Junior graphic designers who stick with it and upskill become graphic designers. Some might rest on their laurels now that they’ve “made it,” but not you! You are here to learn.
Here’s how to set yourself apart as a graphic designer.
Find Your Unique Value Proposition
Graphic design is all about communication, and it encompasses several levels of communication. Not only are you communicating with your clients to bring the project to fruition, but you must also learn the appropriate way to communicate value to your clients’ audiences.
That said, every graphic designer should be adept at communication – so how can you stand out amidst a sea of other graphic designers to communicate value?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- How would I describe my style? Illustrative, imagery, bold fonts, elegant?
- What am I highly skilled at?
- What do I do differently/better than other graphic designers?
- What kind of clients reach out to me? Is that my niche?
- How do I bring my personality to bear on my designs?
- What styles do I resonate most with / enjoy the most?
- What are my passions?
- What attracts clients to me? Why do people approach me to design their projects?
- How do I incorporate my life experiences into how I approach design?
- Are there any things that I’d like to change about my clientele, design approach, offerings, or design techniques?
- Do I win awards that could set me apart?
These questions will guide you toward the discovery of your brand DNA. The answers should start to make your goals clearer, and help you develop your brand personality. As a graphic designer, this is not a mystery to you – but we are often guilty of focusing on those things for our clients and neglecting it for ourselves.
A good example from The Angry Designer is that most skateboarding companies wouldn’t seek out an elegant and professional graphic designer for their personal brand. They would want to find someone who likes simple, bold designs with lots of contrast. hg
Consider Adding Technology to Your Service
As a graphic designer, chances are high that you are already familiar with technology. It is important to run lean if you’re a graphic designer, so be careful to add tech stacks that will provide you with the most value. That said, here are some types of technology that you may want to consider, especially if you aren’t already using them.
Slack and Discord are two messaging platforms that enable you to communicate with your clients quickly. If they have feedback on one of your revisions, you can see it instantly. This can cut down on the number of meetings you need to have. (In fact, if you do need to have a quick meeting, you can hold it via “Huddle” on Slack rather than on Zoom.)
Speaking of Zoom, the maximum amount of time you can meet on the free plan is 40 minutes. If you would like to spend more time working with your clients (and minimize their frustration as they’re booted from meetings and then added back to them), consider a professional Zoom plan. An alternative to Zoom is Google Meet, which enables you to hold a meeting for up to 60 minutes without interruptions.
If you really want to minimize meetings, however, consider Loom. It’s free to record short explainer videos, and can go a long way in making your clients feel at home while working with you.
It would be wise to purchase Adobe Creative Cloud if you haven’t already. Free software can’t touch the capabilities of having full-scale design software. Creative Cloud includes Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, Adobe Express, Acrobat Pro, a wide variety of fonts, and more!
You can also familiarize yourself with different types of graphic elements. Here are some that might be of interest to you:
Upskill As Much As You Can
Upskilling is essential no matter what field you’re in. Graphic designers are surrounded by possibilities to dip their toes into other fields, areas of expertise, etc. If you’re curious about how to add to your skill set (either as a graphic designer or by trying something new), read on!
Offer professional photos
In our junior graphic designer piece, we encouraged young designers to take up the skill of photography/videography. If you’d like to offer a better client experience by taking professional photos for your client, there are a few considerations to make.
To ensure that you can create a professional shot, you may need:
- Tripods / stabilizers
- Portable power banks
- Plane reflectors / bounce boards
- Shoot-through umbrellas
Follow Leading Designers
At Matcha Design, we like listening to The Angry Designer Podcast. That said, there are lots of valuable resources available from proficient designers. Here are a few examples:
There are different rules and skills you need to learn to make it in the world of print. For starters, you should know:
- Screen printing
- And more
This is important if you want tour design to look good and be produced well. You’ll have to choose different vendors to work with (and/or recommend the right vendors to your clients).
Without a basic knowledge of the above, you won’t know what specs and constraints you need to consider for different jobs.
You can experiment with motion graphics by taking After Effects, Premiere, Illustrator, Premiere, and Audition. All of these are available through Creative Cloud, thankfully!
Focusing on how to enhance design functionality through user experience and user interface is a smart way to get even more creative with design. Interactive designs are incredibly popular, as they enable graphic designers to provide an insightful, interactive, and personalized experience.
Along this line, experimenting with different mediums can be a huge benefit to you. Here are some outside-the-box design ideas to try:
- Trade show graphics
- Packaging design
- Graphics for fabric (T-shirt design, designs for totes, etc)
- Poster design
- Booth design (for trade shows)
Though WordPress is arguably the most popular platform for designing websites, it’s certainly not the only one. There are several content management systems (CMS) to choose from, including:
There are also a number of themes within each CMS platform. For example, WordPress has nearly 10,000+ themes that you can choose from, all of which can be enhanced using specific plugins, depending on your client’s needs. It’s a good idea to determine the CMS and theme you like best, and use that as a framework for client websites, then experiment with different plugin options that are available to you.
Make Saying “Yes” to You Easy
Now that you’ve established yourself as a designer, you’ve probably already established a brand and reputation. Reputation can be a double-edged sword: it can generate a lot of leads for you, but when you want to show that you’ve “grown up,” it can be tough to communicate your value to clients who came in at the ground floor of your graphic design business.
Even great designers need a rebrand every now and then! In fact, the Angry Designer himself talks about shedding his “professional-looking” brand in lieu of something more personal and characteristic of who he is. Brand consistency and processes are important, but those things aren’t impactful if you’re not coming across in a genuine way.
Need to Give Your Agency a Reboot?
Despite years of graphic design industry knowledge, it can be a challenge to know what strategies to use. Sometimes we are too close to our brand to see what needs to be done – and getting an outside perspective is key. At Matcha Design, we’ll bring decades of experience and total objectivity to your graphic design rebrand. Want to know more? Contact us today!
About the author: Chris Lo is the founder and CEO of Matcha Design.