What kind of designer are you?

What kind of designer are you?

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Money, Awards, People

If you want to be a well-paid designer, please the client.
If you want to be an award-winning designer, please yourself.
If you want to be a great designer, please the audience.

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~Unknown (Know the original author? Please let me know.)

What kind of designer are you? Join the conversation.

89 thoughts on “What kind of designer are you?”

  1. Think it depends on the project/client you are working on/with. There are certain things it is so much easier to just to what the client wants and there are others where it is better to do what you and the audience want. It is a give and take sorta thing.

  2. Prigix,
    That’s a good point Prigix, I think a lot of designers will go through each stage in their career, though I don’t think many would design ‘just’ for awards, well not the ones I know.

    Ryan, Kim
    Another good point, finding a balance between each would be a good strategy, though I think when working for clients, a lot of it is going to come down to their final decision which makes it difficult to do balance all three. I think if you can design for the audience, it will be easier to convince the client that your design solves their problem… from there you could then go & win the awards. What do you think?

  3. I agree with you, Jacob!
    Clients usually stick with their personal opinions.
    I think I would go for please the audience.

    Although this blog is the shortest I’ve ever seen, but it can bring a long discussion..

  4. I’m a student right now and when i design i’m trying to please my lecturers.. and students i guess.. their is no money in it for us at this stage. I think pleasing the audience or being an award wining designer will help students get recognised, and then they can make money.

  5. @Sonny,

    If you think winning awards and recognition goes hand and hand with making money as a designer I think you’ll be surprised. I’ve actually seen quite a few designers that I’d consider average or below average, but they do very well because they are efficient, please their clients.

    Also, keep in mind that your goals are different depending on if you work for yourself, a design shop, or a an inhouse design department.

  6. Mahmoud,
    In saying that, it’s also our job to communicate why our designs solve their needs, rather than their wants. And yes, the post was short to promote discussion.

    Sonny, Vin
    Pleasing the client is certainly going to be a major part in most jobs however like Vin touched on, it depends on what your goals are.

  7. I agree with pridix, that every designer (at least I am currently) going through these stages. It’s a matter of finding out who you really are and what you want to do. Try a few niche’s or target markets and grow. I think generally, all designers should be all three in a sense.

  8. Well when you do good job for your client you get all of 3:
    Client say “Good job!” – it’s your reward, that would mean you pleased him and you get paid for your work! :o)

  9. Looks I didn’t understand it well :p
    I missed to please the audience, what would be my primary goal.

  10. If you want to attain #2 and #3, start with #1 so you can get the chance.

    A resurgent interest in Caravaggio has brought a lot of his personal history to light in recent headlines. His most celebrated masterpieces were created later in his short career after he paid his dues taking personal commissions. It’s no different today. Work hard and then you’ll get the chance to do great work. Luck is being ready for opportunity when it knocks on the door!

  11. I think you should try to always please yourself to get the strong feeling you’re doing it your way.
    But, as some great artists in the past have demonstrated, before you break the rules and really do it only for your personal pleasure, you have to know those rules very well and be aware of your own capabilities (and this means you have to cope with difficult teachers and difficult clients and so on)

  12. Right now I am at the stage where I want to please the clients as I am trying to build a stronger client circle but I hope to stop worrying about that in a couple of years and start concentrating just on pleasing the audience and hoping that the rest follows from there. Like you said Jacob, pleasing the audience can lead to ultimately pleasing the client because the clients too wants to please their audience. Once I am a very experienced designer, I would just like to design what I think is most effective and hopefully win some awards, but that’s going to take a lot more time and hard work. The key is to never give up. 🙂

  13. well, probably a designer goes through all these stages. As a student you want to win awards, then you start working for the money until you get to that point, the “nirvana”, when design just flows right through you.

    Or at least that’s what I hope I will accomplish someday.

