Do you want a designer or a waiter?

I just finished a huge design project last week and I’m in the middle of another one this week. This has me thinking a lot about the art and business of design. Over the next two weeks I’ll have a few posts targeted at designers, people who want to be designers and people who want to hire designers.

Today’s is targeted squarely at people considering hiring a designer. Something very important to consider is do you want a designer or a waiter? Most want a waiter but don’t know it.

What does a waiter do? Well his primary job is to keep you happy. He takes orders and brings exactly what you want. Who cares if what you ordered is going to taste horrible, that’s what you ordered. The waiter’s job is to get you in, make you happy and get the money. That’s it.

And that’s how a lot of designers function. They take your order, fill it and get paid. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t do this sometimes. It’s what’s known as easy money. Everyone leaves the table happy. Except the designer who just lost a piece of his soul.

So how is a real designer different? First he easily recognizes bad design when a client hands over the idea. Second, he has the spine to not produce what they ask for. There’s an art to this that I’ll write about later in the week, but the gist is you say, “No, this is horrible, here’s what would work better.” Only you do it in a nice way.

If you have the piece already designed and you think you can do it yourself, all you want is a waiter; someone to take the mock-up you did in Microsoft Publisher (or worse yet, Word) and turn it into print-ready files. But if your goal is the best looking piece possible and if you’re open to the idea that the person you hire might know best, hire a designer.

So are you the type that wants a designer or a waiter?

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