The simple answer to the above question is that you should use both. So, now you can stop reading. Just kidding, please continue reading. A lot of people tend to think that once they have a social media page they don't need a website and then there are others who don't see the need for a social media presence. I suppose if they uneducated about the subject then to each their own. However, the main issue I have found is people who think that their social media page(s) is doing the work of a website. In most cases the people involved don't know any better. So, here's what you need to know about the subject.
The most important thing to take away is that social media (which is a type of website) and your traditional website were designed for different purposes. Although, it's fair to say the similarity they both share is to engage people. So, when it comes down to the everyday use they serve different purposes. However, as a business or organization, you should use both to maximize your reach.
I like to think of social media as a spokesperson for your organization at a conference or your organization's booth at a trade show or exhibition. They can engage people and show off certain aspects of your business. However, you are using them to draw people into further engaging with your organization at a later time or have a live conversation. As the name implies it is for a social interaction and depending on the nature of your entity, you might not even need a social media page.
Last week I was with a potential client who told me that his previous experience with designers has been bad because they ignored what he wanted and just did whatever they wanted. This got me thinking, are designers an arrogant bunch?
Personally, I wouldn’t consider myself arrogant but then again that’s just my opinion isn’t it? However, I do think back on my college days and recall vividly a few arrogant designers that I knew at that time in my life. There was Maddie who knew better than everyone including our professors and she saw every constructive criticism as an invitation for conflict; which she was hell bent on winning. There was Leigh who was widely praised and whose work I admired; However, she was very snooty and secretive. Knowing what I know now perhaps it helps to put things in context. More on this later.
My freelance working experience has been a mixed blessing. I’ve mostly had great clients who gave me the opportunity to share in their dreams and project; many of them were genuinely happy with the work I had done for them. Some of whom I have stayed friends/acquaintances with till this day. The few that I had bad experiences with will only fall into the client from hell category. Do see my blog on that. My experience has put me in the path of clients who wanted ridiculous things like using a photograph mixed in with other complicated elements to form a logo, ignoring the warnings that this doesn’t work and then coming back to have it changed to another ridiculous version.
Then there are other clients who want to be overly involved in the design process and I get that they are paying for this. Still you wouldn’t tell your doctor how best to treat you, otherwise why hire him? However, by wanting to be involved they end up getting in the way. They nit-pick at various details that aren’t relevant to the overall success of the project.
As a designer I want the best for my clients because their success also reflects on me. My process has generally been to find out what the client wants, see what they need while using my design education and artistic style to solve the problem. In other words, finding a harmonious common ground that will solve the design problem at hand. The issue I’ve observed with some clients is that because they are hiring you to do the job they feel they know better than you and what is best for the project to succeed. So, if you were to offer a design solution that goes against what they have in mind they get upset and say that the designer isn’t following their requests.
As a designer one of the things that stayed with me through my education is that you begin with the target audience in mind or as the late Steven Covey put it “Begin with the end in mind”. One of the reasons I love the consultation session with a client prior to the start of a new design project is because it allows me to get a better understanding of them, their target audience and what they want. Sadly, enough half of the clients I’ve worked with were focused on themselves; and weren’t even sure who their target audience were or had a really broad range of target audience. I can see why a client would get upset and view a designer as arrogant for not giving him what he wants; when what he needs would best serve his target audience and him or her in the long run. If a client can convince me from a business aspect why a certain design decision is good or bad for the goal of the project, I am willing to make adjustments.
When I look back at my classmates Maddie and Leigh I am forced to consider, that though they may be designers their personalities will always come to the front. To be fair to them to being in the design program in college had a lot of prestige attached to it. If your work your good, you got recognition for it and everyone talked about you. This probably made people take more ownership of their work, even it is to the point of ego investment. That type of environment can often bring out competitive side of people and what might seem like arrogance is just their way of trying to stand out. I believe the same thing applies to clients as well who are probably accomplished in their fields and thinks that makes them qualified to judge what design is best for their project.
So, what has your experience been with designers? Do you still think they are an arrogant bunch? Leave your comments below.
