The incompleteness of a completed graphic design qualification

© tinaylinIn hindsight, the two things that I found missing from what we were taught while studying Graphic Design are, the business side of creativity and branding.

The Creative Business, selling of thoughts

Almost anybody can perform fairly as a businessperson, you buy something at x amount and sell it at x + markup. Simple. Regardless of how low the profit might be, one hardly run at a loss since they are pretty much aware of how much it cost them to acquire and sell whatever it is that they’re selling.

In a graphic designer’s world, actually this applies to the creatives industry in general, what we are selling is expertise that is billable in a form of time that a project demands from one, since our product is intangible.

After completing your studies not only are you faced with the challenge of effectively applying the ‘just acquired’ theoritical knowledge and skills in the ‘real world’ — sooner or later one starts to experience their lack of the much needed business side of creativity.

This lack of running a sustainable business selling creative expertise is the reason the creatives’ educators produce a very distrubing ratio of employees:employers.

At some stage of their carrers creatives inevatibly contemplate running their own graphic design business. But the majority seldom manage just to keep their business going, through having a healthy cash flow.

The only time your typical creative mentions the word flow, they’d be referring to the flow of ideas — the so called creative juices. Juices that makes others but themselves richer, one brief at a time.
As business unsavvy creatives, like most are, we are just nothing but producers who can’t profit from their own produce.

The other problem is that we are so obssesed with perfection in all that we do, which sort of have its pros, though they benefit most those that profit from our thinking — them employers.

You find a lot of people who created wealth from creative businesses while they have no expertise in the field that they trade in, except ofcourse for the business side of it. And I’m not blaming the people that saw an opportunity to milk our expertise to secure a financial future for their kids — I blame the educators.

Graphic Design is there to help companies sell, be it a product or idea… so why aren’t graphic designers required to understand the art of selling (business acumen) before they are declared qualified?

It’s about time graphic designers are taught to look beyond the beauty and their work and consider how to profit from their labour.

Thorough Branding Knowledge

Branding is like the new buzzword when coming to words said with little, no, to wrong undersatnding.

But like it or not, branding is the most important tool to sell in today’s information overloaded era. Branding is by definition about creating and maintaining a perception in the minds of the so called consumers.

This however is one of a crucial decipline that most graphic designers likes to not like, and one wonders why prospects clients go for the cheapestest designer when in need of their expertise — graphic designers fail to differentiate themselves through employment of effective branding.
Ask yourself one question, if you’re a creative, why should a client choose you over creative b, c, d, e, f, g, h, g, h, i, etc.?

Only until a graphic designer has that knowledge then we can start shifting from being ordered to do things that the client thinks they need to suggesting doing what’s really needed and in line with the client’s brand aspirations.

The marriage of Business skills and Branding

While both in a way benefits both the graphic designer and their clients this last bit focuses on how excelling in the two benefits the graphic designer.

When a graphic designer lacks the business acumen and an understanding of branding — they are like two bowls of unbranded (unpackaged) rice (from different companies), they have no choice but to compete on nothing but price since consumers are not given valid reasons why the should choose them over (designer or) company xyz.

The reality is that some ‘not too bad’ products are winning hearts and wallets of consumers, not because they’re great products, but because they’ve invested in expertise of great branding experts. Thus, their products and/or service are effectively differentiated.

While I strongly believe a great product and/or service is a conerstone of a great brand, it is in no way a gurantee of success — a good differentiation strategy is the start.

What’s the use in educators maturing creatives to enable them to create masterpieces of which they don’t know how to profit from?

*I’ve recently read a book that covers the business side of the creatives’ bread+butter, I’ll discuss that in my next post and will share the link to download the (complete+free) ebook.