Do you work for FREE? Stop doing that!

My dentist doesn’t work for free. Neither does my accountant. In fact, if they did I wouldn’t use them. But why? I’d save a lot of money! It’s because I figure if they don’t value what they do enough to charge me for their work, then it isn’t worth it.

To all you young designers out there: when you work for free you reinforce the idea that your work has no value, that your talent deserves little respect. Granted, when you first start out you can’t charge the “big bucks” but you must be compensated fairly for what you do. It has value; if it were so easy then everyone would design their own logos and websites. Oh wait, they sometimes do that…but with dreadful results. Now I’m not talking about pro bono work you may do for your church, your mom or your best friend. Even trading services with other professionals has its place. I’m talking about work you do for clients who need to hire a professional like you and who have the ability to pay fairly for those services.

It’s not an honor to have your name mentioned on a website you spent 60 hours designing for free. The exposure will not generate future work, especially when the next client finds out you did it for free. The “real-world experience” you gain by designing someone’s brochures for free (or for peanuts) benefits no one. It doesn’t benefit you because it robs you of the experience of negotiating a fee for service and the responsibility of delivering a quality product on time for that fee. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t benefit the client either because it teaches them that graphic design services are low-value commodities, thus degrading all design professions. This something-for-nothing attitude is also the reason why I do not believe in design competitions where no one is paid for their work and the winner has the “honor” of having their work chosen and used for free. This too devalues all design professions. And Facebook “likes” don’t pay your rent.

The life of a graphic designer may appear fun and glamorous — sitting around all day drawing pretty pictures and choosing color swatches — but it is a skilled profession requiring a college education, skills using advanced computer programs, an understanding of photography, typography and marketing principles, and a knowledge of the printing process and internet and website functionality. And as a fellow designer, you should see your profession this way, too.

Value what you do and the talent you possess. Don’t work for free.

For a writer’s perspective on working for free, read this excellent article by Hollywood screenwriter Mark Sanderson.

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Why Hire a Professional Graphic Designer?

The conversation goes something like this:

“I’m starting my own business and need a website. Do you know anyone who can do it?”

“My yoga instructor’s nephew does websites, he can do it.”

“I need a logo too, and some brochures.”

“Oh, I’m sure he can do that, too.”

What’s missing from the conversation is the question: Is he a professional designer?

Free design software has given people access to the tools that were once the express purview of the professional graphic designer. Nowadays, anyone with a clunky copy of Microsoft Publisher can design their own brochures, or an ad like this, and fill them with cheesy clipart and hideous fonts and have them printed on bright pink paper at the local quick print, so why hire a professional to do the job? These tools give the false impression that anyone can be a designer. Forgive my snobbishness but knowing how to type doesn’t make you a writer.

I don’t cut my own hair, fix my own car, do my own taxes or do my own root canals; I hire professionals to do these things for me. Re: taxes, it’s not that I couldn’t do my own taxes per se, it’s that the time involved in doing them myself far outweighs the expense of having them done by my CPA. Time is money, and my time is more valuable being spent doing other things.

In an effort to save money, budget-minded small business owners and individuals needing professional design services are often tempted to do it themselves or get a friend’s friend to do it. What they may not realize is that:

1. Their time is always better spent building their business, not sitting in front of a computer for hours trying to figure out how to design their own website or direct-mail postcard.

2. The materials they are producing are actually undermining their business image by portraying them as unprofessional or amateurish.

The objection I often hear to hiring a professional designer is I can’t afford it; I don’t have the budget for it. I would say candidly that you simply don’t want to spend the money, maybe because your copy of Microsoft Office is whispering, “Just use me!” or your nephew can do it cheaper, or you don’t recognize the intangible value of a good logo, web design or marketing materials, but successful businesses are successful in part because they recognize the value a professional graphic image conveys to their customers. Ford, Apple and Nike hire and use the absolute best advertising, marketing and graphics professionals available because they know the value image contributes to their bottom line. Small business owners should be no less aggressive in their pursuit of the best graphics professionals they can afford.

The next time you need graphic design services, don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Ignore the earnest pleas of your free graphics software and hire a professional.

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Book Review: Archetypes in Branding by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen

Archetypes_Cover

I discovered this book at a weekend design seminar in San Diego last year. The moment I picked it up I knew I had struck gold. Any creative working on branding of any kind should have this valuable resource at their side.
Steeped in the psychological theories of Carl Jung, Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen uses a highly participatory approach to brand development, and combines a companion deck of sixty original archetype cards, in a kit that gives you the tools you need to:

• Reveal your brand’s motivations, how it moves in the world, what its trigger points are and why it attracts certain customers
• Forge relationships with the myriad stakeholders that affect your business
• Empower your team to access their creativity and innovate with integrity

Applying archetypes helps bridge the gap between the cognitive and intuitive sides of the brain and between internal and external business objectives. Archetypes in Branding takes you through a fascinating exploration of the important role archetypes have played in mythology and psychology—and now in business—to resolve brand inconsistencies and enhance trust with all stakeholders.

Author John Howard-Spink defines an archetype as “A universally familiar character or situation that transcends time, place, culture, gender and age. It represents an eternal truth.” This is why George Lucas, when writing the original Star Wars trilogy, consulted with Joseph Campbell, author of the classic work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, to understand the archetypal characters found in mythic stories. So how does this apply to a brand, say, a household cleaner? You may want to position your product as the hero fighting against dirt and germs, the innocent promising a return to the simple life, or the caregiver nurturing and protecting your family. Each archetype resonates with the customer who identifies with the emotions they elicit.

Unlike many pop psych/marketing books on archetypes, this book provides more comprehensive analyses. It goes beyond the commonly used 12 archetypes to detail dozens of sub-archetypes, which opens up new possibilities for creativity. The book itself is beautifully designed and a pleasure to read. For anyone looking for a way to think about their brand as a story, this book offers great insight and practical application.

Find out more at: archetypesinbranding.com

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