This is probably just my opinion and you are more than welcome to disagree with me. For a while I have been under the impression that good customer service is dying. Although, all the cool marketing tools and resources out there today might imply otherwise.
As a designer I have to sell my services to potential clients and it can be very rewarding, challenging and at times disheartening. All the same while doing this I have come to discover that it seems that most clients who seem to have a satisfactory amount of business coming in don't seem to really care about their clients.
There seems to be either one of two things going on. The first is actually design requests from them that cry "me, me, mine, mine" while implying "I'm paying you so me, me, my way , how I want it". What about their customers? How does their design demands reflect good customer service? The second thing going is clients or potential clients' attitude that if business is great why bother going out of their way to enhance current client or potential client experience.
It seems that many clients who contact designers for work to be done for them aren’t prepared most of the time. It’s hard to tell if this is a personality flaw or just lack of education. However, all hope is not lost. Here’s a basic guide of five ways you can prepare for the design of your new website.
One thing I’ve noticed is that many clients call asking for design work without having any idea of how much it should cost; once they have been told the price they assume it’s expensive, which shows that they might have not done some research. The truth is that design prices for your website may vary depending on what type of website you are looking to build. Still it’s a good idea to have a general idea of price range so you can budget accordingly. A quick way to get an idea is to contact designers and ask for a quote, be sure to supply them with basic information of what type of site you want and its functionality so you can get the right quote. Make sure your budget takes into account extras like feature services from 3rd party sites, as well as hosting and domain name. These are not generally included in the design fees.
Research The Designer’s Style
Most designers have samples of their work on their site. So, look through their portfolio of works to find out which designer’s style appeals to you. You should do this so that you know what to expect once work has commenced. As you pick your designer it is important to keep your target audience in mind. The reason for this is to make sure that the style of the designer you’re picking meshes with those of your target audience.
It is safe to assume that prior to getting your website built, that you have some sort of vision about the image you want your organization or business to have. There are probably similar organizations to yours whose practices you admire. Yes, it is also assumed that you want your organization to stand out. There’s nothing wrong with having an initial frame of reference.
So, what should do next? Collect links of examples of websites that inspire you for your designer to use as a source of reference. In addition to links, you can take screen shots of these websites, while making notes of how you want yours to differ; or you can simply leave that up to your designer.
Gather the contents of your new site
As a designer one of the difficulties of working with clients is getting contents to work with from them. Clients won’t supply contents in a timely manner and expect the work to be completed in time. Design work isn’t magic. Below is a checklist of the kinds of content you would need to gather. Please beware that this isn’t an extensive list but a good guide for a starting point.
· List of menus: Think of them as folders and arrange them as you would like them to be viewed.
· Copy for each individual page you would like to see on the site. Don’t forget to include your terms of service.
· Contact information
· Pictures, videos and links. As far as pictures go if you’re on a limited budget you may want to consider using stock photography to find images that reflects your organization. Some sites such www.bigstockphotos.com have a Free 7 days trial that allows you to download 5 pictures each day. This is something you should definitely take advantage of or you can leave it up to your designer to select the images for you.
· Testimonials from your clients that should be on your site
· Set up your social media pages: Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ etc. and get the links for each of those sites. If you’re not social media savvy then find someone who is to set these up for you otherwise you might have to pay your designer a little extra to set these up for you.
· PayPal, Square Register, Google wallet accounts etc. if you plan to accept payments on your site.
· Keywords related to your organization or business’s industry for your basic SEO.
· Create a Google account that will be affiliated to your site. It is important for your analytics and SEO
Set Up SEO and Advertising Services
It’s one thing to have a great site that people can check out but most importantly it’s best if you can be found online by people in need of your services, otherwise what’s the point in having the website? Some recommended sites for these services are Yelp, Google, Yext etc.
After you’ve done all these things or at least 75% of them, by all means go ahead and contact your Web Designer. This will make his job easier and in return you are likely to get your website up and running in a timely manner and avoid the extended back and forth of the designer wanting x, y and z from you. What did you find helpful in this article and is there anything missing that should’ve been added to this list?
It is never an easy thing making that bold move of starting a new project. However, for those of us who dare, we know the excitement that comes along with the ideas that floods our minds. This excitement often comes from the possibilities of sharing our passion with the world. So, how should you start out on your new project?
