How to Spot an amateur Designer?
An in-depth view on how to choose a competent creative.
Graphic design principles and how to spot an amateur designer. What makes for a good graphic designer or advertising/marketing specialist? How do you define quality in an industry that leaves itself so open-ended? To the same extent art and most other forms of creativity do? In our previous post, we discussed South-African industry standard rates and cost. This has received a massive response and seems to be a topic that weighs down on many a creative. With that in mind, some feedback was extremely eye-opening and made me think… Sure, there is a standard rate for creative work… But what is the standard for creativity? How do you differentiate a good designer from a not so capable one? At first, it seemed the problem lied with creatives under-cutting the market without a guideline of what is acceptable. However, I soon came to realize there is a much more destructive issue we face… Under-qualified creatives overcharging clients.
Design that makes you cringe!
I was approached not too long ago by a client desperate to get some SEO work done on her site. Sure enough, I agreed and started the process. Adjusted her on-page SEO and set up an AdWords account, a great deal of work went into her keyword research and getting her newly established company out there.
Let’s fast-forward one month down the line… I’m busy working on a logo design and go about my research. I google previous designs to get those creative juices flowing and what do I find? The template for the very same client. The only adjustments that were made, were done to the copy! This might not seem like too big a deal for a start-up. However… Consider a company looking to grow? With the same logo found on the first result of Google and likely copied across a mass amount of other designs? Talk about money down the drain. All those SEO and marketing efforts immediately go to waste. Establishing corporate identity at it’s core is imperative to any brand. It might seem like a simple flaw or something that holds very little value. However, this is the foundation of your vision, the building blocks for your company growth. Anything established on a flimsy foundation will likely collapse just as easily.
The reason I’m writing this is to educate creatives to better themselves and assure you “the client” get exactly what you pay for. In my search for reference, I came across this very comprehensive video. The most basic fundamentals of design and art.
These graphic design principles apply to all forms of design and art. We are introduced to these early in art school. The reason many creatives study is not to learn creativity, it is to get this foundational knowledge. Accompanied most times by harsh lecturers that seem to never like your work. As a matter of fact, it is their job to not like your work. For your benefit naturally, for you to push yourself, take creative criticism and aside from any outside influence do the best work you know you are capable of.
“GCFLearnfree” have released a great starer course to hone your sills, view-able here: Free Beginning Graphic Design tutorial. So the question remains… How do you easily differentiate a good creative from an unskilled con-artist? Below are simple guidelines on what to look out for.
Make it simple, But significant.Don Draper
Common design mistakes
This post is meant as an educational reference. Design principles stretch across all areas of the creative industry, not limited to only corporate identity. These principles SHOULD be applied in web, print and all other creative execution the job lends itself to. Below are common mistakes inexperienced creatives make. Have a look at your creative’s portfolio and see if they adhere to the above. Assure the work they put out is free from the following mistakes.
Excessive color use
When creatives start-out they seldom have knowledge of color balance and the best way to apply complimentary flat or minimal color usage. This ends up in a mash-up of color vomit, a filler to make the design “pop”. Sure it might make your design pop, however, the opposite is true. When elements fight for attention constantly your entire design goes down the drain and goes against graphic design’s intended purpose. To effectively communicate a message.
More than 3 fonts
Trigger happy creatives tend to fill a piece of design material up with more than three fonts. Personally, in my experience, more than two fonts become blasphemy. Limiting the number of fonts easily creates crisp design and balances all the elements equally. Copy clutter makes design difficult to read and immediately creates a loss of interest in the readers’ eyes.
Badly faded or cut out images
Creatives spend a great deal of time taking one image and adding to it. This often means designers have to go and grab certain elements from a static image. Experienced retouchers spend hours on tasks like these, with a great deal of knowledge on keying an object and making sure it looks as though it is part of the communication. Start-up designers often do this haphazardly. Making your visual look like somewhat of a cardboard cutout of un-shaded graphics. A mish-mash collage of out-of-place elements.
As stated in the above video, most designs are based on a grid. Either making use of the rule of thirds, in-line with the Fibonacci sequence or based on the golden ratio. This makes for appealing visuals and well-balanced artwork. Some designers often throw a design together without good knowledge of element weight. How different parts of the artwork complement the rest of your material.
An over-use of texture can make your work look really tacky. Often times in-experienced designers go overboard with texture usage. Sure, it has a place, a purpose, bringing something “more” to your work, however, over-usage can tend to make artwork, intended to be simple and easily communicative, overbearing and unreadable.
When many designers start learning the art of effect usage they tend to take it a bit too far. Rather than using effects to compliment their design, they end up making the effect the main focus, completely forgetting the intended purpose of the creative. To communicate and relay a message. Effects in excess, such as gradients, embossing, drop shadows, beveling etc has it’s place. Not used wisely though, makes for a horrible execution. Everything in moderation…
What have we learnt?
Easy access to editing software have massively become the big culprit. Because someone learned how to use a program to do design tasks doesn’t mean they can design. Yet again this isn’t a knock on young creatives. However, bear in mind, if you start out as a designer you can’t charge industry standard rates for below industry quality work. Many Artists put a lot of time and effort into their craft, perfecting daily. I recently spoke to a client that had spent R9000 on a website design and received a barely usable front page with some cluttered sub-pages. Don’t charge others for you to learn a skill. Learn the skill first and apply it when you have the capabilities. As for clients, never… And I repeat… NEVER! hire a creative without a portfolio of work that shows competence in their field. Doing so will likely cause you a lot of sleepless nights and unnecessary stress.
Drop a comment below and share your past experiences or thoughts.