The Disconnect Between Graphic Design & Audience
Why do good ideas get killed in a client presentation, while bad ones get pushed forward? Why is it that key decision makers will change a color because someone outside of the process told them they don’t like it? Why do organizations change their logo back, one day after the release of a new one? Why doesn’t anyone find what you’re sharing online interesting? Why do people expect artists to work for free? Why do people think “a logo just has to look good”?
I believe the answer to all of this is because people think graphic design is something that is to be liked– bad design is something “I don’t like” and it is sold and presented this way.
Many designers present design (probably unknowingly) as a fun thing to do. “I had a lot of fun making this one!”. Or maybe worse yet, they don’t sell it at all. Not in a way where you’re crafting a bullshit story around an idea, but you’re not showing the world what it is you actually do. That logo you made isn’t what you do — it’s the result of what you do.
Unfortunately, good design does not stand on it’s own. There is a missing link between creation and presentation and clients don’t trust you/your team to make a decision about design, because they don’t know what you’ve done to arrive at what you have. So, why should they care for your opinion on something that affects their business? Why should they believe design is anything more than aesthetic? Why should they believe you’re not just phoning it in? They don’t understand what it took to get to that one final piece, not because the clients are dumb, but because they’re ignorant. Meaning, they don’t know what they don’t know and you haven’t shared enough with them. This is directly the fault of the designer(s).
The smallest number of people with the most insight and knowledge should be making decisions on anything. So, how do you the designer go from serving up designs to be discussed and dismantled by others, to being involved in that discussion with the insightful and knowledgable? You’ve got to know what the hell you’re doing and they have to trust that you do. You get there by being more than a pretty-image-maker offering up design as options to be liked or not liked. You do that by letting them into the process.
If you’re an artist of any kind, you need to show your work process, ideas, and decision making. You can teach it, record it, or write about it, but what you can’t do is throw some images on Dribbble and Behance and think that’s enough to be taken seriously as a designer. (Pictures of designers pointing to things does not count either.) Not unless you’re amazingly talented, which plenty are, but even the amazingly talented still let you in on their creation processes. They don’t just show finished work, you get to see their skills in action and understand why they’re great and how much work went into that one final piece.
Above, Alexis Marcou shows you his process in his latest work for Pepsi. You can see the rest on Behance.
On Instagram, Derrick Castle shows you the steps of his woodblock prints. Justin Mezzell streams on Twitch. You can watch Seb Lester draw a wordmark logo from start to finish. Lorraine Loots photographs objects around her art pieces for scale. Many others show sketches that didn’t make it into final production or write case studies for their projects, letting you in on the Cutting Room floor.
All of this is just a window into the artists’ world, but it proves they’re more than what the general public thinks of graphic design. I think at it’s best, its helping prove that graphic design is an art form to be respected and desired. At the very least it lets people know they’re not just moving pixels around in Photoshop.
The lessons taken from these amazing artists is this:
- Show your process and discuss your client’s needs and your designs with them. (This is also why you need to be able to critique well).
- Bring them in early. Show them whatever it is you’d put on Instagram to keep them in the loop, and prove you’re putting in more thought than they could have imagined.
- Stop tweeting about how much fun you’re having designing something. That’s a given; we all do this because we like doing it. But, you’re a professional designer, not a child with a box of Crayolas.
- Share less “fun shit” online and more process. Show your skills in action. Videos of art creation happening real time is my favorite.
The point is, you’re an artist! A designer! Prove it! Yes, graphic design is art. It may be art serving capitalism, but it is art and you need not forget that. What you do to make what you make is an artistic process– showing this proves you’re not doing it for fun and you’re not an amateur! You’re a goddamn creative genius working all nighters to express ideas, emotions, and messages through visual forms!!
Let the world in.