Well, if you are starting a new project that involves any kind of design, whether it is print or web based; you should start off right, by talking to the right designer. Doing this will obviously involve research on your part or referrals from friends. Doing your research first, will keep you well informed on things like pricing, duration of the design work etc. The purpose of this research is to lead you to the right designer. It might seem like the obvious decision to start off one’s design project with a designer still many skip this step only to regret it later. One quick way to judge a designer’s reputation is to look at their testimonials and reviews, especially if the designer isn’t one that wasn’t personally referred to you.
Some common mistakes I’ve witnessed from people starting off anew project on their own, is making design based decisions while being uninformed. Some people will purchase domain names that might sound right at the time but may not work for the projects they have in mind. It could be something along the lines of having a long name that their audience might not remember for their website, using the wrong color for their logo, using a wrong name or even starting the project with a non-designer only to realize later that it looks bad. This eventually leads to wasted time and money on having to fix these mistakes later.
Even if you are not totally ready to move on with the project, you can always pay a designer for consultation to acquire the right knowledge. When you finally get ready to start off on your new project you are well informed, know what to do and expect.
Don’t forget starting off a new project without a designer to save costs, can cost you more in the long run. As a designer what kinds of mistakes have you had to fix for your clients? As a client what kinds of mistakes have you made on a new project that could have been avoided?
With the amount of resources today there’s the notion that one doesn’t need to pay the cost of professional services such as a web design or graphic design. Why pay someone else to do it for you when you can simply do it yourself?
I believe that’s a valid question to ask yourself; with that being said you should consider the cons and pros of doing it yourself. I will get to that soon. Some of the things to consider with regard to doing anything yourself are specialization, time involved, the cost, education and image.
If you learn how to design a website yourself (that will include using templates). It will save you a lot of money that would have been spent hiring a professional to do it. As we can all agree, most of us want to cut cost and maximize profit. If we can’t cut the cost we want to divert it to something else in order to get the most out of our money.
Learning a New Skill
As people we want to expand our world view. Expanding that world view might include something like acquiring a new skill. The reason for this being that when you devote your time to adding a new skill set to your arsenal it gives you a sense of accomplishment; that pride of “look what I have been able to accomplish all on my own”. You feel more resourceful and independent.
While it’s true that using a template website can help you cut the cost of hiring a web designer; it could come at the cost of having a poor image. This is especially true if you don’t have the deep technical and psychological understanding of design and the design process that most formally trained designers have. While you can pick up on how to set up your templates website by following instructions; not having a deep understanding that is acquired through years of study and practice can give your site an amateurish look. Some people are totally unaware of how font alignments, choice of colors, images used, image size and more can give their site an unprofessional look. The downside to having an unprofessional look is that for most people perception is everything. Sometimes, first impressions is all it takes to judge your business and lose a potential client.
If you are running your own business by now you realize how time consuming it can be. When you decide to add more responsibilities to that by building your site yourself, updating it etc. That can take away from time you can spend with your loved ones and doing other things you enjoy. While you might save some money in the short term, in the overall scheme of things, time is the true currency in life which we can’t get back.
I am sure there’s more that can be added to the list of cons and pros. However, in order not to have an overly lengthy reading I shortened it to the above list. At the end of the day it comes down to it being your decision as a business owner or organization leader, on what you feel works well for you. There is a lot design-wise that goes into creating a website or making a logo. When you hire a professional you are rest assured that they have spent years of training and practice specializing in their craft. If cost is really an issue for you then you should consider adding design costs to your current or future budget. However, if you would rather do it yourself via a template. Simply sign up with Weebly using this link to get started.
If you don’t already have a website or logo for your business/organization or don’t have a modern and professional looking one, what is your excuse? What else can you add to this list of cons and pros?
If you have any design needs ranging from print, website, electronic newsletter and even app design Uzo Design is here for you.
