With the high rate of unemployment across the globe many people with computers have turned themselves to designers in quest for a living. The availability of graphic design applications, both genuine and pirated and mushrooming of colleges purporting to offer graphic design courses have not made things any better. Consequently there has been an influx of “graphic designers” in the market making it difficult for some clients to pick out professional designers for their projects.
At this point it is important to ask, does having the skills to use graphic design software equal to being a graphic designer? Does the ability to crop and retouch a photo in Photoshop make one a designer? If the answer to these questions is no, then some so-called designers in the market are not designers but software manipulators / quacks. Similarly, one is not considered a fashion designer because he/she can mend a torn garment. There is more to fashion design than mending torn garments and so it is in graphic design.
How then can one distinguish a genuine graphic designer from a software manipulator? There are many ways but I will highlight three of them:
Software manipulators are good in copying what others have done. There is hardly any original work in their portfolio. Their portfolio is full of work executed using clip art and vector images. I am not saying that clip art and vector images are bad, but they are not supposed to replace the creativity and originality of a designer. If the so-called “designer” has to use them in every project, then there is a problem. Part of graphic design involves coming up with creative concepts that distinguishes the work of a client from others.
Software manipulators usually under charge since they have nothing new to offer. If it is a logo, they will just use templates bought from the internet or use logo design applications that have preset icons and images. Therefore they can create a logo in 5 minutes and charge $10. Unfortunately the client who pays for such a logo will come across a similar one sooner or later. Professional graphic design costs money and any client who is serious about the image of the company he represents will make sure that they hire a professional to do the work.
Software manipulators cannot explain or defend their designs. If you ask them to explain the rationale behind a particular concept they will not be able or will give unconvincing reasons since the work was not well thought through.
So the next time you are seeking the services of a designer make sure you are dealing with a professional graphic designer and not a software manipulator.
What other ways can you tell you are dealing with a software manipulator? Let me know what you think.
Designing on speculation or speculative design is asking a designer to supply sample designs of real work without any commitment of hiring him. In most cases the client provides several graphic designers with a brief and then asks for sample designs. The client then decides on who to hire based on samples sent and price charged. The other graphic designers who do not qualify are neither compensated for time spent interpreting the brief or work done.
Speculative design arises because of failure by the designer to communicate terms of engagement to clients and would be clients. Another reason is that many designers are ignorant of the worth of their intellectual property. They tend to view design as only software manipulation.
When I started out on my own after quitting employment, I met this client who asked me to design a logo for an NGO he was establishing. He had been referred to me by a client I was servicing and whom we were having a cordial relationship. Based on this, I innocently trusted him and started designing the logo. This I did even after he told me that he did not have the money but was sourcing it from some donors. I assumed even after knowing that assumption is the lowest form of knowledge that he would pay me once the funding started flowing. Anyway, I emailed the ideas I had come up with and he replied by mentioning that the work was a good beginning and I should consult with his colleague to finalize on the logo. That was the last time I heard from him. After a year or two of silence I decided to visit his website and see what logo he was using since we had not finalized on what I had come up with. To my amazement, he had picked one of the samples I had emailed him and used it in all their material. Seeing this, I tried to use all possible means at my disposal to seek compensation but was not successful. I could only blame myself and had to learn the lesson the hard way. My ignorance had finally rewarded me handsomely.
Dear designer, beware, do not involve yourself in speculative work no matter how promising the offer is.
To you dear client, please judge the ability of a designer based on his portfolio. Asking for speculative work is unprofessional and disrespectful of a designer’s time and intelligence. It is forcing a designer to work for free whether he is aware of it or not.
No professional agrees to offer their services without guarantee of payment. Whether it is a lawyer, doctor, architect or even carpenter. The least they require from a client is a deposit, which acts as proof of commitment and in several cases signing of a contract. Advertising agencies are perhaps the only exceptions which can offer samples since they can pitch a concept before they have the work, but once they get the work they buy all the client’s media. This in return earns them millions in commissions.