Now is the time for designers to hone their business skills.
By Kristin Leu
At a time when companies are cutting back on projects and jobs, how can you convince your clients to spend on design when they are pinching every penny? Whether your clients are internal or external; whether you’re new to the biz or a long-time pro; it’s never been more important to develop your business skills to secure your position and keep your clients.
You don’t need to become a business expert overnight. First and foremost, our goal as designers is to communicate our clients’ messages in the most effective way to gain the most advantageous results. We are already educated problem solvers. Demonstrate your knowledge and help your clients solve their problems, even if they don’t know they have them.
Talk the Talk
Learn to articulate the value of design and how the “Power of Design” can change the world. Since that may take a while, learn to better explain your design decisions. All too often we assume that our clients know the reasons why we’ve designed something a certain way and we fail to communicate the logic behind our choices. Use terminology that your clients will understand, not terms we learned in art school. If they want the logo red and all the fonts bigger, provide a compelling argument why it won’t effectively communicate, not why it will look bad.
Ask and Explore
Inquire about components you may have never considered before. Learn about the project life after your involvement. What are the ideal results? Be approachable. Be open to suggestion. Be willing to change.
Learn more about the company and its competitors. Bring your client an example of what a competitor did that was great, then share your thoughts about how you can create something even better together. Revisit past projects. How did they work out? What can be improved next time? If you get measurable results, such as a tally of website visits, even better.
Keep Up the Good Work
If everyone loves your designs, it’s easier to open the lines of communication and show off your business skills. Provide information that directly relates your service to revenue and savings. For example, did your client ask you to design a direct mail piece? Before you start, provide statistics on the response rates for various sizes; offer suggestions to deliver the message in another medium or with cost-saving techniques.
You don’t have to be the manager of the department or the owner of the agency. Every designer has the ability to learn and apply strategic business skills to their current role. By demonstrating these capabilities, you’ll show that you do more than make pretty pictures. You will increase your value as an employee and business partner. And in today’s market, sharpening your business skills not only helps you stand out from the crowd, it can also bring profitable results.
Kristin Leu has BFA in Graphic Design from the College at New Paltz and an MPS in Design Management from Pratt Institute. She specializes in strategic design management and provides targeted design solutions to increase competitive advantage for her clients primarily in the financial industry. Kristin can be reached at email@example.com.