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Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Frustrated in Florida


Editor's Note: Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and invite our readers to submit their questions directly to:[email protected]

Dear Bonnie,

With things like Squarespace logo maker and design contest websites, it seems like graphic design is becoming something that the public thinks of as easy as a 1-2-3 click. How do you explain that graphic design is more work and worth than that when speaking with clients? Or even when speaking with friends on the hunt for favors. 

Sincerely,
Frustrated in Florida



Dear Flo,

You know that friend of yours who knows exactly what they want their logo / wedding invitation / business card to look like and since you’re an amazing graphic designer and they don't want to spend any money, have asked you to just design it for them? You can do it really quickly. It will be SOOO much fun!

That's who those do-it-yourself graphic design programs are for.

Or maybe it’s a new client at a new company. They know that some people think brand strategy and visual identity is important, but they don’t really have a budget for it and don’t really think it matters that much. They have more important things to spend their money on. But could you still design their logo for $500? 

You should introduce those people to Squarespace. It is PERFECT for them.

They won't have the benefit of collaborating with a graphic designer who can help distill their complex problems and messaging into something an audience can understand. The designer could also have helped establish a strategy, solve the problem through iterations of the design, and have a positive impact on the client's business. Companies that prefer the $99 logo don’t value that kind of interaction and they wouldn’t value it in the many days that came before DIY design programs. They think the final product created by a logo app looks “real” but real is nothing close to good and it is certainly not design. 

When Pagemaker (pre-Quark Xpress) was first introduced, similar fears surfaced. If civilians could just design their own stuff on their desktop, then maybe there wouldn't be work for professionals anymore. And, yet, we’ve managed to survive. There are people who understand and appreciate what artists and thinkers and writers do, and then there are people who think their iPhone photos are just as good as professional photographs. 

Designers have a love, dedication, focus, historical perspective and body of knowledge that (hopefully) lends our work intelligence, depth and beauty. We understand the importance of visualizing emotional connections: this, in turn, can influence and enlighten people. People who understand and truly care about these kinds of solutions will always understand the importance and necessity of working with a trained professional. The kinds of people who don't care probably wouldn't have been your clients before online design generators. Maybe they just don’t know better. You can try to educate your friends and clients, walking them through your process — say, a case study where the client thought they needed/wanted one thing, but ended up with an entirely different solution as a result of your collaboration. Explain the benefits of working with real, live designers and point out the degree to which the software is simply a tool and cannot make design decisions.

As for friends on the hunt for favors, that’s easy: if the project in question offers you the opportunity to grow and learn and experiment, then it may be worth doing, even for free. If your friend understands the nature of graphic design and appreciates what you do, this might even end up becoming a favorite portfolio piece. Bear in mind, though, that if the person approaching you knows "exactly what they want" and just needs you to make it happen, you should politely — and swiftly — decline. It will not end well. It never does.

For past Dear Bonnie columns, click here. 

Posted in: Dear Bonnie, Design Practice

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Bonnie Siegler Bonnie Siegler is an award-winning graphic designer. She is the founder of Eight and a Half, a multidisciplinary design studio based in New York, and before that, was the co-founder of Number Seventeen. She got her degree at Carnegie Mellon University, has taught in the graduate design programs at Yale University and the School of Visual Arts and was the 2014 Koopman Distinguished Chair in the Visual Arts at the University of Hartford.

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Comments [2]
Bonnie, where were you when I was starting out?
I coulda used some of your great advice!
Eric Baker
04.11.14
09:14

Great perspective! I remember when the computer started to revolutionize the design business and everyone all of a sudden was a desktop publisher. Revolutions in the tools we use always have a effect on our perceived value and there will always be people who do not understand or respect what we do. Look at the home improvement business!
mfh mcomm3
04.11.14
10:07



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