  14. I think the key is to be able to juggle all three aspects of pleasing the client, yourself and the audience. Most of the time you won’t achieve all 3, but it’s also about knowing how to get to that balance where everyone is happy.

  15. Definitely Jacob, I think there is a step with all 3 of these phases that creates the best overall designer.

    Pleasing the audience, will allow you to please the client, which in turn could boost the trust factor from the client so that you can please yourself to win the awards…

  16. It’s a tough one to call. At the moment I’m working for an agency, and I always try to only send out the best work I can do. It’s often the clients that degrade their own work with unpleasant changes and demands. 🙁

    If I took something on Freelance I’d be a lot more fussy about who I did the work for, and the quality of the product I was putting out there when it’s my own name associated with it.

  17. Who am i? um.. currently I’m trying to make some impression in the design industry. So what i like is the 3rd one. Impress the audience. But at the end i need money to live myself. So i need to satisfy the client also. hm.. awards? haven’t think that so far… I posted my logo to LogoOfTheDay.com but still no positive reply. So no awards YET. So 3rd and 1st going through on me. 🙂

    Thanks Jacob
    For another good and different type post.

  18. I think a professional designer will be able to convince the client that they need to please the audience and be happy in accomplishing this.

    By separating the three, one becomes underpaid, unsatisfied, or useless.

  19. I would love to say that I design for the audience on all of my projects but I don’t know if I can. Being a student I think that I am too distracted to do an honest job of that. My class mates and I will learn something nifty in one of our classes and then it will pop up in a lot of our work, which means that we aren’t always designing for the client but we are doing what we think is cool or “hip” to us at that particular time.

  20. I design mostly for myself right now, but I’m no award winner. Could be I’m not as competitive as would benefit me at the moment. 😉 Mostly because I come from an animation background I lack a lot of confidence in my skills. Give me a logo and I can animate it, make it “fly” or otherwise do similar work. However I’ve had to work from the bottom up, so lack a lot of confidence in my skills. As webdesign moves closer to graphic design ideals because the coding can now support such designs better, I find myself more and more outclassed. o.O

    So I design for myself, my friends, for volunteer work, and hopefully learn something along the way. 🙂

  21. I think a lot of us, myself included, prefer to be a combination of the three. It’s just a matter of finding that middle ground we can compromise on.

  22. I think I would also try to balance pleasing myself, the audience, and the client, in that order. I would not show anything to the client unless I am happy with it first.

    Now, I tend to think that if a client has any good sense, they will want to please their audience (unless they are the only audience).

    Most of the time, the goal of a solution is to evoke some kind of response from someone else. I think if you aim to please that audience, then the work should be successful, and that will please the client.

    It helps to make sure your client is the type that trusts you to be the designer. To me, having a client who trusts me, and appreciates what I do, is way more attractive and greater motivation than some award.

  23. Hi Jacob,

    Even though I wish to be all the three, I’m the kind of designer who needs to please himself 🙂

    What kind are you?

    – Eddie Gear

  24. I’m a designer and i want first to please myself, cuz then surely the client will be happy with the end result. although it’s hard to censor yourself all the time

  25. I guess pleasing audience is a derivative from the please yourself though of a large scope. All those logos lists which are found here and there online are a proof of that. Most designers like to be there, like to be interviewed, like to be public. For some it does lead to new work, for some it’s enough. And they find it sufficient. And it often happens that some of those are not great designers, but more successful marketers. I guess you also know design people with great blogs, steady profit and Internet recognition but who turn from actually designers into what I would call design evangelists:) Which is also great since someone has to be. The point is – can those be called Great Designers?

  26. Definitly all 3. It’s the beauty of being able to work to live, being creative, and be able to make design functional.

  27. Definitely all three, I think in order to be the all around designer. I work to pay the bills, be creative for outside projects, and aim to please to make design functional. I’m fortunate to have a little of all three. A lot of times you have the creative juices flowing, but the client/employer just wants it done, so you have to take the creativity out on another project. I think its great exercise.