Give Yourself a Head Start
Before enrolling for any class it would be in your best interest to do some research on the instructors for the classes you will be taking. A lot of times the same courses are taught by different instructors and it would be best for you to learn some more about these instructors prior to getting enrolled in one of their classes. This will help you to be better prepared to deal with them or to learn to avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, some instructors are just in it for the pay check. I had an instructor who wouldn’t teach and just expected us to go out there and find out the answers.
Although, this might be the case sometimes in the real world; but if you are paying to get an education then the instructor ought to be teaching you whether they think so or not.
My guess is every school is going to be different with regards to the curriculum and how it changes each semester. One of the things I discovered is that a lot of professors repeat the same projects each semester with slight modification. Perhaps this has to do with the convenience and laziness that is part of the human nature, unless there’s another explanation. If your school does this then you can benefit from the situation.
You can get a copy of the syllabus from seniors before you and ask to see those projects that they did. This will give you a head start prior to you taking that class. If you have the time during holiday session you can do your own version of that project and when you finally get into that actual class you either already have the work done or have an alternative to turn in if you find yourself pressed for time. If in the worst case scenario you have to do it over then you would have already had some practice.
Invest in your future
As with all things one day your college career will come to an end and if you had invested in your future back then, you will surely be reaping your rewards now. Here are some things you should invest in while you are in college: people, internship, software and tools (camera, computers etc.).
People: Remember those people in the high and low places that I mentioned in the previous series. Well, if you maintained good relationships with them some of them will come in handy when you start looking for job after graduation. A lot of jobs often ask you for professional references. Before you graduate be sure to collect a few phone numbers and letter of recommendations because they will come in handy.
Social Media: If you haven’t taken the time to do so. Find out how social media can help you with advertising and marketing. The reason I have mentioned it is because looking back over the years I deleted a lot of people I didn’t communicate with frequently on Facebook because I didn’t see the point. With what I know now I would’ve still left them as contacts because the more the better when it comes time to marketing your services to people in the future. Put your professional self out there. Join as many social media networks as you can handle and learn to use them effectively.
Internship: Some schools require internship as a part of their Graphic Design curriculum. Even if your school doesn’t have this requirement it is best that before you graduate you seek out a company hiring interns. Many companies will want you to work for free and in exchange they will give you course credits that will enable you meet your school internship requirement. If you are not overly busy with another job or stuck financially then take the unpaid internship. Just make sure that the company will actually have you do work that is directly related to design. If you are strapped for cash then seek out paid internships. Many schools have job boards where you can locate some of these job postings.
Software and tools: If you are in school and receive grants or financial aid there is always the temptation to spoil you with the refund check. Instead use this money to buy the software you will need to start doing work on your own after you graduate because chances are you will no longer have access to the school equipment. So, buy a lap top, SLR camera, video camera, portable scanner and a smart phone. These are things that will enable you to do your work as a designer more effectively. You should also purchase a domain name and a website (if you can’t design yours) so that you have a portfolio site with all your works displayed there.
In other to conclude this “Path to Success Series”, I will offer two pieces of advice.
Take the short cut: As a designer you will find yourself stumped for ideas with time being against you. The best thing you can do is take the short cut. Find a similar project or style online and use it as a source of inspiration. Borrow the ideas and create your own. This will save you time and energy. At the end of the stay it is still important to get that passing grade than the failing one for not turning the work in.
Provide Value: If you happen to be one of those smart students be sure to help others out and eventually they will need you again, and even provide word of mouth testimonials on your behalf and then you can reap the rewards of the value you had provided.
Take the right classes
During your college career you will be forced to take different electives that are not directly related to your major. While it is true that you have no choice but to comply; it is still up to you to make the most of the situation. It is my recommendation that you take the following classes: public speaking, creative writing, marketing, psychology, web design, photography and craftsmanship based course.
Public Speaking: As stated before there will come a time to present your ideas either to your bosses or clients and doing so in an effective way will earn you credibility.
Creative writing: sales copy often goes hand in hand with design. Although in general many companies would hire someone else for this specific duty. However, there has been a current trend for companies to try to hire one person with multiple skills. If you are this person, then you have more chances in landing the job over the person who only knows one thing. From the company’s point of view it makes sense as it saves them time and money. The same would apply to photography and web design.
