Dilemmas of Design – Graphics and Web
After all these years having worked as a web and graphics designer, I can finally jot down the following words not just as a matter of opinion but as a conclusion of keen observation, quite a bunch of failed experiences and a few yet motivating successes made so far.
Design is fundamental to existence. Anything from an atom to an entire galaxy has a structure but without a proper design a structure cannot last. Structure and design go hand in hand to create and give form and makes something exist. It is also due to this very fundamental nature that anyone and everyone is somehow a designer. Everyone knows their favorite color or the clothes that they believe best suits them, designer sunglasses, favorite coffee mug, cars or bikes, jewelries, scenery and other objects depending on the areas of interest. Just the fact that these choices depend and vary from person to person illustrates that everyone has a designer’s eye in them. And that my friend is exactly what complicates and makes things so much more difficult and challenging for us, the professional Designers – in web or graphics.
From this very analogy, I find programming or a developers job much less of a nuisance because thankfully for them not everyone is a programmer as it involves calculation, logic building and computer language – tasks primarily associated with the brain and has to be trained for, which is why no client or a person from a different field can or dares to give their opinion on that matter.
But designing is more instinctive or natural and involves also the heart and not just the brain. And we all know that when it comes to the human heart, it simply gets so much complicated as there is no limit, logic or bounds to it. Ask any graphic designer and he/she will admit to have received suggestions on their work during the phases of their career from clients, peers, superiors, juniors, interns, friends, staffs, parents,… strangers, their pet,.. well you get what I mean. I mean show a design to anyone with a set of eye and the set immediately becomes a critique, love it or hate it but everyone will have some thing to add or remove more often than less. This also brings to the fact that if you cannot handle constructive criticism or even any criticism of your work, designing definitely is not your cup of tea. It is in design where the problem often is not the lack of idea but too many ideas to begin with. But with that said how do you channel this possibly disorienting phenomenon to a more positive outcome and bring the best out of your creation? Because as a designer your job is not only to make the product/creation work but make it aesthetically pleasing for the end user while it works.
The answer although not that simple, is a professional or a future designer in making should be able to take all those inputs, weigh in the feedbacks while processing with a designer’s knowledge base, sort out how much of those varying opinions fall into a common category and let the valuable ones affect your work and others to simply ignore. Summing it up in simple words – filter, add and/or ignore.
Work on a design and leave the work for an hour or so and work on something else, come and look back at the result of the work you left that you earlier created and you will see a much clearer version of it and it will be so much easier to deduce wether it is good or if any flaws are existent on it. Show it to a peer, they often will point out something that you might not. One of my mentor once said to me – It is very difficult for a designer to find flaw in their own design because for most artist their art is flawless in their own eyes. Which is why feedback from another professional of the same field can actually be very fruitful.
Feedback from a non-professional or one from a different field can also be fruitful as it helps you deduce how the end result looks to the common eye. Wether you designed something too intricate for a normal user or perhaps the design simply does not captures a users interest as you thought it would. Small things like changing a font or the color tone might have drastic effect on the final design hence end user testing is also a must and limitless as in every other software development process.
The client’s feedback – mostly when you design for any client, the end user is actually the client’s client and although you are the designer, the client would better know his client base and the market and after all it’s his financial risk or his brand identity to prosper or diminish, so if a client has something specific that is to be changed or added or removed from the design, feel obligated to do so but do not hesitate to drop an advice or a polite suggestion if you feel the change is way too disastrous for the final design or as to hamper your own portfolio image. A silver tongue may come as a blessing at these moments when you can convince the client or the critique the changes you deem unnecessary are indeed so, but that might not always be fruitful as the end result after deployment will speak the truth of the matter and in that scenario you will be even more to blame.
The dilemma, of course is to what degree do we let these changes and feedbacks affect our work. Because more often than so we find that the finished product becomes an entirely different one from when we started or envisioned it to be as it goes through the numerous rounds of feedbacks and suggestions from every other direction.
My suggestion on that is,
One has to polish their skills and grow confident enough to accurately figure out what are they creating, for whom are they creating and what impact their creation is supposed to have on the intended users.
It is only then, when one can efficiently decide which of those critiques are to be considered and which to be neglected.
There is also the matter of scope of work, philosophy and responsibility where you ought to balance the degree of impact of the feedbacks on your work and not let it be a copy of something else, something horrendous. However, there are also times when you simply get the job done for the pay cheque following every steps requested by the client – because this field also incorporates a popular motto – ‘the client is always right ‘.With that said, at the end, what degree of freedom one should allow themselves while working on their design is solely dependent on the designers themselves and how they want the project to turn out.
You can always choose to ditch a project or client that takes the passion out of the work or to carry on to simply get the job done. I myself have done both and seen similar examples with people on different fields of work. Neither choice will make you any less of a professional though. Because being professional means both to be able to continuing to work despite unfavorable circumstances and also to have the self confidence to call it off when one’s dignity is on the line. And if you ever feel like knowing or self evaluating how good you are at your work – the answer is in how often you have to make one of these choices all the while wanting to make the other.