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Five on Design

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How do you know when you're good enough?

On a recent episode of the Honest Designers Podcast, they had a wonderful discussion about knowing when you're good enough. I was intrigued because its so common that people expect they need a certain number of followers, likes or amount of money to be successful. How do you know when you're actually good at something? I fully agreed with their points and I had my own two cents to add to the discussion.


Working with vendors: Who pays?

At some point while you work with clients, it become inevitable that you'll need to bring in a third party product, service, or company to work on the project. Aside from how to hire or find that resource, one of the biggest questions I hear is how to handle paying them. There's usually two avenues you can take: make the client pay them directly or pay them yourself and charge the client back. Both options have their pros and cons.


What do you put in your portfolio?

Whether you're starting out or you're a seasoned graphic designer, one of the biggest headaches you might have is what to put in your portfolio. We get decision paralysis, because in most cases you're pretty close to your projects. It can be difficult to decide what needs to go into your portfolio and what may need to come out.


How to choose a printing company

At some point as a graphic designer, you'll find yourself needing to print stuff. Naturally, there's a whole lot of choices out there. Some are best suited towards a small run project, like business cards. Others favor fancy projects like a brochure with a cutout or spot varnish. Your two options are either finding somebody local, or going online. Each of them has their pros and cons. In this episode, I'm going to go over my experiences with both.


Dealing with clients who are acting unprofessional

For some of us school was a rough time, especially when it came to things like the playground, when we found ourselves on the receiving end of a bully's wrath. If you were like me, there was always those moments where you wondered to yourself what being an adult would be like. It was easier to imagine a world where you didn't have to deal with that kind of stuff anymore. But bullies grow up like the rest of us and find jobs like the rest of us. And in some circumstances, we're forced to deal...


What do you include in your design deliverables?

Sometimes the most nerve racking thing outside of actually doing the design work for a client is handing the design off to them once it's finished. One of the most common questions I see asked by new designers, is what do you hand off when you're finished up with a design project?


The secret to designing something quickly

If you ever watched a designer or an artist create something super fast and wonder how they did it. If you look up the answer to this question, it usually boils down to experience. And while that's true, there's a few other things that kind of mix into that as well.


When is it okay to work for free?

As graphic design software becomes more accessible, it's more common that clients and potential clients expect designers to work for cheaper or free. Like others, I always say that you should never work for free. It's called spec work: work defined as producing a piece for a potential client with no guarantee that your work will be chosen and/or paid for.


Using Design to Guide People Through Challenging Tasks

As users demand more out of their smartphones, websites, or computers, it's becoming even more important for designers to help them get through challenging tasks. It's important that they can take to the interface in a simple, efficient and easy manner that doesn't make them want to give up.


Introducing Radical Design Changes Without Getting Destroyed

There's been a few episodes on this show where I've talked about how people respond to design. In a couple of episodes, I even talked about some of the feedback. It's a tricky thing to get right. It's even more tricky when people are super-passionate about the existing thing you're redesigning.


How do you give helpful design feedback?

As designers, we tend to get a lot of feedback about our design. How well that feedback is depends on who we're getting it from. Some people are great at giving feedback, and others are terrible. It's easy to get angry over bad feedback until the roles are reversed and we're the ones giving it. It's difficult to encourage someone to find their own way while not entirely turning their work into something from a mini version if yourself. So what does good design advice look like?


Dealing with DIY-type Clients

I've had my fair share of interesting client stories over the years. There's one I latched on to that I ended up laughing a bit at. I had a client who got excited about the design process and decided to try their hand at design alongside me. You can imagine my surprise sitting down for one of our regular status meetings and they walked in with a bunch of paper under their arms. On the paper was a variety of logo concepts. They didn't feel like they were getting their point across and decided...


Should you advertise your pricing and rates?

Whether you design full-time or part time, setting prices for your design services is a nerve-wracking task. You may have a good idea of what your value is and how much our design is valued. It's a fine line between finding good clients and clients who are happy to pay your rates.


“Just copy our competitors design”

One of the worst experiences I ever had as a graphic designer was when I had someone approached me who wanted a website created for them. They didn't only have a website they wanted to create, they had a specific website they wanted me to recreate: their competitors.


Challenge Yourself!

At some point or another, you might feel like you hit a rut. It's not burnout, but you don't feel like you're doing as well as you should be as a graphic designer.


What's in my toolbox of design resources?

As your design career progresses, you'll find a variety of resources that allow you to do better, quicker, and more efficient work. As this begins to grow, you begin to rely on it more and more. When you're starting out, it can be difficult figuring out where to go to build up your library of resources. So here's my list of resources!


What is it like to use a drawing tablet instead of a mouse

This year marks 15 years since I last used a mouse with my computer. When I made the change then, a lot of people thought I was crazy for not wanting to use a mouse.


How do you train your clients?

I still remember working with the first client who didn't see eye to eye with me on what the final design we were working on would look like. I wasn't freelancing—it was a studio job, and I didn't have much choice in working with them. All I could recall was vowing to “train” my clients moving forward to spare myself the frustration. A few failed attempts later, and I learned that clients aren't puppies. You can't train them like one.


How Do You Stay Creative?

Staying creative. It's one of those things as a designer that we're all tasked with doing. There's moments in our work day where we feel like there's nothing we can do wrong. Then there are the moments that drag on forever and feel like we don't have any good ideas left. As frustrating as it is, we do have to find ways to stay creative— after all we need to keep a roof over our heads. So what do you do to stay creative?


Being an Introverted Freelancer

My ideal evening involves relaxing by myself or with close friends. I'm not the type who enjoys going out and being around a giant crowd of people all the time. If this sounds like you, and you freelance, you can likely relate to the difficulty this presents if you attend networking groups. It's difficult to walk in by yourself and not have the confidence to strike up a conversation with someone. At best, we find an extrovert buddy who can help break the ice and introduce us to a few new...