When I was a student in design school, I once did an assignment for a teacher who made us stand up and present our projects to the whole class. Now I’m not the best public presenter, and as a teenager in college, I was even worse.
After I struggled with my presentation, my teacher pulled me aside and said that the best ideas out of everyone in the class, but gave the worst presentation. I was too shy, and I did not inspire any confidence in my audience. My presentation had no “pop” so it was boring and forgettable. This earned me a disappointing grade.
As a professional designer, I have reinforced it time and time again that when it comes to ideas, it’s all about how you present them. A good presentation can compel people to take your ideas more seriously and value them more.
Dress Your Thoughts For Success
Here’s a sad but true fact: people are more likely to be interested in your work if you “dress it up” nicely. If something is presented poorly, it will be perceived that way, regardless of its actual value. If you are uncomfortable presenting your ideas and selling clients on them, take classes and read books on presentations and public speaking.
It may sound vague, but the effort you put into presenting your ideas and truly connecting with people is what makes the difference between an obscure designer and a superstar.
Also includes technical craftsmanship. Don’t cut corners. Spend the extra time to make your design as crisp and perfect as possible. I know people say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. But I say that the sloppy is the enemy of the great. When you were younger, your parents probably told you to “dress for success”. That’s true not only for your appearance, but for anything you create that you represent professionally.
Anything with your name on it carries the weight of your reputation on its back. Don’t unknowingly develop a reputation for shoddy, third-rate work.
You have to have a Gimmick
There is a classical music number in the 1962 film gypsy, about burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, in which young Rose is educated about the key to burlesque success by her fellow prostitute.
It’s obviously meant to be funny (and it is), but there’s a powerful marketing tactic embedded in the song: whatever you do, make sure it gets people’s attention, because if it doesn’t, you won’t make the sale.
Theatrics and flair count for a lot. We are visual creatures and we respond to the pretty, the flashy, and the attention grabbing. For example, a color photo will get more attention than a black and white photo (unless the black and white photo is the only one among several color photos), and a video will always get more attention than a still. image.
This is even more true today, when we are all bombarded with flashy, flashy ads and fast-moving media offers. It takes even more to get people’s attention these days, but that’s where your problem-solving design skills come in handy.
Using Your Sixth Sense
The more senses you can attract for your audience, the better your answer will be. Sight, sound, movement, color – whatever you can incorporate will create a holistic experience and engage the audience as much as possible.
Of course, this needs to be calibrated to the specific niche you’re designing for, but basic human psychology doesn’t change. People will definitely retain more information about your content the more experienced and interactive it will be.
Make it Count
Everything – and I mean everything – about your design project should tell a story, from the colors to the photography to every single word in your copy. If there is anything that is not adding to the story you want to tell, take it out immediately.
Again, it’s important to make sure your clients understand why the design choice is the right or wrong choice. The closer you are to the money, the easier this will be. It’s pretty easy to convince a client that your solution will help them get more customers, and therefore make more money.
Customer Service Counts
Excellent customer service can take a restaurant from average to great. In the culinary world, they say that presentation is three quarters of a meal. That means you are 75% more likely to enjoy a plate of food if it looks nice.
That sounds like a lot, but think about it: would you walk into a restaurant with spoiled greasy food sitting on the counter, and be full of confidence about whatever was about to serve you? Or maybe the food looks good, but the waiters are surly and inattentive, ignoring your questions or calls for service. Would that whet your appetite? I didn’t think so.
As a designer, “service” should always be at the forefront of your mind, even if you don’t think it’s part of your job description. You are serving your clients, and that includes the little details that make you stand out from your competition.
Thank you notes, extras and freebies, offers to help whenever you’re needed and adding value to your client will help keep you top of mind when they’re considering hiring or referring someone.