The Blog: thoughts, articles and guides

“But do I really need a designer?”
– The ‘DIY’ dilemma

With the internet being a place of infinite knowledge, learning platforms, subscription based software, free trails and even more free resources, many people are geared up and confident in tackling their own design projects. I think the age of self-taught skills is truly upon us and, as someone who did (and still does) a lot of their learning via Youtube thanks to the generosity of professionals sharing their experience, I am not going to be the one to knock it down!

However, there are times when self-led learning can only take you so far. Sometimes – just as when you have tried to fix that leaky tap and it’s time to call a plumber – you need to call upon someone with experience. Recognizing this is a skill in itself, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of when it happens!

In this short blog post, I’m going to cover some of the benefits you will gain from hiring a professional designer, so that you can make informed decisions on whether to tackle your next design task with a bit of DIY, or with a designer.

1. Interpreting the brief

Many designers would tell you that their worst client is themselves. Why? Because unless you can be VERY strict with yourself, as a naturally creative thinker and your own client, you will probably deviate from the structure of your tried and tested process on a creative whim. It’s easy to think, ‘well I’m the client, if  I like it thrn why not?!’ and being tempted in a new direction may also make you start to think your brief was obviously wrong to start with!

But here’s the issue with falling into that trap: A lack of focus dilutes the meaning, impact and function of the work.

A professional designer will have no personal attachment to a project and can work solely to your brief. It’s the only guidance they have, and they will use it as their compass to your perfect goal. A designer will keep you on track, while listening and interpreting your new direction ideas into ways to fulfill the original purpose.

2. Research

Designers are very practiced in “stepping outside the box”. If you need to take your brand, business or product line in a new direction, designers know how to break free of their own bias in order to deliver your goals in a new and justified way. Research is a key skill in this area, and can often be overlooked by those unfamiliar with creative workflow. Documentation, reasoning and providing traceable answers help back up the designer’s work, and help the client when presenting something new and unseen to their investors, for instance.

3. Speed

If you are still learning, a deadline becomes infinitely more scary. A designer knows the tools, and the capabilities/possibilities of them, inside out and will get things done quicker.

4. Accountability

There are times in everyone’s career when things go wrong. Sometimes, a client isn’t entirely happy with what you have created and although it’s a rare occurrence, it’s a terrible feeling when it happens.

If you decide to DIY your design work, it can be easy to become disheartened at the first sign of discontent and, perhaps, brush off the issue with “well, I’m not a designer anyway”. Projects stall, even peter out… and people are locked in a confusion of not wanting to hurt each others’ feelings while neither side feels they are getting what they need.

A designer will have a resolution “toolkit” to rectify tricky situations. Had they misunderstood the brief? Are the stakeholders misinformed? Are things simply not presented in a way that is easy and cohesive to understand? Designers have creative methods of problem-solving. They know where the common pit-falls may be lurking and plan to avoid them. If trouble does arise, they have work-arounds.

If your project has high stakes, it might be worth seeking a designer.

5. Productive partnership

If you are DIY-ing design work because you want to become a designer yourself; working with a designer might be the best thing to do! I have been lucky enough to have a couple of great mentors in my career, and I gained so much insight from them just by working alongside them.

If your self-teaching journey is on an upward path, gain experience with a collaborative project. Not every designer likes to do this – and you should use common sense and decency when approaching a designer about a collaborative working style (and yes, you are still going to have to pay them!) but if you have fostered relationships online or have networked with some people you feel comfortable approaching, why not ask them? Everyone starts somewhere, and there are bound to be people willing to help others get a foot in the door.

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Are you a design “DIY-er”? I hope the points above are useful in building confidence in your decisions to do so – and if they have you questioning your DIY approach why not get in touch with me to see how a professional designer might be able to help you out?