Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Can't I design it myself?"

(Part 1 in a four-part series)

In this series I'll explore the most often-asked question posed to graphic designers from all walks of life. It is also, in many cases, the most rewarding question ever asked of me. Questions are meant to trigger constructive thoughts, engaging the brain in problem-solvng activities until the solution or solutions are reached. What I will do in this four-part series is some further introspection on this riddle by analyzing the four points most often asked by clients when this question is posed: 1) easy to do; 2) saving time; 3) saving money; and 4) I'm the business owner.

Today I'll look at #1, being easy to do.

When I'm consulting with a client, I sometimes sketch out an idea I may have from our conversation while working out details of the project. As the client and I move toward the discussion of budget and timeframe, he or she may ponder aloud, "Can't I design it myself? I watched you kinda draw out the idea, looks pretty simple and easy to do."

It does look pretty simple, I'll admit. Draw a few curly lines, add some decoration - maybe a leaf or two, maybe a flower - then add some text and splash some color, and - VOILA! Instant art, right? Wrong. The party's just getting started.

Designing a marketing piece can look pretty simple, but it really is more than just a little clipart and type. It's knowing where to put all the elements on the paper so the marketing piece really stands out. It's understanding dark lettering shouldn't be put against a dark background. It's learning that using a cursive font in all caps really looks unprofessional.

Now, you're probably thinking, "Oh, I'd never do that! You don't really see stuff like that, do you?" Well, only at least a couple of times a day. The problem with most software, templates and online printing services like Vistaprint is it gives people the impression they can do in a day what it takes most graphic designers to learn both in and out of school. This can be frustrating for both the client and the designer for several reasons: first, the client has already invested his or her time and money into the project and it doesn't look as professional as they'd envisioned; second, because of this investment, the client may not be willing to turn the project over and spend more tme and money; third, nobody knows the company better than the owner, so the client shoulders the responsibility of getting their marketing pieces done.

The investment of time and money can be difficult to work through because it is tangible. I try to ask the client how much of each he or she has already invested in the project so I have an idea of what kind of maneuvering room I can work with. I tell the client I've worked on projects similar to the one I'm consulting on and show them samples. By offering to work with their existing budget and showing samples of similar work, I hope to gain the client's trust that I can get their project done, on time. The best part is the third objection: the fact the client is also the business owner. He or she is absolutely right - nobody knows their business better than the business owner! That means I have the opportunity to work with the expert of the business! How cool is that? The owner shares his or her vision with me, and I get to bring it to life!

Professionals in any industry spend inordinate amounts of time being trained in their craft and improving the skills on a regular basis. This may include schooling, seminars, and online training along with practical application. A professional graphic designer spends time learning color theory, placement of elements (images, type, and color), pouring through other advertisements to keep creative juices flowing, and continually practices these theories with each piece designed. A professional graphic designer may be pricier than the template you just purchased, but a professional has the eye that will make your marketing piece stand out from the competition, giving your clients a lasting first impression.

Want a great meal? Go to the Old Spagetti Factory!

Yesterday was Saturday, February 27th. My daughter asked me to take her down to our Old Spaghetti Factory parking lot so she could take part in a photo shoot for the local band Hello Hollywood. While waiting for her to return I decided to pop in for lunch. I don't usually blog about my dining experiences, but this restaurant is consistent enough in excellence that I had to post about it!

My server was Cameron. He was polite, charming, professional, funny, and (best of all), happy to be here today! Seriously, when your server is in a great mood, it just tends to make the whole dining experience that much more pleasurable. I only had to wait a few minutes to be seated (but sometimes, when dining alone, it's easier to find a table for one than for several), and I asked for some water with lemon before ordering. Cameron returned with some water and took my order, and even mentioned to me my salad was included with my lunch - something I didn't know, but I'm glad he told me! I then proceeded to just draw in my sketchbook while waiting for my lunch.

The salad wasn't anything special, just a side salad with a balsamic vinagarette dressing. The bread wasn't anything special, but it was warm and the butter spreadable, with a choice between regular or garlic. It was the fact they were served in an atmostphere that was warm and inviting, rich with conversation but areas exempted for privacy. My favorite part was the entree. It wasn't anything super-special, just spaghetti with a mushroom-marinara. It was, however, served with zeal! I heard my waiter, Cameron, say this to several of his customers, so I knew he meant it when he came to my table too: "Yay, food!" It was this little bit of excitement about his work that made my meal special.

By the time dessert came (also with the meal) I was very relaxed and enjoying myself. Cameron was reluctant to rush me out, then came a "Murphy's Law" moment: their electronic cash register went down, so no one could cash out! I laughed and told him, "No problem," and soon as it was back up and running he took my card. I had such a good time, I was reluctant to leave!

For those who have never experienced the atmosphere and food, and for those who may have been away too long, The Old Spaghetti Factory is waiting eagerly to greet you.

The Old Spaghetti Factory
1418 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ, 85004
(602) 257-0380