As an aspiring designer you may think that most of your time will be spent in front of your computer or knee deep in your sketch book creating tremendous works of art but as a designer working in the real world you need to develop one valuable asset if you want your career to grow. That asset is the art of communication.
When looking for a job in design, an employer will look at your portfolio and experience but one other factor that they’ll be looking at is your ability to communicate effectively. Employers will want to know that you can talk to and handle people whether they be colleagues, clients or complaints because being a great designer is great but if you can’t communicate then the chances of you following or questioning a brief will be a set back for you as a potential candidate. Communication is probably one of the tricks that will set you apart from other designers.
The art of communication
Without sounding too industrious, good communication is about your ability to sell. That doesn’t mean a hard sales pitch, it could mean a soft one. It might not mean a sales pitch at all, it could just be your ability to ask good questions.
At the end of the day though it is all about the sale. Working as a designer you’ll have to sell:
- Your ideas
- Your vision
- Your solution
Selling could mean the way you deal with a complaint or criticism which is important to an employer but what’s even better for an employer is your ability to sell to a client.
Selling is a big part in any profession. Large corporate companies rely on sales assistants on the shop floor to make their millions whilst service providers use customer care as a core selling tool. Solicitors who become partners have a responsibility to bring in new clients and likewise directors at corporate companies are also given the responsibility to woo clients and bring in new contracts.
Every industry focuses on employees selling in order to sustain business no matter what title they have.
How to sell today?
The hard sales pitch is a very 90’s approach. Today selling is more about listening, asking questions and responding with good, informative and intelligent answers. It’s about your confidence and knowledge on any given subject and your ability to come off as a trustworthy yet authoritative figure on the subject of design and one great way to do that is by writing.
In primary school I remember that I use to like writing stories because it let me unleash my creative side but in school we only write stories until we’re about 10-11 years old. Once we get into secondary school, creative stories go out of the window and all we end up writing is regurgitation. This carries on through college and university and I can say that I actually lost any love I had for writing until I became a professional designer.
As a designer I probably spend most of my time writing or editing copy and whilst it has its creative merits, it has a more functional purpose of promoting, communicating and selling an idea.
The skill of writing is one that you should develop as a designer in terms of copy writing, editing and article writing. Copy writing and editing for me has become a huge time saving skill which makes my design work better and allows me to extend my services but better yet being able to edit copy allows me to make a better piece of design out of a project.
Clients will often over deliver with copy, giving me 2 pages of text for a single A4 page design. This is way too much copy but instead of asking them to re-write it, I edit it myself so the end piece is a well-rounded and functional document in terms of selling, design and communication.
Writing will test your ability to sell so it’s important that you learn to write not just for your clients but for yourself so you can articulate your ideas not just visually but literally.
A good designer finds an elegant way to put everything you need on a page. A great designer convinces you half that shit is unnecessary.
— Mike Monteiro