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Graphic Design: Why Skill is Never Enough


There are plenty of graphic designers all around the world who can make good-looking CD artworks and posters. Good design schools polish the taste of design students and there are so many softwares that make everything easier for new designers. So, if we think about it, the good designers are more or less the same-skill wise.

But how come not too many of them will have long-term career in graphic design?  Isn’t graphic design all about talent, taste, and skills?

Yes, these are the three main ingredients but graphic designers gotta have MORE. And that ‘more’ determines who will likely have a successful career and who will likely shift to a different career path.

So what are these ‘secret ingredients’ that make a successful graphic designer?

The first thing I can think of is Marketing Savvy. A graphic designer just gotta have it.  If you did not formally take up a 4-year course in graphic design from a University, or if you were too busy doodling during your Business subjects, then you better start learning about business and marketing real quick. You have to develop an eye for marketing or else you’re not going anywhere. Majority of the people that hire graphic designers are business owners who want to promote their company or product. So yes, Skill, talent, and good taste are never enough. Never! You have to design like a marketing specialist, and not like an abstract painter, because there is a marketing goal to be achieved. Your work is promoting brands and if it creates a great impression artistically, well done. Read books, take crash courses, read good blogs everyday- whatever it takes to enrich your eye for business. And to those who already have knowledge about business and design, well you gotta keep on learning.

Another important thing is…(Don’t roll your eyes)…a pleasant personality.=)

I know it is quite lame to include this but I just want to point out the extreme importance of a good personality for SELF-EMPLOYED individuals (those that make businesses out of their talent/skill ie musicians, designers, stylists,etc ) as opposed to regular businessmen who sell products. Most of the filmmakers I know prefer to work with people with good personality than great talent (except actors). That is why filmmakers, musicians, artists, work with their own circle of friends whom they share the same humor (or who are at least pleasant enough to laugh at their jokes). It pays to be pleasant. You have to develop a good personality if you want clients to hire you again. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your ‘personality’ though, it just means trimming a few things here and adding a few things there. Saying hello with a smile will not make you uninteresting and less artist-y.  Give it a try. There are lots of books that can develop your personality- but don’t read them in public.

And of course, there’s determination, hard work, perseverance, diligence, patience, flexibility, humility, resourcefulness. As you know it’s not easy designing even the simplest artwork for a small-time client. You have to keep on pushing. Your level of seriousness about your job should always be high. Always.

Remind yourself about these things when you wake up each morning so you’ll have the drive to deliver excellent performance every day. If you do that, there is no way you would not succeed!

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