  28. What about the newbie crowdsourced designers? Are they designing for money or for the award of getting first prize + potential clients…or..all I guess?

    I only design for contests when I know I’ll win. Otherwise I think you and your client should be mutually pleased with the result. And if it gets some recognition, well hey..then that’s awesome.

  29. I want to be a designer that please the client and their audience. But never really had the chance to do that..

  30. first to please the audience, after that the client and in the end to please meself. not really into awards 🙂

  31. “If you want to be a great designer, please the audience.”

    What kind of audience are we speaking about here?
    If we are referring to anyone seeing your design? and your design is made to “advertise” a product, and you succeeded to please the “target” audience then this is exactly what graphic design & advertising are all about,
    without the audience there would be no clients and without the clients there would be no advertising, it’s a loop. So if you pleased the audience you’d probably please the client as well..

    But I definitely will never deny that sometimes pleasing both audience and clients never bring alone self satisfaction about your own work.

    “If you want to be an award-winning designer, please yourself.”

    Award winning designs does not usually please or even understood by the audience, at this time it did not achieve its target in advertising, but you will be pleasing yourself and other designer (usually). It’s more to call artwork than advertising .. And seriously , every designer should concern on that at some point of their career.

  32. Design is two of these things.
    please the audience & please the client.

    If you please the audience and not the client, then you have failed as a designer to explain and work with the client to reach a level of semi-mutual understanding.

    If you please the client and not the audience you have failed as a designer for not being able to confront or identify the issues that prevent the audience from being pleased.

    If you want to be an award-winning designer, please yourself.
    Sort of, but it should be “If you want to be an award-winning designer, design for other designers.” because they are the ones giving the awards.

    I personally design design for the users, myself and then client, in that order, unless the client is more organized than me, then i put him before me(I like it when that happens).

  33. I agree with Vin. I’m working for less then a year after graduation, but when I was a student we had real clients for our projects, and 2 times something very important happened.1st Ex.: the client founded an organization in memory of a young woman (a hero that was shot in Iraq), all of us did a lot of sketching for the logo, business stationery, newsletter, brochure, web site… and we had generally 2 big ideas. The client pick the one that was characteristic for him, in colors he liked, not the one that was closer to that woman’s personality/her activity. We didn’t like client’s idea, but (how we were taught) the client is your boss-so we satisfied the client. When everything was done, before sending it to the printing company the client said: “You were right, we accept your idea now—it about her, not about us, do as you said before…” So we did & changed everything. Now I’m glad this happened to me— I learned a very important lesson: before I take my pencil to sketch I have a list of questions prepared which includes: What is your goal/What do you want to express/Who it should represent/What the story behind of it/History…. Because if they were able to admit it later, that means that it could be done earlier— my fault was that I didn’t convince them right from the beginning with their own answers which they really need. Yes i did have some notes, but it turned out they weren’t enough…

  34. Generally for work, I would say I spend 2/3 research, thinking, and 1/3 drawing/designing. I always have pencils and paper with me (and camera of course), and I do a lot of notes, sketching, and just ideas on the paper. I hope I’ll have time to give all of them (ideas) life… I love symbolism, typography, but my passion is illustration. When I listen my client, I’m looking how he is dressed, how he talks, trying to catch moments when client’s eyes shine, sometimes i write down words that they repeat— all these helped me so far… Also I’m very open, simple and friendly with my clients.

  35. I am just still learning ,although I have been doing CAD for awhile. I been a landscape designer and doing construction designs. During 2008 business was slow, I was then asked to do place-mats for a restaurant and then some business cards. This is a cool field! Love the website!

  36. Thank you all for your opinions and feedback. I’ve been holding off on my own opinion to see what others had to say first. Personally, I strive to find the right solution in relation to what problem is presented by the client. I usually do not present designs that I am personally not happy with, so in most cases I guess it would be a balance between designing for the audience and myself which in turn will (hopefully) please the client. I never design for awards only, that’s just a bonus.

