Graphic Design has traditionally been a career that disdained certificates and degrees, valuing creativity and inspiration over book learning. Certainly there is an advantage to having training, and over the years it’s become more and more important to have a degree and formal training on the tools of the trade, but even so creativity and inspiration have always been valued more.
The modern Internet-based world has changed everything, though, because just about anyone whothinks they’re creative and skilled in graphic design can hang out their shingle and start taking orders. Web sites have sprung up to serve this ‘penny economy’ where you can find someone with a copy of Illustrator and InDesign installed who will happily design anything you want for eye-poppingly low fees. The question is: Should you? And the answer is, probably not.
Screen and Print
Simply having a nice colour sense and the ability to add drop shadows doesn’t make you a graphic design professional. One of the simplest tests most cheap amateurs fail is understanding that creating a design for the screen is much different than creating one for print. Print is far from dead, but the vast majority of people offering design services on the Internet are totally web-based and don’t have the first clue how to create for magazines, brochures, or anything else – on a design level or a practical colour separation and paper stock level.
The Classic Value
Another sure sign of the amateur is knowing all about the latest trends and how to make them happen, but having absolutely no foundation of classic, proven techniques on which to build. You want a modern, cool design, of course. But you need someone who understands what has worked for years to be able to implement these new ideas in effective and conceptually-sound ways.
The One Trick Pony
A true graphic design professional has a full range of tools and abilities. An amateur you hire for pennies probably has one. Before you hire anyone, at any price, review their portfolio and look for repetition. Chances are the cheap Internet-only designer you’re considering repeats the same trick over and over again, and no matter how good a trick it is, you need more than one to get by in this business.
The true mark of a professional isn’t necessarily how amazing or daring their design work is – it’s how they conduct themselves. If you need revisions or additional work on a design, a true professional is always available and happy to do so. The rank amateur disappears, or suddenly has a new rate or tells you the file is ‘flat’ and they can’t make any more changes. That cheap designer found online can wind up costing you a lot more than just money.
The last thing you need to hear from a designer is that they can’t deliver the work in your chosen platform or file format because they don’t have that application, or theirs is a few years out of date. A professional keeps up with new versions, new formats, and new technical requirements precisely so they can better serve their clients.
No one’s looking to stop anyone from pursuing a career. But a true professional attitude means you’d never make any of these mistakes in the first place – and you as the client aren’t running a charity. Hire a true professional and the extra cost will be worth it in the long run.