design is design.

I was just writing back to a potential client and wanted to get your feedback. Piggybacking on my previous post about freelance job posting sites (sad state of affairs), I got onto a tangent about how clients often request portfolio samples of designs within their exact industry or design category (like real estate company requiring designers submit examples of other real estate web design work they’ve done or barring them from bidding). I see this all the time.

There is obviously a layer of comfort an inexperienced client is requesting (“oh, he has done a real estate site before, phew”). I think what a lot of folks don’t understand is that for a true creative, design doesn’t have borders. Design is all around you, everywhere. A good designer can design a real estate site and a mountain bike magazine layout without missing a beat. While a designer can certainly choose to focus on one discipline or another, website design, packaging design, and brochure layout, for example, share lots of similarities in core design principles and overall aesthetics. The best designs are often the ones that are successful regardless of the technology or vehicle used for dissemination. I suppose that experience plays into this quite a bit.

Take user experience (UX) work for example… I know that from working on retail packaging for OtterBox, designing a successful package that stands out on a shelf, is easy to understand, open, put together, and still excites and educates the user on the product contained within, shares a great deal with designing the UI/UX for an online app. The same principles and goals exist even though the physical versus digital realms couldn’t really be further apart. They’re both studies in user experience and consumer appeal and usability. A package is still an “interface” that you have to interact with.

What are your thoughts?

2 Responses to “design is design.”

  1. LP

    So you wonder why I’m so sick of freelancing lately. Well, here is one more reason. The problem is that clients need to be educated about design and designers. Most have no clue what makes a design or a designer “good”. I swear, so many don’t care either when they are simply looking for the lowest bid and spec work up front. I’ve gotten so frustrated with all of this that FT work is calling my name…I want to go back to leaving the business side of it as someone elses job. I seriously can spend 20+ hours a week trying to “talk” to clients, reassuring them they are getting what they pay for and all that blabbish. A lot are simply phishing for ideas too, keeping me on the phone with a barrage of questions that don’t necessarily pertain to hiring me for the job.

    All in all I’ve become so numb to it all. I’ve been pushed so far that I don’t put into it what I used to. Occasionally a client will come to me that’s worth my time and talent, but unfortunately it’s about 1 in 10 the past year or so which is truly disheartening. I used to love my job but now I do it only to pay the bills….

  2. Betsy

    Our shared experiences show that most folks have no sense of good design. They’re happy to have the boss’s kid come up with a logo, and don’t want to take the time or spend the money necessary to create meaningful work. I think benchmarking within an industry provides them with a safety net, because they have no clue what other criteria to use to measure one designer against another.


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