Marketing/Psychology: These two have been grouped together as they go hand in hand. In the long run you will come to the sad realization (depending on how you look at it) that graphic design is more of a sales aid. However, it is the proper understanding of marketing techniques and psychology that will eventually make that sale by appealing to the psyche of the buyer/consumer. Part of that technique and psychology involves graphic design. If you decide to work for yourself or become a marketing manager in the future, you would’ve had the proper education to know how to reach your clients. At the end of the day what use is a great design that no one knows of?
There are only so many hours of classes in the semester to learn all there is to know. To a certain degree the expression “Those who can’t do, teach.” is true. Hence, your professors in class will have a limit to what they can teach you. Fortunately for you, this isn’t the end of the world. You owe it to yourself to constantly keep learning new skills set that will make you a better designer. The good news is that there are countless tutorials on YouTube and Lynda.com that will helps become a better designer skill-wise. Apart from tutorials you can also learn more about trends or people in your field by subscribing to print magazines like Communication Arts or Smashing Magazine.
The trick to educating yourself is to start a fun project that doesn’t have the restrictions of the class related ones and use that as an opportunity to apply those tutorials you are learning. When you become comfortable you can then start applying them to real projects.
Re-create yourself in the image of your idol
One of the benefits of having alliance in the high places is that one of these people can become your idol/mentor. Every now and then we need someone to talk to in order to get ourselves sorted out and to distract ourselves from the everyday rigor of school etc. This is where having a mentor comes in handy. A lot of times these mentors or idols have foresights that they can pass down to you in relation to something you are currently experiencing.
As you get deeper in the field of Graphic Design you will come across people whose works will make a really good impression on you and in the process they become your idols. You can start to model yourself after them and their styles. With that being said everyone loves originality; still in this world we live in where everyone borrows ideas originality can be hard to create. So, you can have an idol you emulate however, you should try to form a hybrid of your style based on your idol.
Know Yourself and Your Zone
One of the things I discovered about myself as a student was that I had zones and time zones where I functioned best. I am not referring to the actual time zones. What I’m alluding to is that you need to know what works best for you in order for you to achieve the best results. If you are an early riser (as we all should be) you can start your work in time.
When I was a student I loved doing work at school in the computer labs late at night because I had more space to work with. I also lived close to the campus, so that made things easier. There were less people there during that time which also meant it was peaceful, quiet and I could think much clearer. Whenever I tried to do the work at home I became distracted by Television, fell asleep or felt cramped by my tight work space.
Knowing yourself also means being able to determine the amount of work load you can comfortably carry each semester while still being effective. Some students are obsessed with finishing school as quickly as possible. Mark my words there will come a time when you will long for the school environment again. Anyway, that isn’t the point. The point is if you carry the right work load you are able to balance your social, personal and school lives more effectively while being happy at the same time. You are the only one who is in the best position to know what is best for you.
It is also generally advised to split your electives in half. Take some during your first semesters as the rules will allows you to do so and take others towards the end of your college career. Doing it this way ensures that your toughest times in college are in the middle stages and not in the beginning to discourage you or at the end to frustrate you.
If you are currently in school, what have you learned about yourself and your zone?
The second thing that is important to know in this series is forming alliances. In the real world, often times it all comes down to who you know or who knows you and what you can do. In 2013 when I landed my internship at Fleetwood RV, I would later find out that a former classmate whom I was friendly with was also working there and he had also put in a good word for me.
There are two kinds of alliance you can form. The first is with those in high places and the second is with those in the low places. Those in high places would be people like your professors, head of department, the recognized students in your field; whereas those in low places would be likened to those smart students who are not popular as well as the janitors.
Alliance with those in the high places is important because these are the people that hold certain influence. The fact is that people generally like those who like them. When you are friends with those in the high places like your professors they are more willing to spend time to help you out. This could be by cutting you some slack when you mess up or giving you advice and help with regards to information to succeed. These people are also more than likely to be references for you in the future. When people are in need of your skill sets these people in high places that you know will be likely to refer them to you.
By being friends with the popular classmate (the smart kind) you can start to learn what has made him/her one of the most recognized students. They can give you advice on your design project etc.
