grab bag blog

This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.

You’ll Get Better Design If You Don’t Rush

May 21, 2015

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Why do you hire a graphic designer? Is it because you need a thing made– a brochure, a website, a logo– and you just need somebody with the technical skills to execute it? If so, you’ve been short changing yourself.

Moving Too Fast

Impatient ArtistFor the past several months, I’ve been working on the second volume of my comic strip (I published the first volume last year). This involves more than just taking the old comic strips and putting them in page layouts and getting the book printed. To make the transition from daily internet strip to a book that stands on its own, I’ve had to add content to help the narrative flow correctly. I know what the strips need to be, but when I’ve sat down to make them, I’ve felt impatient with myself. I’m working on a big book and these comics have a small role to fulfill, so I just want them done now so I can get back to the big-picture work. Taking several hours to plan, draw, scan, and finish the strips makes me crazy impatient and I give up.

I didn’t understand this feeling. Back when I was drawing the strips regularly, I would spend hours on them, no problem. So what is so different now that I can’t find the joy and patience in creation?

Rush Rush Rush

I finally realized that I’d become trapped in a cycle of wanting only the product and seeing the process as a chore. How did I get this way?

It’s a by-product of taking on too many client projects that only prioritized the end product, not the process. A lot of the projects I’ve worked on this year have been to create a thing: a postcard, an illustration, an eblast. My clients just wanted the thing, the commodity, and they budgeted accordingly. I understand– I really do. I work for a lot of non-profits, and budgets are tight everywhere. They need a thing that fits into a big marketing plan, and they only need me to provide a small piece of it.

But that’s not a sustainable approach for either a designer or a client. Sure, getting a product is simple, fast, and cheap. But getting the right product takes time and exploration.

The Journey, Not The Destination

Skipping Creative StepsA good designer has a process that works. It involves properly researching the client’s needs, having sit-down meetings to discuss the goals of the project, and figuring out if the thing the client wants will truly serve the needs they think it will. These steps can’t be cut down without the result suffering.

As a counterpoint, I’ve spent the past two months working on a rebrand for the Chicago Fringe Festival. We started by working together as team to explore the personality and history of the organization, understanding the brand personality, finding which aspects need to be highlighted (using patron surveys as a guide for where the current brand and communications were failing to meet needs), exploring visuals that met those personality traits, and then– only after all that– did we find a logo and branding system that fulfilled the Fringe’s real needs. We took that journey together, so we were all invested in getting the final product right.

Sure, I could’ve thrown together a logo for them in a week, but it wouldn’t have been the RIGHT logo.

The Takeaway

This experience has helped me understand the need to slow down and do things right. Sure, it will take longer and cost more, but I’d rather provide creative solutions that are the best they can be rather than the bare minimum.

When you hire a designer, you are buying a service, not a commodity. The more you value that service and the process that goes along with it, the better the end product will be at serving your real needs.


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