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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!

The design work itself is rarely difficult

Here's what Kim says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
      It is a constant struggle to diplomatically educate my clients on what constitutes good design while still satisfying their own need to participate in the development of the design.
Most difficult project?
      The design work itself is rarely difficult. More often, the chaotic dynamics of working with the client's company is the factor that makes designing difficult. Communicating with a committee, multiple change orders, impossible last-minute deadlines, unclear communication and the like all make it really tough to turn out a first-class product.
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      I love this job.
Who controls the creative? You or the boss?
      If the client or boss has a strong opinion, then I approach it from their vision. I always attempt to contribute principles of good design into their ideas to make them better. If the client or boss doesn't have a vision or has just a general idea, then I cut loose!
When you have complete control, what do you do?
      I use photography and painting to satisfy my need to create without limitations. Photography in particular lets me use my Photoshop skills in addition to the camera skills to create totally unique work.
Average projects per week: 20-30
Average layouts per job: There is a huge variety. Some clients require 10-15, others only 2-3. I always encourage the client or boss that effective verbal communication in the beginning can significantly reduce the time and expense of up-front concept development, but some clients and bosses only "know it when they see it".
Overtime required: I am constantly working. If not on an actual project, then I am learning something new, either online or hands-on. There is a big cross-over into my personal life. For example, even while relaxing at the movies I am looking at typography, color, lighting and design. Many of these observations influence my daily work.
Most used software: The Adobe Suite
( Kim is a design professional from Langley, WA, USA (?)

Managing part-timers... reluctant clients

Here's what Todd says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
      Probably the two biggest challenges is managing time and managing customers. I have two part-timers working for me, a graphic designer and a coder. So, planning projects so each of them has work to do, yet not so much that it can't get done in the timeframe needed. Also, each customer is a unique challenge in learning what they need, when they need it, how much information to provide (some need/want more, some are easily overwhelmed), etc.
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      I love it!
Average projects per week: 2-3 major, and up to 10-15 smaller projects.
Average layouts per job: Usually I can visual and describe something to the client, such that only a single layout is needed.
Overtime required: About a year ago I shifted from working from home to an office-based business. I used to do a lot of work in non-traditional hours, but with an office, that's less possible. With that shift came new challenges in scheduling work - although I can remotely access my work computer from home, I can't do graphics work, for example. So, I usually work the first hour of the day (7:30am-8:30am) from home, catching up on email, etc. Then I go in to the office for most of the day, 8:30-5:15/5:30 roughly, then often work 3-4 hours on weekends as well.
Most used software: Photoshop, EvrSoft 1st Page 2006.
( Todd is a web design professional from Delray Beach, FL USA (?)

Wants consistent support from boss...

Here's what Kelly says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
      Stupid people. You know, the type who -- simply because they own a computer and a copy of Publisher -- think that they know more about design that you do.
Most difficult project?
      Something that should have been relatively straightforward. A booklet for expectant mothers. Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken -- well, it was a challenge. The customer rejected every attempt at orderly, legible design.
      Tough but satisfying: a departmental brochure for a local college. The client was difficult to please, but once we found a concept that worked, she fought HER boss in order to get it through.
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      Umm... mostly. There's plenty I could change. Mostly I'd just like consistent support from the powers that be.
Who controls the creative? You or the boss?
      Again, it totally depends on the client. If I had to pick one or the other though, the boss usually gets his way in the end.
When you have complete control, what do you do?
      Gosh... I've never had the time to really think about it. I guess I lean more towards very clean design, with lots of white space. Minimalist. Whether or not I'd actually create that given the chance -- well, who can say?
Average projects per week: 100 -- all shapes and sizes.
Average layouts per job: 1-3. Totally depends on the job and the client.
Most used software: Quark XPress, InDesign, Photoshop & Illustrator.
( Kelly is a design professional from Norfolk, VA, USA)

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