What People Think Designers Do Vs. What Designers Actually Do

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Business owners, marketers and all sorts of people know they need designers, but what do designers actually do? We hire them to transform Excel docs and PowerPoints into digestible information. We hire them to deliver clear visuals and to transform your message into something beautiful. We know we need them, but the details of how they perform their magic are, to most people, a complete mystery. Read on to to get to the bottom of common myths and real facts about the mysterious and sometimes intense world of design.

Use a magic wand to make instant changes / labor over small illustration changes

While a designer’s skill in the programs or mediums they use may make small changes look like a breeze, that’s not always the case. Some edits may seem conceptually simple, but in practice are a much larger job. A good example of this can be color edits. Colors are chosen with a number of factors in mind. They need to play well together, express the mood of the piece, and complement the brand. Designers will even base design decisions like illustration style off of their selected palette. Some styles work best with limited or bold colors and would look out of place when re-created with too many colors or a more toned-down palette, which can risk the integrity of the piece. So while asking to add green to the color scheme after the design is created may seem like an easy thing to do, the designer could spend hours making adjustments to get it just right.

Doodle all day / spend hours mapping out details

While design work can be fun, it takes a lot of hard work to bring a client’s vision to life. Doing this means designers must sketch out ideas and and plans before they head into the first draft. While sketching can be enjoyable, it’s an important part of the process and saves both time and money in the long run. Sketching 10 hours for a logo design may sound like a day of doodles, but some serious stuff is happening during this step. The designer is focusing on basic shapes and how they play with each other to communicate your message. They are determining which letterform silhouettes best reflect your brand, not simply choosing from what’s digitally available like they might if your designer started the process on the screen rather than on paper. These hours of work are indeed time consuming and not always easy, but this process will ultimately lead to the most successful design. Let’s also not forget that sometimes a designer just needs to sketch an anthropomorphic ice cream cone to get the creative juices flowing.

Scrutinize packaging / Scrutinize everything from packaging to restaurant signs

On this one, the sneaky suspicion is right. Designers spend so much time focusing on seemingly minute details that it’s almost impossible to turn it off. Design is a factor even when they’re doing something as simple as choosing a restaurant or a box of pasta. That is, after all, why companies spend so much on these tiny details. The odds are that each of you are making these same judgments and aren’t even aware of it. Aesthetics will influence decisions on a subconscious level; the difference with designers is that they are aware of it consciously.

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Yell a lot in Mad Men style board rooms / yell sometimes, usually in a dark room

Hollywood loves to glamorize life in creative fields. Movies and TV paint pictures of high rises with decanters of high-end scotch and smoke-filled rooms full of attractive people arguing about typefaces and pantone swatches. While I’m sure this is true to a certain degree, most designers are more casual. However, they do argue passionately about typefaces and pantone swatches as well as kerning, leading, and if that extra pixel of white space is enough. Details are the tools of their trade, and sometimes a room full of people heatedly discussing moving the logo to the right by 5 pixels is what it takes to get the job done.

Savy Bergeron

Author Savy Bergeron

Savy is a Senior Graphic and Interactive Designer hailing from the deep woods of the Cascades. When she's not illustrating at work she's busy cooking allergy-friendly food and having hiking, camping and snowboarding adventures with her husband.

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