Alliance with those in the low places is equally important. When I was in college there were many nights when I needed to get into the school building after hours to get some work done. One of the janitors whom I had become friends with was willing to let me into the building. The same applies to the smart unpopular school mates whom others might refer to as nerds or geeks. Most of the times these smart people are just in need of a friend and are willing to point you to resources or even help you out when you are struggling in return for your friendship.
Actively being in a club or organization will also provide you with the benefits of being in a networking environment. When you are known people can easily refer you to jobs and people know who you are when someone of your skill set is needed.
Know the basics
One of my failings as an earlier designer was just trying to create beautiful pictures without consideration of other factors. Time and time again my instructors would tell me how awful my designs where and I even failed several portfolio reviews before finally getting my act together and making it officially into the program. Looking back I believe my failure stemmed from inability to grasp the basics such as color theory, font choices, repetition, contrast etc. It is easy to look at a finished product and just want to skip straight to doing your own version. When you don’t understand the basic dynamics at play it’s often hard to reproduce your own master piece. During your learning pay attention to the history classes of the previous designers. Understand why they made their choices and how those choices impacted how people now relate to their designs.
Knowing the basics also requires you to constantly stay informed. Part of my failing of my portfolio review at the time was because I was not aware that after taking X amount of classes that we had to take a portfolio review. That left me unprepared. The point is you should always try to stay informed of even the minute details because it can save you a lot of heart aches.
Path to Success for student designers
It isn’t always easy coming up with new content for blog but as always inspiration can find you when you least expect it. Today I was watching a YouTube video from Derek Halpern, which got me thinking about writing a series for those who are deciding to pursue the Graphic Design field in college. This series is going to be based loosely on looking back at my experience and pointing out things you would benefit from by doing differently as it relates to being a graphic designer.
It is sometimes hard to find the benefits in what one is doing in that moment. In general you know that you’re going to school in order to be formally educated, get a degree and be able to find a job. So, if you are like most students you want to get those grades by hook or crook (studying hard or cheating) because at the end of the day as long as you get those A+ grade and graduate that’s all that matters, right? Wrong! The most important thing to realize is to begin with the end in mind.
Why is this important? It is important because it will help you determine how to chart your course in college so that you end up where you need to be years later. It will also help you make the connections in the choices that you make. Most colleges generally make you take diverse Gen-Ed classes in order for you to figure out what you like and to also have a more complete education. The upside to this is that you are exposed to various subjects. The downside is that you could waste years and money bouncing from one thing to the other as time flies.
Watching the Derek Halpern videos today brought it home for me why I should’ve taken marketing, psychology, public speaking more seriously in college. Beginning with the end in mind would require you to know what is to be expected of a Graphic Designer in today’s work force; hence a deeper appreciation of taking the right classes, seeing how they apply to your field in the real world and investing in them.
How should you go about becoming a Graphic Designer today for tomorrow? I will explain more in my next post. In the time being, where are you in your current college pursuits? If you are done with college how many semesters did it take you to make up your mind?
Alright, so you’ve decided that you want to become a Graphic Designer after all? The first thing I would advise you to do is join a relevant club. It could be for photography, art, video, movie making, public speaking etc.
Why is this important? Well, for example as a Graphic Designer in the real world you will be working with photographs or photographers. So, if you develop your photography skills not only will it help you to find a good photographer but it will also come in handy should you need to do it yourself. Trust me sometimes doing it yourself will save you a lot of money and also not having to depend on others. What of public speaking? As a Graphic Designer in the real world you might be required to present your ideas in front of a group of directors who have lots of money on the line based on your design ideas. It would help a great deal to be able to effectively communicate these ideas to them.
Being in one of these clubs will help also be good for your resume especially if you are playing an active role in the running of the club. A lot of times schools allocate funds to clubs for events such as trips. A photography club might visit a photo gallery, which will in turn give you more exposure to the real world. Not only for educational purposes it can be fun taking a road trip or going on an excursion. These times allow you to form friendship with your club mates. So, the trick is to find out how the club you are involved in today will benefit you tomorrow. Besides the clubs you have on campus there are other organizations like AIGA that will be relevant to you even long after you have graduated.