Mark Lewis has compiled a list of the Top 10 Lies told to naive artists and designers when dealing with clients. As a freelancer in the past, I’ve actually heard EVERY SINGLE ONE of these lies. As a young designer I was eager to please, ready to work for cheap to get the work and willing to believe these lines of “bull” that clients fed me. Don’t fall into the same trap. Despite the fact that you love what you do, and you want to “do great work” and build your portfolio, THIS IS A BUSINESS. Your chosen field allows you to express your creativity, but never forget that you do this to earn a living!
37Signals offers a quick read on finding fresh inspiration. While the article isn’t specifically for designers, it covers design and really applies to any field where you find yourself trying to find new ideas.
I came across a rather interesting article by Thomas Vanderwhal regarding a long-standing issue with the ad business. The article is titled Designing with a Solution is the Problem, and it covers the ever-present problem of clients asking you to design a solution to a problem they aren’t willing to, or cannot show you (cart before the horse). If you thought design is about making an ad look cool, you obviously have no grasp of the business, and hopefully this article will illustrate this concept for you. Also, be sure to check out the other article Thomas linked to, Be Cooler by Design.
I wanted to offer a suggestion relating to the use of Photoshop filters & effects in your designs. My comments come from many years of experience in the ad business, and reflect only MY opinion and the opinion of a handful of “old-timers” I know that are also in the biz. Please take this for what it’s worth, and not as gospel. The number one thing about a design that screams “Rookie” or “Amateur” more than anything else is the (over)use of filters & effects. I remember many years ago (sometime around Photoshop 4 I guess) a filter set was released called Kai’s Power Tools. It was an absolutely incredible set of filters that did things in Photoshop that most users could only dream about with a single click of the mouse button. The “Kai syndrome,” as it came to be known, got out of control fast.
Don’t be an idiot!
Today, we have Xenofex, EyeCandy, Splat, several plug-ins from Flaming Pear and many more. These filters produce fantastic results, I have no problem with them. But just like guns, the USER is the problem, not the actual item itself. Some designers say that if the filter becomes the focal point of the design, you’re showing everyone that you have no creativity and rely on “tricks” to get attention. I’ll just say this. Use filters sparingly. Use them when appropriate, and where it really makes a difference in your design. But don’t use them simply because they’re available. A drop shadow under a photo can really enhance a design, but a drop shadow under every stinking headline, logo and phone number in an ad makes you look like an idiot. A small bevel on a web page button can look great, but giant 15 pixel bevels on every clickable link button on your site makes you look like and idiot. Don’t be an idiot – you give us all a bad name.
Creative Latitude is an interesting little site I came across a while back that offers a lit bit of everything. In particular, I noticed the article titled Why Freelance by Ronnie Lebow, which some of you may find interesting. The site offers a fairly nice layout, good color combinations, easy navigation and most importantly, good content. Give it a look see when you have the time, paying particular attention to the articles.