Keep Calm and Trust Your Designers

So you need some design work done. Maybe you need a logo. Maybe your website needs a facelift. Maybe you’re putting together an important presentation for a conference. In any case, you need someone to help make things look great.

The first step is acknowledging the need. Bravo — you’ve done that! The next step? Letting the designers do their job.

A company may engage any number of contractors and freelancers over the years to help them advance their brand. They’ll hire SEO firms and PR teams and content creators. They’d never dream of telling the SEO expert how to do their job. Designers, on the other hand, are often treated entirely differently.

Can we make that font bigger?

Let’s add a gradient here! No — drop shadow!

Eh, I’m just not… feeling it.

 

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Companies have no problem telling designers how to do their jobs, and they frequently feel justified in it. Why? The (misguided) answer may be found in art philosophy.

We can’t necessarily technically explain why we like or dislike a piece of artwork, but we know it evokes certain feelings, and we use those feelings to form opinions on the quality of the art in front of us. This is what British art critic and philosopher of art referred to as evocation of “aesthetic emotion.” The argument, essentially, is that technique doesn’t matter if the end result doesn’t strike a chord with the viewer.

Companies often extrapolate that framework of evaluation — even if they can’t articulate it — to the world of graphic design. After all, graphic design is a form of artistic expression, right? So relying on “feels” to make strategic choices about design makes sense, yes?

Not really.

Unlike artistic creation for the pure purpose of artistic expression, graphic design is functional in nature, particularly in the context of business. These designs are goal-oriented. As such, technique plays a much more critical role in graphic design than it might in any other form of artistic expression.

Even when the goal of a design is to evoke specific emotions and thought associations, relying on individual subjective evaluation of a design is short-sighted. The goal is not to evoke specific emotions and thought associations from you, after all. It’s to prompt such reactions from your target audience. And even if your own demographics align with those of your target audience, you are just one face in a sea of faces. Your individual preferences may not be an adequate reflection of how those demographics respond in an aggregate sense.

 

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This is why it’s crucial that companies take a step back and let designers do their job. Yes, they are creative and artistic, but they are also trained and technical. They aren’t just throwing some colors and lines together. They study methods and trends and learn from the successes of others. They take that knowledge and research, apply their skills in the context of that understanding, and make strategic recommendations about how to best achieve your branding goals through visual cues.

So listen to your designers. Ask questions when you’re unsure about their proposals. Rely on their expertise and heed their counsel. After all, they’re the professionals. That’s why you’re paying them.