The more and more I've worked with companies, the more I've realized designers try to be marketers, and marketers try to be designers. They aren't the same thing.
I went to design school. I learned graphic design and the art of creating a visual language for a company. I didn't get a degree in marketing, nor did they teach us about marketing at The Portfolio Center (now, called Miami Ad School). It wasn't their goal to make me a marketer.
I learned how colors tell a story and how to put image and text together in a way that causes people to feel a certain emotion. I learned how to visually execute an idea. It didn't matter if it was a logo, the name of a company or product, a brochure, an annual report, a website, packaging, or a poster. The goal was the same. To gather as much information as possible and then visually tell that story in the most effective way possible.
Designers ≠ Marketers
In my early years as a designer, I had the opportunity to be on teams that created beautiful, emotive work. Most of the things we produced were one-off projects that had a start date and an end date. What happened after the project was produced couldn't really be changed. It just was. We went on to the next project. We always asked how things performed so we could learn and make things better next time, but we didn't track the actual result. Most of the time, we couldn't. How do you track the effectiveness of an annual report design?
I feel there is a communication breakdown between designers and the client who is usually a marketer or an executive of some kind. The client will ask the designer to produce a website, for example, expecting that designer to think like a marketer and make sure the call-to-actions (CTAs) are clear, the copy says all the things it should, the right lead offer is being presented prominently on the site, there are adequate lead forms, etc.
I’m sorry to break it to you, but a designer will not usually be thinking about all of these things. Don’t get me wrong, some will. But, remember, they did not get a degree in marketing. They are designers.
I’ll illustrate the difference quickly for you. The designer will make sure your CTA looks beautiful and is on brand while the marketer wants the CTA to take up half the computer screen and use the right keywords.
The goal of the graphic designer
The goal of the designer is to make the company noticeable and elevate their overall image in the marketplace. The elements they produce may be used by the marketers in campaigns and promotions. They are a visual-thinking problem solver and communicator. People approach a designer with a communication challenge and they (the designer) are expected to achieve a specific creative outcome.
Marketers ≠ Designers
On the other side of the coin are the marketers. They went to school for marketing. They did not go to school for graphic design (usually). They are thinking about the next campaign, the next lead, the next offer to get someone to engage with a salesperson.
In our years as graphic designers, we’ve produced countless pieces of collateral (both digital and print) for various initiatives. I’d have to say, in the last 8-10 years, I’ve learned a lot about the marketing world. Mostly because I felt I wanted to serve my clients beyond the “project” and actually execute campaigns for them as well.
Here's the problem I see
I’ll be honest. I’ve seen horrible, careless, unprofessional design coming from marketers. If that’s the snooty, pretentious graphic designer in me speaking, then so be it. I don’t think it’s their fault, entirely. I mean, hey, everyone has Photoshop, or iMovie, or WordPress! Plus, they can use things like Canva (I love Canva by the way) or numerous other programs out there that “design” things for them. Then, there are a ton of stock photo sites that are super cheap where they can get inexpensive photography or movie clips!
Companies have begun to settle for horrible, careless, unprofessional design because design has become something that is readily accessible to everyone. If your 12-year-old daughter can do it, why should you pay someone? If you can get a logo created for you overseas for $50, why should you pay an actual design firm $5,000 (Not all logos cost $5k, I’m just throwing a number out there)?
Companies settle for horrible, careless, unprofessional design because they need a website, logo, and leads NOW! So, they hire a “digital marketing agency” that specializes in SEO (search engine optimization) and pay-per-click advertising because they are the one that will get them leads. This company just so happens to create super quick websites as well because, you know, they need that to do their job. And you know what? They’ll even do a logo for you because you can always change that later, right?
They are doing all of this at the expense of your brand. Their (the digital marketing agency's) first concern is getting you the leads they said they would get you. At any cost! Hurry! Grab a quick stock photo that has been used a million times of someone shaking hands, and put some text on it that uses the word "innovative", and just launch the thing!
Actual design, strategic design, thoughtful design takes a little time. It takes planning. In the day and age of fast ideas, fast products, fast posts, fast shipping, etc. who has time for strategic, thoughtful design?
Answer: Strategic, thoughtful companies.
Being "strategic" and "thoughtful" doesn't mean it has to take a year and cost $100,000. Being "strategic" and "thoughtful" means being intentional. It means caring. It means committing to something for the long term. That whole weekend fling idea is for college, not your company.
I feel that I'm the bridge. I'm a trained designer. I've worked as a graphic designer for almost two decades. I get it. But, for the past 10 years, I've also worked as a marketer.
I've come to understand my strengths. I get both worlds. I can be that bridge that creates beautiful, thoughtful, strategic design work that still drives leads and gets results.
Don't settle for less than what you deserve. Don't compromise great design for leads and sales. At the same time, don't compromise leads and sales for great design.
You deserve to have both.
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