During the course of my career, I’ve met many different types of designers. Young and old, accomplished to those just starting out, others detail oriented and some just scatter-brained. Their titles range from Graphic Designer and Web Designer to Visual Designer and Brand Designer. And all traditionally sit within the marketing department. Over the years I’ve observed these individuals and how they interact with bosses, peers, and customers alike. In that time I’ve come to see patterns within the successful individuals. The following are 5 business skills graphic designers need to master. (outside of being a skilled and creative designer) to progress in his/her career.
1. Sales / Marketing
As a designer on a marketing team, you need to understand the departmental goals and how each member of the team affects them. Marketing’s primary goal in any company is to hand off quality leads to sales. Having a firm grasp of the sales funnel, how it works, and how marketing influences the funnel is essential to your role as a designer. How do you get leads? Is it through organic traffic? Or social media? Do leads come In offline first, then online? How leads come to your company will determine how and what you design. Typical flows use customer testimonials and case studies early in the buying process, whereas white papers, product pages, and videos tend to be further along in the customer journey. Building brand awareness, providing thought leadership, and increasing goal conversion rates will make any designer a more savvy business person. And more valuable to the team.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to write copy. So much so, I’ve come to expect to help out (happily) with the copy on any new project. Copywriting and grammar skills will prove invaluable in your career as a designer. In many ways, you are the last line of defense when it comes to copywriting and editing for grammar and punctuation. You are the last person to see an item before it goes live or sent to the printer. I’ve learned to make the effort to read the copy you are beautifying. It shows you care about the final product and how others view the piece you have a hand in creating. Understand though, there are limits to your suggestions and, at times, difficulties in pushing live your perceived improvements.
3. Business Studies
Business studies go beyond understanding typical sales and marketing and the responsibilities therein. It also speak to knowing how to handle yourself in situations where prospects and customers are present, determining what is billable / how to track hours, and how to charge clients. Having a strong understanding of business acumen and social awareness goes a long way to determining the type of person you are and how easy it is to work with you.
As a designer, part of your job is to present information in an interesting and creative way. Another major part of your job is to persuade individuals to start a conversation or convert and become a sales lead. knowing how persuasion, psychology, and the brain commingle to allow the prospect to come to a decision is essential. It’s your job to understand how colors and copy effect how a prospect feels and thinks about the product. And ultimately how to shift the perceptions in your favor.
5. Customer Service
Depending on your work status you will most likely have varying degrees of customer-facing dialogues. As an in-house designer, you will have little correspondence with the prospect unless he/she has been asked to complete a survey or help with user testing. Don’t forget your main “customer “ is the department head you are working with or the marketing lead who is charged with heading up the project. This is in stark contrast to the life of a freelancer where he/she will have nothing but interactions with the customer. Their livelihood depends on it. Either way, customer service and client management is key to your success as a designer. Their success is your success.
It takes more than your raw design skills to become a great designer in an in-house design department or as a freelancer. It takes a variety of business knowledge and a collection of intangible skills. Whether sitting in a marketing department or carving out your own clientele, if you keep progressing and look to master these 5 business skills designers need to master you will, in turn, make yourself more valuable to those around you. As such, you will create a desire in others you work with to trust you and insure yourself as a valuable asset culminating in happiness down the road.