Guide to Design: Specifics of the Design Career

by Frederick H. Carlson
Guide to Design: Specifics of the Design Career

The designers' work products and delivery methods, office environments, client relationships, and future rewards and expectations will vary immensely depending on discipline, specialty, where they locate, and how successfully they market themselves as independent designers -- if they choose that route.


Work products can involve presentation sketches, brainstorming summaries, computer printouts and project status updates, models, and even final designs that are printed, produced, and test-marketed. Working office environments will continue to demand efficiency of process, with clear thought and superior internal and client communication often the major factor in getting a project successfully completed on deadline.

More comprehensive and cheaper digital output offers new ways to integrate quality into product and print. Clients may want the design presentations to be conducted in their company environments, necessitating well-planned and portable ways to present data and visuals. The working environment of the designer may be where the client wishes to come and be provided the latest information and status reports.

Designers make decisions all the time about whether to keep some tasks "in-house", using their own salaried talent, or "farm-out" specific subtasks to independent contractors -- such as writers, concept artists, service bureaus, or presentation and layout designers.

The ability to sketch and communicate ideas verbally helps both the internal function and the presentation function of any successful design relationship, and computers are not the answer to everything in this most human of service industries.

Work Environment

While many designers work in small or solo situations that often include a home studio, it is more common for offices to be constructed around working teams of designers with different roles within the project matrix.

Some design professionals (principals, owners, and the most experienced practitioners within the firms) often specialize in sales (generating new clients) and account management (serving the existing clientele). These designers may have their business day totally involved with travel, meetings, phone calls, and project supervision. This leaves the process and presentation end totally up to younger designers and those who get their job satisfaction from the pure process of design, information analysis, and search for aesthetic quality.

The resulting 2-D or 3-D products are tested and utilized in the marketplace, and serve their clients' audiences and users rather then the creators.

Successful design yields further contracts, and failures tend to make clients look elsewhere for their creative development. It is also common for many parallel projects to wind through a design firm at the same time, so it's important for every designer to be organized, to help the business run efficiently.

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