Professional Creatives Need Love Too
The concept of “creativity” is an elusive one. It’s often ill-defined, poorly explained and generally misunderstood by those not working in the field.
So, it’s no surprise that in the smoke-filled room behind that elusive curtain of creativity (where, dare we say, most “suits” fear tread…), professional graphic designers and creative marketing teams gather to discuss the state the industry. It’s in these “secret sessions,” with Pantone chips, bits of discarded web code, and iPhones littering the tables, where we wrangle with what it means to be “a creative.”
Over pints of amber ale and bottles of pinot the question of why creativity is misunderstood, and maybe even undervalued, is frequently a hot topic.
Creativity Need Not be Undervalued
Why is it that graphic design and creative marketing strategy seem under-appreciated by business owners, account managers, department heads and others? While not trying to turn this into an “oh, woe be unto us” conversation about creatives-relegated-to-the-shadows, we think it’s important to pull back the curtain and shine some light on what we actually do as creative professionals.
The 5-Second History of Graphic Design
While the activity of graphically designing things has been going on for a long time, the term “graphic design” was only coined early in the last century — 1922 to be exact. But humans have been creating things for as long as humans have been around. There’s been fire. Weapons. Tools. Clothing. All requiring some level of design to work properly.
Once these necessities of life were taken care of, we began to express ourselves “graphically.” Evidence is all over prehistoric cave walls, in the cuneiform script and hieroglyphics of ancient societies, and in the manuscripts of the Renaissance. Since graphic design has been prevalent throughout time, we wonder if the current misconceptions about creativity also plagued our ancient ancestors.
C’mon, Picking Colors Isn’t That Hard, Is It?
Now in the digital age, the graphic design profession consists of a whole range of disciplines, including print, illustration, interactive, and perhaps even graffiti art. And the list goes on.
Graphic design isn’t just about putting pen to paper (or, mouse to pad…) and making things look pretty. Heck, there are countless toddler artists who do just that with crayon and cardboard, fingerpaint and wall, and even permanent marker and sibling forehead, all in the name of creativity.
Graphic Design Misconceptions
With the explosion of do-it-yourself online design tools, interactive design solutions and powerful software applications available to assist every would-be creative, it seems that many believe an award-winning marketing design concept is a mere click, print or upload away. Slick print ads and broadcast spots say that. So, it must be true. This common misconception isn’t helping the graphic design and creative marketing industry one bit.
The ‘Powerful Design Tools’ of Word and Powerpoint
We can’t begin to count the number of times we’ve quoted a job and then failed to get the assignment because the client decided that they’d be just as capable of handling the project themselves. Perhaps it’s the influence of our own advertising industry, the fact that a computer has landed on every desk, or the age-old desire for self expression, but there are still professionals who feel they’re 100% capable of developing their own creative while saving some dough. To be fair, lots of people can put together a decent color palette and comply with corporate brand guidelines. Everyone has a copy of Word and Powerpoint after all…
Creatives Don’t Do REAL Work
We’re asked all the time “What exactly is it that you do?”
The question comes from friends. From colleagues. From parents. And even from the cashier at the corner store.
“Oh, so you take pictures.” No, that’s the photographer. “Oh, then you must draw.” No, that’d be the illustrator. “You do that stuff on the Internet then.” No, that’s the programmer.
Sometimes it’s easier to stop trying, and walk away leaving them with the knowledge that we make things “look good,” when it’s actually much more involved.
A Wise Man Named ‘Jobs’ Once Said…
Mr. Jobs is a very wise man. We should all listen to him.
Designer is a Misnomer
As the old cliché goes, a picture tells a thousand words. But when you look closer, beyond the “pretty,” you’ll see the real work of a graphic designer. Actually, Graphic Designer may be a bit of a misnomer — we’re more like Graphic Strategists.
A Graphic Strategist understands how the human eye works — how and where it will first rest on a printed page. A Graphic Strategist can pinpoint the first pixels you see on the screen the moment your favorite web page loads. We know why one photo is better than another, and that’s not just based on DPI. We’re aware of the emotions created by imagery and color. We understand why blue is better for a bottle of packaged water, than is black or brown. As professional Graphic Strategists, we’re capable of scientifically designing a concept and delivering on the promise of the brand.
Scientist, Strategist, Artist
Graphic designers are actually scientist, strategist, and artist — a three-part cocktail of creativity. And as such, in order to be successful at our chosen trade, we should be vastly more concerned with how our pieces “work” than with how they “look,” like Mr. Jobs says. Obviously both elements play vital roles in the success of our work. But to be considered professional Graphic Strategists, the success of the piece is the bar against which it should be measured.
Your Brand Deserves Proper Treatment
As a creative agency full of Graphic Strategists, we make things pretty every single day. And each piece we make “works” on many deeper levels, far beyond the surface of what is generally seen. To do this right, it takes the combined senses of science, strategy and aesthetics. If for this reason alone, when you’re planning your next visual project, it’s probably wise to take a look at hiring a professional graphic designer, or Graphic Strategist.
However, you can always hire that neighbor kid. He dresses cool — always in black. Has a skateboard. An iPad and an X-Box. And likely knows a little something about computers. Don’t all teenagers? He’s probably even got a torrented copy of Word loaded on one of them too. So you shouldn’t have any problems sharing your design documents.
Is this who you want to trust with the fate of your brand?
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it “looks”. But of course if you dig deeper , its really how it “works”. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. To design something really well, you have to “get it”. You have to really “grok ” what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it , not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.” – Steve Jobs