Working as a designer isn’t as glorified as many of us like to make it out to be. Sure we sit behind our fancy computer setups with huge screens, sketching ‘pretty pictures’ in our Moleskin notebooks and can enjoy the perks of being location independent, but working in design can also be one of the most stressful, involving and cutting edge jobs out there. Here are 10 struggles all designers could absolutely relate to.
1. You constantly keep an eye on new software and design trends
Your education actually starts when you graduate from college as the design world revolves pretty fast. You have recently learned to adapt your app designs for IPhone 6, but everyone is now in frenzy for creating Apple Watch apps and UI design has an absolutely different set of rules to follow. You have two choices – learn and adapt or starve.
If you are lucky, your company will invest in your education and pay for some classes. For instance, Intellectsoft web development company offers their creative staff one new professional course per year. DDB Canada advertising agency offers every employee $250 to buy something that fuels creativity.
If you are freelance – well, you are on your own to struggle with getting new skills and continuing your schooling. Certainly, there are free design courses out there, but they are rarely offering advanced training, so you’ll have to invest into your own education.
2. You always need to figure out what exactly your client wants
Once again, you have this letter landing in your inbox saying “I want a new cool new design for my business.”
Great, you think, but what exactly do you mean by “cool new design” Is it just a website or do you need an identity established (i.e. logo, business cards, website, etc.)? Or a product design? Or just some covers for your social media profiles? Do you already have established business identity colors or do you need me to do everything from scratch?
The biggest nightmare of any designer is taking the work, spending numerous hours working to afterwards here something like, “Meh…I don’t really like it.” Baffled you ask, “Is it the color scheme? Is it the layout? Is it the typography?” You just hear again, “I just don’t like it. You know, make it some other way.” And at that point you know you’ll have to start it all over again, proposing to the client more and more options of what you can possibly do.
Being a designer means having a great intuition and constantly second-guessing what your clients needs. You have to be a great listener as well and catch all bits of information your clients drop about their aesthetic preferences.
3. You find it awkward to explain the client that his current design. . .sucks
You’ve been trained to create easy-to-use, crispy clean websites that are easy-to-use. The clients that come to you obviously were not, yet they care about their business and it’s often hard for them to admit that their current appearance really sucks.
When you get approached by someone asking for a small design job, say new banner design, and you see that the whole website needs a complete revamp, as one banner definitely won’t make sales higher or users happier, you face a moral dilemma – tell the truth or just make that banner and don’t bother. It feels nearly as awkward as to tell a girl you like that she looks fat in that dress she’s wearing tonight.
If you are a true professional you need to carefully select words and suggest improvements to clients without being too imposing or arrogant. Instead of taking the “I know it better” approach, try to make mild suggestions first like: “Did you know that if you fix your check out, your sales may rise up to 20%?”
4. You prefer to work with one person, rather than a board
Your ideal client is is a one-person operation. He knows your ideas actually bring results, he loves your style, you get along perfectly well and work goes fast and smooth. Add a partner in tow, and the difficulty doubles. Add more people, and the difficulties expand exponentially.
One person who hired you loves what you did, the other doesn’t like the layout or the logo. Someone else thinks you should use different fonts everywhere. One “can’t put a finger on it, but there’s definitely something wrong there.” Another believes that red color would bring the business bad luck.
But there’s also a flip-side: working with/for a big company with multiple decision makers typically brings in more money. So you have to choose whether you are ready to go through numerous circles of criticism or settle for a lower paycheck.
5. You will have to deal with a lot of “opinions” and critics
You’ve poured your heart, soul and sweat into these projects for weeks and then see some pesky comment from Mr. Anonymous saying you’ve copied designer X, or that’s just some amateurish illustration a 5-year old kid could draw better. You learned not to take those people close to heart, but still, it hurts when you are getting poor feedback for nothing.
6. You can’t stand ugly fonts
You can walk into a cafe, see that their menu’s written in Comic Sans, stand up and leave, even though it’s one of the best new places in town. The easiest way to piss you off is to give you a typography poster with four different fonts mixed up together! You won’t read sites online with terrible fonts and you won’t buy books with inappropriate spacing. Beautiful clear fonts become your ideal.
7. You are often undercharging
“How much should I charge?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in the designer community, and with good reason—it’s a tough nut to crack.
Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You know that hourly rates can mess with your efficiency and can have the client question why you have spent 5 hours designing a single leaflet. Fixed-price projects are hard to correctly calculate at the initial stage if we are talking of a full website development+logo+business cards+whatever else.
You often charge big companies the same rate you offer to small businesses, while you could definitely make more from the first one as they have budgets.
You often quote a lower price to realize later on you’ve been doing some work for peanuts. And again, it often seems uncomfortable to ask the client for extra pay when you are half-through the job.
Also, you constantly face a dilemma for when you should ask to get paid – after the job is done, before, in milestones after each stage completed. Negotiating that with a client can become one huge frustration.
8. You have to tone down your creativeness
Your client needs just one banner design, not a hand-drawn illustration that vaguely represents some concept behind his business. As a designer, you often need to keep your creative juices to yourself and don’t let them overtake the client’s objective. Leave those boldest art ideas for some personal art.
9. You need to have super effective communication skills
These days designers are as much creatives as sales people.
You wish your clients could actually peek inside your head and see with your eyes what exactly you are proposing to them, but sadly all you have to use is your words. At the end of the day if you can’t talk about and explain your design in details, it may never see the light of day.
You need to be able to stand up for your ideas, explain your concepts and point out why they could work miracles for the business.
10. You either love design, or leave it
With all the struggles mentioned above, weird working hours, questioning your creativity and facing blocks, you need to have a true passion for art and design if you’d like to succeed in the field.
If you don’t love what you do, you will likely get burned out soon. An optimistic attitude and a true love for conveying powerful messages through a visual medium and bringing in more beauty in the world will help you stay focused on your career and become a top professional everyone admire (even the harshest critics).