Graphic and web design both have their place in the world of business and marketing, but particularly in this modern age, they are more important than ever where branding is concerned. With social media being heavily image-based, and websites needing to be more and more advanced in order to appear professional, a career in graphic design is more lucrative than ever.
Whether you decide to work full time, part-time, or simply as a side-hustle, being your own boss in the graphic design field is filled with possible stipulations you need to be aware of. However, once you’ve created a name for yourself, you’ll become highly sought after by both large and small businesses everywhere.
1. Business vs. Art
While not everyone will immediately associate graphic design with art, it’s important to remember that the two go hand in hand. Art even plays a big role in other business-related aspects, such as engineering, content creation, and other forms of online marketing — though many employers and customers don’t realize it.
How does one create marketable images that don’t come off as too “artistic,” however? Where is the balance between “high art” and the work needed for a more corporate field of design?
One of the most important aspects of marrying business and art is the fact that the two cannot be completely separated, only regulated. While web page and logo design must be appealing to the viewer, and have a certain “artistic” balance to it, it should avoid being too over-the-top in a setting where it doesn’t belong. Otherwise, it potentially alienates customers or makes your brand appear unprofessional — or, worse, gives the appearance of the company belonging to another field than it actually does.
For example, with a logo that’s a little too artistic, you risk, making a finance company look like one that deals art to galleries, etc. Both have their place, but neither is more “professional” or successful than the other.
2. Trends and Audience
Remembering your target audience is just as important as the type of visual work you’re producing. Should your client’s business target an older generation, the logos and web design you produce should be more controlled, a little less over the top, as well as easy to navigate.
On the flip side, creating visual content for a younger generation offers a chance to explore the opposite side of the coin: you’re allowed to follow new trends in marketing, including bright and saturated colors, unique logo designs, as well as a more graphics-based web page.
There exists a possible setback to creating content for a younger generation by following trends, however, and that’s walking the fine line between being relevant and being a clone. When you find a typeface that’s commonly utilized in a certain sector, it might be in your best interest to follow that same pattern — but only if you’re utilizing it in different ways, or mixing it up with other fonts at your disposal.
If a certain color scheme is currently “all the rage,” combine it with a different color swatch to create something new while still remaining in the realm of what’s popular.
More importantly, if your client doesn’t believe they need much of a social media presence based on their type of business, remind them that social media is so intertwined in the world of all types of marketing that it’s a crucial part of any brand. Even sports teams have social media accounts, which might make someone wonder, “why?”
They maintain these accounts partially for the ad revenue, and partially because it keeps fan interest going strong, even during the offseason. So, while a business might never have a similar type of “offseason,” it never hurts to have a strong online presence during the “on the season,” either.
3. Tools of the Trade
Even non-designers recognize the name Adobe Photoshop, but are they familiar with Adobe Illustrator? InDesign? After Effects or Dreamweaver?
If you’re seeking a career in the graphic design/marketing field, but you’ve only ever dipped your toes into a single program or two utilized within it, it’s absolutely necessary that you invest the time and money into learning other platforms, as well. Not only does having a broad range of skills across multiple offers more in terms of what you’re able to produce professionally, but each different program also excels in different forms and functions.
For example, you wouldn’t (or, at least, shouldn’t) use Photoshop to create vector-based logos and other images that need to be resized indefinitely — otherwise, the images will eventually appear muddied and low-quality, as they’re constantly being manipulated. In that same strain, however, you wouldn’t use Adobe Illustrator for photo editing.
Of course, it’s one hundred percent possible to use one program in place of the other, but if your intent is to create a personal brand of professional and beautiful visual graphics, why would you ever want to cut corners? Not to mention, limiting yourself to one program can force yourself into a box, when other programs can perform the same work with more ease.
4. Properly Setting Your Prices
The most common horror stories from graphic designers involve their clients not understanding what it means to create visually stunning graphics, or refusing to pay the fee that is due. Not only is this unfair to the graphic designer, but it potentially leads the client to pay as low a fee as possible for something from an image-mill that will likely not only be a tired concept (if not just ripped from an actual designer), or something of incredibly low quality.
The overall consensus amongst clients who don’t understand the cost of graphic design work falls under two categories:
- The client refuses to believe a graphic designer’s time is worth the cost, or
- They don’t understand the time and effort put into creating visuals.
The general consensus is: do not waste time creating work for clients with the first opinion, as the experience will be nothing but frustration and regret in the long run. If they refuse to put down the money for quality visual marketing, that is a lesson they will only be able to learn on their own.
Don’t risk losing time and money by dealing with people who simply don’t understand that a designer needs to be paid for their work, just the same as a plumber needs to be paid for theirs.
However, if your client tends to fall more into the second category, do not abandon them immediately. Inform them on why you charge what you charge for your work, explain your process and the dedication you plan on putting into their request, and then stick to it. Do not offer service without a contract, and do not produce any images until you’re confident they fully understand what they’re paying for.
One of the biggest freelance graphic design nightmares comes from having an agreement with a client for the production of images or web design, only for the client to turn around and never pay up, because they simply don’t understand the worth of the work they received.
Of course, situations like this sometimes lead to instances of a graphic or web designer taking their own form of revenge, usually resulting in an embarrassing home page demonstrating the client’s unwillingness to pay what’s due. Whether or not it’s childish or well-deserved, it’s almost always going to be hurtful to the client’s brand.
While there are many possible pitfalls to becoming a graphic or web designer focusing on digital marketing, there are also numerous opportunities to make a living off of this career choice.
All of it depends on the quality of work you produce, the rates you charge for said work, and the standard you hold yourself to. Social media certainly isn’t going anywhere, and so neither will digital marketing — meaning graphic designer might just be a future-proof career path.