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The value of a designer

The value of a designer

There’s been a lot of discussion about value in architecture this last year or so. Particularly when it comes to interns, architectural trainees and staff pay but also with clients perceived value of architects work. Architects have long had an issue with how they value their services which has created all sorts of issues in recent years. I’ve already discussed a little on this subject in a post earlier this year titled Branding of Architecture.

I’ve recently been assessing my own brand identity and reworking it into something that feels more in line with my ethos, ideas and my clients. This process got me thinking about the value of brand design. It’s hard to know if people really understand what value I bring as a designer or if they just perceive brand design as “making it look good”.

I was listening to a Just Branding podcast interview with Scott Buschkuhl discussing branding and it’s value. Scott opens with branding being the emotional response humans have with a product/service a company provides and how that’s communicated. I think this is a great summary of what branding is but it does lead to more questions. Later in the interview Scott talks about a clients coming to Siegel & Gale wanting a website to drive traffic and increase sales but that might not be the solution to the clients needs. The website might be fine but it might be how they’re using their messaging, engagement or visual language. This working out what the real problem is and coming up with a solution is the real value of a designer.

Within architectural school one of the lessons learnt was to always question the brief. This investigation as to who the client is, who the audience is, what are the needs of the audience, the function and position within society is the foundations of the end result. It’s what can make a building fail or make it incredible. And it’s the same with graphic design. The value of a designer comes from the ability to expand the brief and work out the true needs and a solution to that.

The initial stages are the most important with a design project. Having an open discussion about the brief and not being afraid to change or adapt the initial solution helps build a successful project. This investigation needs to be supported by a holistic design approach that doesn’t just think about the initial reaction but considers the long term strategy.

The value of a designer is their ability to assess a brief and provide an honest solution that focuses on the clients needs.

Our old brand was created back in 2017 when asdesign was first set up with the idea to create a freelance business dedicated to the construction sector. However back when I started asdesign I admit I certainly didn’t know much about the business side of things. Over the next few years of learning, listening and certainly making mistakes, the business changed. The working processes, ethos and what asdesign was about developed from a naive vision to a company I feel very passionate about, but the visual identity stayed the same. With the identity not telling the right story and the pandemic slowing everything down providing space to think, it was time to reassess and change.
An interesting article was written by Max Ottignon, Ragged Edge, back in September 2020. It discussed the idea that the industry of branding failed in it’s main role to communicate it’s own meaning. This is certainly true to an extent. It is also true for many professions that fall under the term “creative”. One that suffers, probably a little more than most, is architecture.
In this current situation of businesses on hold, lockdown and social distancing, for most people work is understandably quiet. The upside is that I now have the time to reflect and finally get through some of the books that have been on my reading list for a while. This has allowed me to question my business as a freelance designer and screen printer. My thinking always came back to “why do I want to design” and “why do I want to run my own business”. I thought I’d share some insights into this process as it might help my clients and other small businesses in this quiet period.
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