I am a designer by vocation and teacher, tutor and mentor by avocation.
The most popular classes I teach are digital design classes that focus on designing for business. By a wide margin, enrolled students are sent by their company to learn how to use design software. These employees have been tapped to take on the responsibility of designer after a corporate decision to bring creative inhouse. Once they learn to use the Adobe Creative Suite employers and students alike seem to think they are prepared and ready for the job of in house creative resource and graphic designer.
Time to Rethink
For companies considering bringing creative inhouse, consider carefully before making the decision. Because an employee is willing, uses Photoshop Elements, scrapbooks, crafts or is simply eager to show off their talent, is not sufficient grounds to assign them the task of corporate design. Decision makers often focus more on the potential cost saving without carefully considering the impact the decision will have on employees and the quality of marketing and visual branding.
Will people really know the difference if your talented receptionist is designing your advertising, newsletter or website? Yes! The visual impact of corporate communication is an important part of brand messaging. There are a number of factors that go into successful marketing and communications: originality, skillful execution and appropriate messaging.
Originality: The battle for market share is ongoing and can be brutal. Mediocre design abounds and it’s vital that brand messaging be original, fresh and well executed. Professional designers dedicate their skill, training and creative talent to each job; are creative thinkers, design innovators and concept generators. Originality is a designer’s business.
Software Savvy: Using tools of the trade daily, gives designers an edge. Simply put, designers work more quickly with successful results because they are the expert users of the technology and tools. Knowing a tool does not make one a designer. I own a guitar, know chords and can strum, that does not make me an Eric Clapton. It’s always more than knowing the “how”.
Knowledge: You know your business better than anyone, and face it, a designer knows their business better than you and your staff. It’s what they do best. Since when does a company really want to present less than their best? First impressions and lasting impressions are a goal of design and branding. Designers possess the knowledge to achieve those goals.
Organizations enroll students to train for a new task with the ultimate goal of saving money paid to an outside design resource. When an employee is tasked with work outside their best skill set, they likely will spend longer on those tasks, compromising their core duties. Along with salary, purchasing necessary design tools is an added expense many organizations don’t fully consider.
What Design Tools?
Professional designers use a set of tools in the execution of their work. These tools include the lowly sketch pad, Pantone swatches, calibrated computer monitors, high quality printers, digital camera, professional design software. The most important tool of all is your designer’s brain. Designers design using technology from pencils to computers, to design, test, evaluate and refine concepts. Concepts are developed based on sound design principals, an understanding of the psychology of color and typology. Designers know how to successfully combine type with image, how to choose and use appropriate fonts for the job, and where to buy them (yes, we buy them). A designer’s knowledge includes understanding print technology including paper types, surfaces, varnishes, finishes, binding techniques, proofing. Digital design includes formatting for digital output, why some typefaces work and others don’t, color modes for digital and so much more. This knowledge bank cannot be conveyed in a few short weeks or months, when most designers took six years to learn their trade.
Sending employees to design classes can benefit a company by making the employees more savvy consumers. Although they are not your in house design resource, these employees are better able to communicate with creative professionals and understand how to convey your needs and goals for creative. A deeper understanding of what goes into good design helps them know how to assess, evaluate and work with a designer to provide the branding and marketing that best represents your organization.
Google “why design matters” to learn more. The discussions are lively and controversial. Check out these blogs and sites to learn more about why design matters.