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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!

It's the people
Here's what J.D. says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
1. When a print job doesn't come back as the client thinks it should, there is a dance of blame.
2. When you give the client what they ask for and they don't like it.
3. Slow pay clients.
4. When a client wants something that's hideous.
Most difficult project?
      the projects themselves aren't ever that tough, it's the people/client part that makes the job tough. I've got my license as a therapist (previous career) and the people are the tough part.
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      I love what I do. I wish I could take a class every couple of months to give me a shot in the arm.
Who controls the creative? You or the boss?
      the way the boss wants
When you have complete control, what do you do?
      more interesting.
Average projects per week: 3-7
Average layouts per job: Logos - 10; Web sites - 2; Brochures, business cards, postcards - 1-2
Overtime required: I work from home so I work all of the time. Sometimes I forget to feed the kids.
Most used software: photoshop, dreamweaver, quark, indesign, illustrator, acrobat
J.D. is a self employed freelancer from Santa Barbara, CA USA (?)

Clients that have stories to tell
Here's what E.H. says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
      I have one primary customer that is very very good to me. I must keep him happy, and still market myself and do work for smaller, more occasional clients. I mean, what if Mister Primary decides to do it in house, or in my case just "in state".
Most difficult project?
      I have a smaller customer who provides his own photography. It is never quite proportioned to the use. I always have to add some background to the edges. Once he sent me a photo of a crowd 5 or 6 people and asked me to add more people. I had to re-use some of the people in the original photo, change them slightly and add enough background to get them all in.
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      I really like having just one customer, and the science and technology is fascinating. But I would feel more secure if I had 10 or 20 small customers instead.
Who controls the creative? You or the boss?
      I have a lot of freedom in that area with my primary client. The object with him is to make a presentation about very technical industrial equipment, understandable to a government purchasing agent as well as convincing the end user it will do the job for him.
When you have complete control, what do you do?
      I would like to find clients that have stories to tell that can be told through photography, only. All of my product photography for my client's presentations seem to require that they be accompanied by lot of words. It is very much a desk top publishing gig.
Average projects per week: 2 to 10 per week
Average layouts per job: 3 to 5. They are all pretty much the same and I can re-use parts of older layouts.
Overtime required: I work only from home. I keep a secrete website so I can choose who sees it. I send people to it.
Most used software: Photoshop and Quark, and In Design.
E.H. is a self employed freelancer from Sedona, AZ. (?)

An illustrator at heart
Here's what P.S. says when asked about challenges in the graphic arts field :
Communicating with the "go-betweens". Bad communication in this area can make or break a project. I'm talking about print vendor reps who will promise you the world but only be able to deliver the minimum; reps who know how to sell but don't know the product they are selling; project managers who acquire the art for company artist who don't believe they have to know the difference between pixel and vector or gif and eps; 'yes men' who come in while the boss is away and change everything. I have taught an entire sales force the difference between a gif and an eps - I know it can be done!
Most difficult project?
      A very recent one actually, but that is usually how it goes if you are continually being challenged. The Marketing Company I do work for needed a logo and brand. The owner was dead set on using five different types of green. It was my job to make olive, grass green, seafoam, evergreen and moss look good together. I swore it would be impossible! And I was partially right. She has since changed her color palette to olive, sky blue, hot pink, orange and gray. *sigh*
Do you like your job? Would you change anything to make it better?
      Since the third grade there was no doubt this is what I would be doing. Career wise I have never done anything else. Course I have done just about everything that can be done within the graphic design industry: production art, logo design, large format, brand development, web design, exhibits, outdoor, desktop publishing, writing, marketing, printing, finishing, you name it. What would make it better? If production artist got paid the same and graphic designers. They totally deserve it.
Who controls the creative? You or the boss?
      It is usually a combination. I listen to what the client wants, do the research, then design what the client needs. Early in my career a saw a phrase I still design by: "Don't give the client what they want; give them what they need." In the end it really not about the client or my design, it is about the target audience and what they will respond to. That is why it is advertising.
When you have complete control, what do you do?
      I am an illustrator at heart and I love to design. I often dream about logos and designs, which I create the next day. I have a file of such logos and designs waiting for the right client to just show up and ask. It has happened!
Average projects per week: It varies as word-of-mouth spreads and depending on the type of clients I have. Right now I am working on anywhere from three to twelve projects per week.
Average layouts per job: One. I almost always hit it the first time. On the rare occasion it may take a second or third design. More often then not they go back to the original. A lot of my clients are busy and need instant results. They also either know me or have heard of me. They know I do my research - on the client, the business, the product, the service and the prospective target audience - so they trust I will give them the best design the first time.
Overtime required: I work at home. I average six hours a day of work, seven days a week. Usually late at night after the kid goes to bed.
Most used software: Someday I'll have it all! But for right now I use CS1 and FreeHand 10 on a PC. PhotoShop, FreeHand and Adobe Acrobat are the programs I have open most often.
Trish is a design professional from Phoenix, AZ USA (?)

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