just have a fraction of a second for the client to sub-consciously approve or disapprove the design. The fate of your design is often decided in those few initial seconds – make sure your design stands out. After all, the first impression is the last impression.