Over the thanksgiving holiday, I was in West Virginia visiting my parents. They live across from West Liberty University where my father teaches theater. Unbeknownst to me, my father spoke with Jim, the web design teacher and asked him if he would like a practicing web designer speak in front of his class. That web designer would be me.
I was a little put off at first. What could I possibly offer to these students and I said as much. Dad said you don’t have to decide right now, think about it a bit. So, before drifting off into the sweet slumber of vacation, I thought about it. As it turns out a number of things began popping up that I thought might be good to share with graduating students. Some of the most important parts of being a designer, at least as far as what I’m going through, are being able to compromise and not being afraid to speak-up.
When a CEO or a marketer, for example, comes up against something that won’t work or isn’t the right strategy for a particular project, what happens? They aren’t afraid to speak up and neither should you. Why? You are the expert. The designer is the expert in his or her field just as a marketer or CEO are the experts in their fields. Designers (you!) know layout, placement, typography and how to use color to convey meaning. And that education is continued all the time. Think about all the blogs you read, magazines you buy, even if they aren’t design related. Designers keep up with trends just the way CEOs keep up with financial and business trends. BUT a good designer or business person also knows that some things have to be let go, which brings us to…
Compromise. It’s a tough word to love. It means some part of what you wanted must give way to what someone else wants whether it’s a personal or professional relationship. Design is always a compromise from the start between the designer and the end market. What is currently accepted as a trend may not be what the designer would choose but the final piece isn’t for the designer. Throw into that mix producers, managers, art directors and I’m sure a few others as well and there could be a lot of compromising. Not every element needs to be fought for. If the major element, say the header, is the piece that is really breaking the meaning, fight for that and let the grainy sponsor logos go. If that font is wrong and you know it and other people know it, it’s worth it. Show them a piece like it that worked because of the font change or show them a piece that didn’t work because the header wasn’t given the proper treatment.
These aren’t mind-blowing revelations by any means but I think they’re important. The in-house design department I work in suffered for a long time because we didn’t speak up. We also compromise a lot since there are more than 3 people involved in any given project, which can be frustrating but if you really believe that what you’re thinking should be done will benefit the project, say it.