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What Designers Really Do

Many companies rely on the skills of a professional designer, but what do designers really do? A designer’s job can seem mystical, and sometimes out of touch from the client as much of the “magic” happens behind the scenes. Great marketing campaigns, and web projects need a designer’s brain to transform concepts into reality, and unpolished ideas into something to marvel over. So, I am here to debunk some standard misconceptions.

They Sketch and Doodle All Day

Mapping out a design begins with sketching. It establishes a foundation for the entire design project and it is an explorative way for a designer to quickly express his or her ideas. This creative process helps us form a unique design without the use of digital tools. The designer uses this time to explore basic shapes, and see how they interact to make a well-established mark or layout overall. Yes, it can be fun, but sketching is a vital step in the design process.

We Can Swirl Our Magic Wand at Changes

Although designers are equipped with many tools, a wand (unless you are talking about the magic wand in Photoshop) is not one of them. Professional designers take their time to create a unique and polished visual experience. So, if we bristle at a request to change a color, it’s not because we’re being temperamental. Changing a color may seem like a simple fix. In reality, the overall concept can be affected. By adding one color to an established palette the design may change from bold to muted. These kinds of tweaks can cost the designer hours of time and can interfere with the integrity of the design.

We’d Cut Our Ears Off in the Name of Design

Designers are passionate; in most cases they eat, live and breathe design. The smallest of design details can keep us up at night. There is no off switch, a hyper sensitive awareness of design influences even the smallest of decisions (e.g., picking food at a grocery store based on its packaging or judging a store front by its signage, to name a couple). This different perspective isn’t just a crazy quirk; it can help influence a new design. Most designers are aware of their preferences. It’s this heightened awareness that we rely on to create a more streamlined user experience.

We Hide Behind Our Computers

Yes, a designer’s toolbox consists of a computer and really great software products, but a good designer can’t be measured on computer savvy. It’s with client interaction and research that a designer can leverage their computer toolbox to create a product that speaks to their client’s needs. A good designer must be able to truly listen. Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of the job. A well-communicated vision leads to well designed product.

We Speak a Different Language

Leading, kerning, white space, pixels…what does it all mean? Designers use many different terms to communicate their vision. Sometimes these terms can leave a client feeling confused or disconnected from the conversation. These design terms weren’t created to intimidate clients or make them feel out of the artistic loop. When we apply a form of measurement to something that many believe to be a subjective medium, we create an open dialogue between clients and designers. For example, you tell your designer to make a font “stand out.” This request can be interpreted dozens of ways – “Should I make it bigger?” “Should change the typeface?” “Should I choose a different color?” “Should I increase the leading?” To clarify the request, your designer might respond with, “How about if I bold the text and then enlarge it by 12 pixels?” This helps a client understand there isn’t a magic “stand out” button. Rather, there’s something specific that must be done to fulfill a request.

Conclusion

I hope to have debunked a few of the designer misconceptions I’ve come across throughout the years. In my opinion, a designers job isn’t to just make something pretty. Rather, a designer’s job is to express a concept through the strategic use of visual and textual elements.

The design process is not magic and design decisions are not made “just because we like it that way.” A good designer is a good listener. He or she will always have a solid reason for using specific colors together, or choosing font sizes, photography styles, or shapes. We like it when you ask us why we made these decisions. So, ask away!