    I agree, there are many talented designers out there that are less outspoken, though like most industries if you can not market & present yourself well, it most likely will be a tougher road. I think interviews, showcases, galleries, etc are great ways to market yourself for free, to get your name out there though to become an evangelist, you generally have to be respected in some way or another or you wouldn’t really be one, wouldn’t you agree?

    I believe I pointed you in the direction on Twitter to my article ‘Pros & Cons of Spec Work‘. It summaries my views on the subject.

    I’ll let you know if we choose your submission for Logo Of The Day. You’re welcome, I’m also enjoying the discussion.

    I suppose we could analyse each part of the quote as there are no real definitions provided, though in a general sense, yes it could be considered a ‘loop’ as you’ve suggested. Thanks for your feedback.

    A nice point about separating the three, I suppose that’s where ‘art’ enters the equation… designing for oneself or the needs of another. Underpaid, unsatisfied or useless? No thanks.

    A lesson learned indeed. Personally, when I present a design to a client, I don’t ask the question ‘What do you think?’ but rather ‘How do you think your target audience would react to this design?’. Another solid point is having a solid to start with. Thanks for sharing your experiences Olesea.

    Never thought about it like this: “If you want to be an award-winning designer, design for other designers.” Interesting point as the judges are usually designers. I seem to have the same opinion as you regarding the order of things, as seen at the top of this comment. Thanks for your input.

  37. As a designer, you almost definitely went into the line to make money (unless if you are a hipster artist…)
    But yes, you are also here for self-pleasing purposes.

    So I guess a combination of well-paid and winning awards.

  38. Hi Jacob,

    The other day i had a conversation with my husband, who is a graphic designer.
    I asked him why don’t you show the world what you do?. We both work together and have a graphic firm in MD. I am the sales person, and he is the back stage, creative person,,, extremely intelligent (in my opinion). We always kind of argue why he doesn’t like to show up his work,,, actually i am the one who bright i guess because him…he always says, i don’t do things to show the world how good or smart i am, i do things to please my self (very deep inside).
    However, he tough me to tell our clients that design is not to please the designer, no even the client, but their target, something that works…
    It’s kind of hard to explain…

  39. Prigix nailed it on the head. Being a designer, as in anything, is a growing and evolving process.

    That being said I’d say I’m transitioning from pleasing the client to pleasing myself.

    I’m hoping the transition is a quick one but am willing to do the work!

  40. Hey,

    We´ve to understand the design as oriented work for the people needs. We create solution for them helped on Methodology, creative process, etc, that´s what matter to the designer.

    If you do Design it always be for the people…!

    Designi1 vote = for the people!

  41. Sarah,

    I think that is a great analogy because it really emphasizes the importance of getting to know the client’s heart and mind a bit before just jumping on the project, because they can be more connected than they might seem.

    Its like what someone posted earlier– that they listen to what is repeated by the client, what lights them up, etc.. I am in a stage now of learning to pay better attention to the person, get more understanding from them at the beginning, and then approach the design.

  42. So far in my (short) career- pleasing the client and myself at the same time has never happened. But that’s not what clients are for, you can take on any number of personal projects to please yourself. It’s always about the client- who in turn has an audience somewhere, who might be impressed with your design. All you can do is hope to be recognized in that sense though. In the end it’s all about the other party. You’re job is to please others. Clients/audience. And one out of two isn’t bad, besides. You could always design yourself a pretty little award. 😉

  43. Listening, questioning and creative thinking all count. The result, (if you are talented) is great design.

    It’s like buying a present for a good friend, when you know them and what they like and how they tick, you can then make a considered purchase.
    You have the ability to make them laugh, cry and wow them all at the same time.

  44. Interesting. I never thought of it that way. I like to get paid but I also want to be a great designer. I guess there is balance in everything.

