There are plenty of things you don’t get taught at school or university. Students leave their graphic design education with a huge amount of knowledge and expertise still to discover. This isn’t a massive revelation, it’s true of many professions and simply a fact that young designers have to deal with; your education can’t teach you everything you need to know about the big bad reality of working as a graphic designer.
This isn’t a dig at the education system. There’s a huge amount that a good design course can teach you. Maybe you’re a bit of a whizz kid. Your ideas are brilliant and original. Your typography is top notch. Your mac skills are second to none. You’re well on your way to becoming the next big name and international acclaim is just around the corner. However, there’s one thing they never mention; no matter how great you are creatively, if you’re not a good salesperson, you’re going to have a hard time.
Coming up with brilliant creative ideas is our bread and butter, and if your ideas don’t stand up, neither will your work. But — it’s a big but and I cannot lie — if you can’t convince other people that your ideas are the best possible solution to the problem, chances are your work won’t see the light of day.
‘What’s the problem?’ You cry. ‘My ideas are mind-blowingly amazing. Surely it’s not going to take much for me to convince everyone of that!?’
This may well be the case but, regardless of how great the overall concept is, you’ll rarely be in a position to demonstrate to the client exactly how you see your idea working. Time constraints will often mean that you’ll be asking the client to take some form of a ‘visual leap’ and for them use their imagination to understand the potential brilliance of your work. This is where you need to become a salesperson. Being brilliant at concisely and articulately explaining exactly how and why the work is good is an essential part of a designers role, and one that needs to be practiced until perfection.
Even the best ideas need to work in the mind of the client, after all, they’re the one paying the money. Sometimes (but by no means always) they might not be a particularly visually-led person. There are plenty of people (designers included) who, by their own admission, struggle to visualise what the end result of a piece of design work might look like. If you can’t communicate to them in easy to understand words exactly what makes your work brilliant, you shouldn’t expect them to imagine it for themselves.
Selling in your work isn’t about convincing someone that something is great when it isn’t though. Bad ideas are bad no matter how you dress them up. Selling your work is about being able to talk about your ideas in a way that fills in the blanks and leaves no room for doubt.
Every piece of design work, be it a logo, website, poster or flyer, has to go through this process. Getting a great idea out of your head is one thing. Communicating it to a client in a way that allows them to trust you to take the idea further is another thing entirely. And it’s not easy.
Thanks for reading. We’d love to hear about your experiences in selling in ideas…
Phil & Tom