The age of self-taught skills is truly upon us and, as someone who did (and still does) a lot of their learning online thanks to the generosity of professionals, I’m not going to be the one to knock it. The internet is a place of infinite knowledge, learning platforms, subscription-based software, free trials and even more free resources… and with that, many people are geared up and confident in tackling their own design projects.
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 can be 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 creative professional 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 will tell you that their worst client is themselves. Why? Because unless you can be VERY strict with yourself, a naturally creative thinker is prone to indulging in creative whims, changing their mind and questioning if the grass is greener down another path… When you are your own client, your goals can shift with your curiosities and can sometimes even get lost along the way. It’s easy to think, ‘well I’m the client; if I like it then why not do it?!’ – but here’s the danger of falling into that trap: A lack of focus dilutes the meaning, impact and function of the work.
A professional designer will dedicate their time to achieving the goals of your brief as a number one priority. They are trained and practised in recognising when things are creeping off-scope and will use the brief as their compass to achieving your perfect outcome. A designer will keep you on track while listening to your ‘new direction’ ideas and interpreting them into ways to fulfil the original purpose of the work.
Designers are very practised 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 to back up the designer’s work, and help the client when presenting something new and unseen to their investors, for instance.
If you are still learning, a deadline becomes infinitely more scary. A designer knows their tools – and the capabilities/possibilities of them – inside out, and will get things done quicker.
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 can stall, even peter out… and people get caught 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. Designers have creative methods of problem-solving – they know where the common pitfalls may be lurking, and plan to avoid them. If trouble does arise, they have workarounds. 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.