Designer at workAfter a number of years now spent working in the Graphic Design industry, the understanding that it takes a lot more than just great design skills to be a successful designer is more obvious to me than ever.

As designers, the years spent studying our craft are essential for us to build up our knowledge of the creative process. However, the emphasis that is put on just this element of design is not reflective of the job of a great designer. Being a really good designer requires a whole host of non-design related skills which, in my experience, are rarely highlighted through the education process.

As with many areas of business, people buy from people. Graphic Design is no different. You can have the most amazing idea but if you can’t communicate that idea with passion, clarity and confidence to your client, nothing will ever come of it and it will be just another idea that never quite made it. Learning to be a great communicator is essential for any successful designer.

A lot of creative people I know chose to get into Arts based industries because they were a) very creative but also b) believed they weren’t very ‘academic’. It is true that many people who go into Arts based areas can find subjects such as mathematics, language, and literature a challenge. But I believe to be a truly great designer, being able to communicate in both a written and verbal way are key tools in your arsenal.

A picture isn’t always worth a thousand words…

Quite often smaller design agencies may not employ copywriters or expect their designers to manage projects themselves. The designer therefore has to wear many different hats. They must communicate with the client both verbally and in written form as contact reports and emails are essential part of agency life. They may be expected to understand or produce costings or estimates. They will more than likely be expected to proof read and check documents before going to print or write corporate guidelines for the logo that they’ve just designed. And if you decide to set up your own studio, understanding finances and writing tenders are just some of the things that will be asked of you along with many others.

Many people would be forgiven for thinking that the life of the designer simply involves marker pens, layout pads and shiny apple macs. And it does of course, they’re the good bits! However, in the very competitive world that is design, the more skills you have outside of what is required for just designing provides you with an even greater chance of succeeding.

The essence of this article is to try and get across the idea that even a fantastically creative designer can only achieve so much if they rely solely on their design skills. By developing these other elements, a designer can become more than just a designer – they can become a very valuable asset indeed.

JC