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What do designers do?

Designers share insights into their jobs...

DTG quite frequently receives email and inquiries from readers or students asking what it's like to be a designer, or to be involved in the creative field. Rather than answering the same question over and over, we decided to go out there and let some others share their experiences.
      We hope you enjoy these thoughtful comments as much as we did. BRAVO! Each of these will win a great prize from the Design Center -- and we invite you to share your experiences too!

Clear Client Expectations
Here's what Jess says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
      There are several challenges that come with running my own design business, but I've found nearly all are surmountable with a little forethought and a lot of practice. The most common seem to be communications issues with clients -- I've found it is essential to be utterly clear about all parties' expectations (e.g. What does a successful project look like to the client? To my studio? What are the specific limitations I need to work within when designing for any given client?). I also think value is a constant struggle for any creative -- how do you create the most value for your clients while both feeding your own creative identity and remaining profitable?
Most difficult project?
      I'm working on it now -- a logo for a financial firm. Because of the nature of the company and the company name, it begs for an elegant, subtle treatment. It's requiring me to calm myself down a little and stop pushing as hard as I normally do. Also, because it needs to be clean, it requires an unbelievably intense attention to detail.
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      I love my job. I work too much on my own, though -- eventually I can see myself either bringing on staff or a even a partner. I think I could really benefit from a more collaborative environment. On the other hand, I love being in control and being responsible for both my successes and my mistakes. I feel like I'm constantly learning and stretching myself.
Who controls the creative? You or the boss?
      I am the boss! Seriously, though, if I feel strongly about a design element either being included or eliminated I stand by it. It's my job to communicate to the client why it does or doesn't work. That said, I try to respect the client's opinion (everyone experiences visual graphics differently). Most of the time, it's simply a matter of identifying WHY the client feels the way they do, and addressing those concerns in one way or another.
When you have complete control, what do you do?
      I'd probably be all over the place, because I still feel that to a large degree I'm still exploring my own personal visual voice. I'd do a lot more experimental work, using multiple media, and I'd probably be much more aggressive with my messaging (colors, textures, imagery). I definitely lean towards a more collage-type style, which I never really realized until recently when a colleague pointed it out.
Average projects per week: I prefer to work one project at a time, as it allows me to really sink myself into the work, but it rarely happens like that (and for the sake of the business, I'm happy to have multiple jobs in the pipeline). Between writing and designing, I probably have 2-5 active jobs during any given week.
Average layouts per job: I always end up producing more than I ever show the client, of course. But I generally present 2-4 concepts depending on budget and project.
Overtime required: Although I am still building the business, I try my hardest not to work too much overtime. Because my office is in our home, this becomes particularly important to me; if I don't cut myself off, I could end up spending most waking moments in the home office. That would be no good for my own self, as well as for my awfully understanding boyfriend.
Most used software: Adobe Creative Suite for the graphic work, and -- much to my chagrin -- Microsoft Word for my writing.
Jess is a design professional from San Francisco, CA, USA (?)

Would rather work in Hollywood...

Here's what Jonathan says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
      I do a lot of production work: preparing files for output. Most of the challenges are in getting the client to submit usable artwork. I can fix a lot of art using CorelDRAW (used for making engraving and separated screen printing), illustrator, photoshop, acrobat/distiller, and others. You can give the client guidelines until you are blue in the face, but some things just can't be fixed (like low-rez art or bad specs or MS Publisher files - we're on a Mac and don't have it on PC). Less frequently, are straight-up design jobs - doing a 3D mockup of a product for a client or a 2D photoshop job. I also work with catalogs, brochures, websites, etc. for company marketing and promotion as well as for other clients.
Most difficult project?
      My last big one: the 2007 Acrylic Idea Factory catalog - full-color. Most of the challenge was in getting people to look at it and get it all in gear.
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      I would rather work in Hollywood doing illustrations, modelling, design for films and videos.
Who controls the creative? You or the boss?
      Sigh, the way the boss wants. Makes me wonder why I got a design degree in the first place. ;)
When you have complete control, what do you do?
      I already do: fantasy and science fiction images.
Average projects per week: wow, varies...when I was doing the company catalog, it was just the catalog. Now, I'm doing something like 3-8 a day so like 15-40 a week and that doesn't include having to work on magazine ads and other promotions for the company I work with.
Average layouts per job: 2-3
Overtime required: about 5-10 hours a week.
Most used software: Sadly, CorelDRAW. It's industry-standard for the awards and gifts industry. Second is Acrobat/Distiller for getting files to a layout app (InDesign which is third) and Photoshop last.
Jonathan is a design professional from Tucson, AZ, USA (?)

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