  45. I am just starting out in this game, I am a first year design student in Perth, Western Australia (although I am in my late 40’s). As much as I would like to make some sort of decent money as a designer I would very much like to stick to my own aesthetic, stay true to who I am as an artist.

  46. I finished Engineering in Electrical and Electronic, But i have more interest in designing. I learned Photoshop, Illustrator.

    I did know my stage, but i believe designer good and i always try inspire all by my design.

  47. I do agree with being able to strike a balance between all 3. However, design in my opinion is relative in terms of who your overall target is – you, your client or the audience.

    Designing alone from an aesthetic point of view may not always work. All designs need to serve a purpose if in the market. In which case it becomes important for it to please the audience. Once you have that covered you will have a happy client and even followed by the awards.

    Great discussion Jacob! Thanks for a short post 🙂

  48. In my case I consider myself a Commercial Designer… in Central America we ALWAYS please the client (and we’re NOT well-paid!) and the client it’s always rigth, Advertising Agencies here are not interested in creativity or awards, everything it’s about the money… and if you are a freelancer it’s even worst, everybody try to pay you less. Award winning campaigns are measured between a bunch of mediocre submits or remakes of succesful ones.

    Am I an angry designer? NO I’m a survivor of our system trying to do the best I can (if the client likes it!!) Take a look in my portfolio and please let me know what kind of designer do you think am I?


  49. You can’t please all of the people all of the time! The best would be to be paid to design what you what, how you want and have the client LOVE it no matter what!

  50. I am the “ENVIOUS DESIGNER” yes! The type of designer that just envies all of the successful designer like Jacob and some of you here… oh well, one day I’ll be successful too!!! 🙂

  51. If you try to please audience for achieve to being well-paid, you should do everything your client want. after a while you will lost your art taste and skill, because the clients change you.
    If you want to be a award-winner, you have to be poor artist.

  52. Well i belive it all depends on the client, cause they SHOULD look forward is to please their audience, that would make pleasing the client and pleasing the audience the same thing. And if you really know what it is to be a designer by pleasing them both you’ll be pleasing yourself.
    Anyways i haven’t work with a client that thinks that way, are there any?

  53. A great designer i guess 😉

    I feel the overall aim of designer and client is to please the audience.

  54. i think were gone get through of all those stage..but in the end, from my point of view we’re gonna be a well-paid kind of designer.

  55. Designer are Artist,True Artish cant be Businessman, I think there is no options of designers ..its only one ..they shoild be Artist..

  56. Although I am a newby to this, there were a few posts closer to the top that got me thinking about it. I feel that in order to be a great designer you should at least aim to please everyone but of course if you are new to the business world of design like I am you need to be willing to work for no money in order to show interest and your love for design. once the world/employer/audience has respect for you, your work and your love of design that automatically becomes pleasing to the audience. and lets face it.. if you’re not pleased with yourself in the first place for being a designer. then why be one? I can’t explain why I wanted to be a designer. it was like I was born to do it.. and nothing else draws me in more than a clean peice of typography or a simple grid design on a logo. its like DNA to me. haha. thats just my thought on the topic.

  57. I guess I’m more of a newbie in graphic design.
    Lately I aim for clients satisfaction because I’m short for cash, I’ts been hard working in moscow, russia lately

  58. Actually we could never be sure of whom are we going to impress before doing something. We never know what our idea gives us in the end, Appreciation, Satisfaction or Money. Do You Really Think You cud classify your self in this parameter ? Well I dont think so. You just need to follow what is happening try to do best.

    rest all happens in the end. And we come to know what we have done when we see the reactions of people.

  59. Am not a qualified designer, neither a successful hobbyist, but i’m still passionate in learning to become one but none of the category i would like to fall in.

    Becoming a designer whom influence and add values to others are more challenging and fruitful i guess. I think i would like to become a designer like that.

    Well, just in case i can’t become a designer like that, i would like to become at least – an individual just like that.

