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Five on Design

Author: Daniel Nisbet

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In five minutes, Five on Design covers a broad range of topics for graphic designers, freelancers and other creative or entrepreneurial types.
103 Episodes
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Thanks

Thanks

2018-12-2800:02:50

As a listener of Five on Design, I wanted to start this episode out by saying thanks. This is going to be my last episode for the show. I want to express my gratitude for everybody who's tuned in, subscribed, listened, left comments and emails this last year.
Resolutions for Designers

Resolutions for Designers

2018-12-2500:05:34

It's that time of year again, when we all sit back and reflect on how the year went for us. Hopefully this year, has been a wonderful year for you. I hope as a listener of the show that you've succeeded in any goals that you set this year and that you saw amazing improvement in your work.
Among the many focuses I had as a new freelance designer, one of the big things that I was always concerned about was client satisfaction. I never wanted to drop the ball or give clients reason to fire me, or worse, not want to work with me again. As a result, if a client came to me with a rush project, I was apprehensive to charge a rush rate. I'd charge my normal rate under the guise that it was good karma... or something like that.
If you're like me, tracking your progress as a designer can be a challenge. We put so much focus on what we're doing right now, that it feels like we're not making any progress in our creative journey. It's why it's important to look back every now and then to appreciate how far you've come as a designer. On this episode, I want to encourage you to do the same thing.
It's one of the worst feelings on the planet: you sit down to start work on a project and realize that you don't have a single creative idea of what to do. it's even worse when you have a deadline looming, or a client sitting over your shoulder, expecting you to come up with something. Depending on who you work with, you get some rough advice about how you can "just do this" or "just do that" to make it better. But as designers, we know that dealing with designers block can be a frustrating thing.
As designers, there are certain things that we enjoy doing and certain things we don't enjoy doing. This can be a departure from what got us into design in the first place: creating things we like or are passionate about. Getting further into your career, its inevitable that you get a project or two that you don't enjoy working on as much. So how get into a creative mindset while working on something you don't like?
It's easy to see why project management software exists. When I started my design career, I was so frustrated when clients wouldn't read emails, skip steps, or deviate from our design process. I was so excited discovering the world of project management apps—I could finally keep things on track in a structured setting. In my mind, this was going to make my life much easier and I'd never have to deal with those issues again. It was pretty short-sighted looking back.
Gift ideas for your clients

Gift ideas for your clients

2018-12-0400:06:35

On episode 92, we had a great show on what to buy the graphic designer in your life. So I figured it would be beneficial to talk about what graphic designers should be buying for their clients.
One of the things that's most exciting as a graphic designer that doesn't involve starting a new project. It's usually starting at a new place of work. It's exciting to get past the interview process and realize that you're the person for the job. So you show up on your first day excited to show off everything, you know that you're a hard worker, and that you're going to contribute right away to a team. But slow down for a minute.
Subcontractors and clients

Subcontractors and clients

2018-11-2700:06:30

If you've ever worked on a larger project—particularly if you're a one-person shop—the project may have required a sub-contractor to help out. Aside from the first task of finding one, the next question is how to handle the relationship between the sub-contractor and your client.
For years, when I finished up a project with a client, I didn't think anything of washing my hands of it and walking away. However, I learned in the latter parts of my freelance career how important following up is. We often overlook this step—it's easy to. When our service is done, we don't see a need to keep poking at a client. The truth is, there's actually a lot of value that can be extracted when the project is done that can help us down the road.
The holidays right around the corner! You may already be looking at your list of people to buy gifts for and realize that you have a designer on your list. Whether or not you're into design, you may have stumbled across this episode and hoping that it will help you figure out what to buy them. So fear not—on this episode I'm going talk about some great gifts that will make the graphic designer in your life excited when they open them up.
Justifying your rates

Justifying your rates

2018-11-1600:05:28

Rates are one of the biggest questions that new freelance designers ask about. How much do you charge? Should you negotiate rates? Are you charging too much or too little? These are usually easy things to talk about. But getting lost in the conversation, is how to talk about your rates with your clients. Some clients see rates as a negotiable item when they're in the estimation phase. A common rookie mistake (and one that's been covered before) is to allow that negotiation to take place.
When you're putting your portfolio together, it's easy to put all of your images on to one page, title it “Portfolio” and call it done. I've been guilty of doing this too. The downside is that this doesn't include anything like what you did or who you did it for. All it does is look nice. But you need to dive in deeper. It's not only important to look nice, but our work needs context. You need a case study.
If you ever read about clients from hell, usually there's a story that involves someone who couldn't make up their mind about a design concept. The story typically goes that the designer showed the client, something that they thought was amazing. 50 revisions later, the sky turned green, and the client was dictating what font should be used. Everything goes off the rails. Design revisions are something that won't be going away anytime soon. As long as we're dealing with human beings, there will be design revisions. But they don't have to be the painful process that client from hell type stories usually spell out.
One of the most vulnerable things you can do as a graphic designer is hand your design files off to someone else. It's the most nerve wracking thing on the face of the planet. It's one thing if you're digging around in your Photoshop file and doing some crazy things. You know what you're doing and you don't always need notes. On the flip side, it's difficult for the person you might hand that design file off to, to figure out what was going through your mind. It's a pain in the butt. You probably had the same feeling when you received a file from another designer. It's a gut-wrenching feeling when you open a file up to see layers everywhere.
A number of years ago, Apple ran their famous Mac versus PC ad. Truth be told, it was one of my favorite ads of all time. It hit home on the competitve nature between Mac and PC users. Fast forward to today, it seems that the differences between running Mac or Windows are mostly cosmetic to the average user. Most applications now run on both systems and do so quite well. For most, they can focus on where the price and specifications provide the best value.
As a freelancer, you're bound to run into a project where you can't do it all by yourself. At that point, you've usually got a couple of options. You can turn around and run or you can find somebody who's able to help you out. In the business world those awesome people are known as subcontractors. They're a super valuable resource. They can help you get through large projects and open you up to new potential business opportunities.
As a new designer, it seems there is a tempting scenario that goes something like this. They don't like a local business's website and decide—with good intentions—that they need to reach out and talk about it. They think they know better. They think it knows just what they need. They go as far as creating a concept with the intention of just presenting it to them. What happens though, is rather than getting an excited client from the deal, they put the owner on defense. The owner might be mad before they've even considered something needs to change. They're angry because assumptions were made and someone is crapping all over what they did. At that point, the bridge is all but burned.
One of the first projects I designed on my own at my first agency job was a simple flyer. I remember the client had a lot of information they wanted on there and most of it wasn't necessary. The poster I ended up sending back was pretty minimal—but it was really effective. The feedback was a stinger: "It looks like something I could have done in Word."
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