    (who knows? when there’s a vision, there will be a mission to guide us there right?)

  60. Hi Jacob,

    I work for excellence as a designer.
    not to praise a client,
    not to praise the audience,
    & not to even praise myself.

    As according to me if i work for excellence i think i would be well paid, would be a great designer too,
    and who knows i can win a award !

  61. You can probably tell which kind I consider myself to be! I’m all for skill, craftsmanship, even artistry; but my approach to game design is thoroughly player-centric. There’s an important balance to be struck between indulging your own creative desires and building purely for the player; but far too often I think we err on the side of the former. I want the players, as many of them as possible, to enjoy my game. I know that you can’t please everyone, and games that try to do so by throwing in everything but the kitchen sink end up as a mess. Nevertheless, a harmonious, attractive, well-crafted design usually has a broad appeal, and that’s what I strive for.

  62. Hmmm, a dilemma… I think each has a lifecycle as normally one is more important than the other to the designer at a given time. Also, as mentioned in some comments here it depends on the client, their project and the audience, and these factors can dictate the above avenues which you go down. I’d like to be a designer that is admired by my peers, I suppose if fellow (good) designers admire/talk about my work than over time my work will bring me money, land me awards and I’ll be acknowledged as a great designer… I don’t know if doing the whole 3 at once is possible (?) but I think you should always be bettering yourself in whatever avenue you choose, only then will you be on the path of greatness

  63. I am more often the client than the designer. I try to keep my opinions to myself until the designer is done. Clients have to trust the professional opinion of their designers.

  64. I concur with Kim Smith comment… The emphasis on all three aspects is the idol, but many designers only achieve 2 out of 3.

  65. If you think winning awards and recognition goes hand and hand with making money as a designer I think you’ll be surprised. I’ve actually seen quite a few designers that I’d consider average or below average, but they do very well because they are efficient, please their clients.

    Also, keep in mind that your goals are different depending on if you work for yourself, a design shop, or a an inhouse design department.

  66. Becoming a designer whom influence and add values to others are more challenging and fruitful i guess. I think i would like to become a designer like that.

    Well, just in case i can’t become a designer like that, i would like to become at least – an individual just like that.

  67. Ultimately the goal is to gain an audience. Right? That is why you are being paid by the Client. They want more business so they are paying you so that you can help them find their Audience.

    In the game of marketing it is your job as the Designer to gain an Audience for the Client. If this occurs than you will have pleased yourself and the Client……….For often the audience doesn’t even realize they are an audience unless they are trained as a Marketer.

    Sure as an Artist you want to do Creative work…..Maybe? Artistic work? Edgy work?……..but with most of that type of work, well, you would be doing that for YOURSELF and not for a Client…….The Client usually has business NEEDS that must be met. It is your job as a Designer to help them get those needs met. Sometimes the Client doesn’t understand the Design process, but it is your job as a Designer to guide them through that process.

  68. I am Graphic designer since 1997.
    my opinion is when you do what you love to do all your life, you well be good at your designing and make good money, all in one (your job)
    Hilmi a graphic designer from Saudi arabia.

  69. I am fascinated with the silent voice of graphic design. It’s huge! It’s everywhere, leading us without our conciously acknowledging. One word written in 3 different faces could potentially take us 3 different directions! I’m fascinated with the psychology and the voice available thru design. Love a beautifully designed magazine!

  70. I think, first you should be a good designer. You should first complete your objective of design and then if you complete so then you will get through all three stages.

    So the important thing is to complete the main objective of design…

  71. I am so happy to see comments here. As I am a new designer, now I please only my boss. My boss is my customer. As I think KNOWING THE CUSTOMER’S NEED is very important to success as a designer.

  72. I always live my show case of my work plank (wight) to client because when they ask me I say I live it plank because the idea for them not me because I do what they need, not what I need.

  73. I mean in my comment Blank portfolio to client. Because they must fill it with their idea. And I do what client need.

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