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How to
Succeed as a
Revised Second Edition

How to
Succeed as a
Revised Second Edition

Written by Mario Godbout

Contributing Editor Stephen J. Hards
About the Author
For the past 25 years, the name Mario Godbout has been
associated with the most prestigious graphic design projects
and communication campaigns in Canadas National Capital
Region. Within MGD Branding + Design (Mario Godbout Design),
which he founded in Gatineau in 1994, he served as president, art
director and designer for a clientele that covers three main sectors
of activity: arts and culture, private and organizations and public.
Mario Godbout has won awards in the most prestigious graphic
design competitions in North America. Some of his creations have
been published in graphic design books in Canada, Germany,
the United States and Japan, as well as in the most important
international design trade magazines like Communication Arts,
Graphis, How, Print and Applied Arts. Mario has been a member
of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) since
1996, and the Type Directors Club (TDC) of New York since 1997.

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How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer Revised Second Edition

Published and distributed by
Designers Insights, a division of MGD Inc. (
68 Katimavik, Val-des-Monts, Quebec J8N 5E1 Canada

Copyright 2016 Designers Insights. All rights reserved worldwide.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted

in any form or by any meanselectronic, mechanical, digital photocopy, recording, or any
other without the prior permission of the author and publisher.

ISBN 978-0-9879987-1-2

Typeset in Adobe Garamond Roman 12/16pt. and Helvetica Neue 45 Light 9.5/14pt.
Design is everything. Everything. Paul Rand
Designers Insights


Foreword 13
About Designers Insights 15
Preface 18

Introduction 26
How to Increase Your Value 29
Sharing the Dream 31
Create the Right Career Path 32

Chapter 1
Getting Started 35
Understanding Our Past to Thrive In the Future 36
The First Macintosh Computer 38
The End of the Master Typographer 39
The Sudden Demise of the Film House 40
The Rise of the World Wide Web 41
The Downfall of the Photographer & Illustrator 42
The Fall of the Mighty Printing Industry 43

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Chapter 2
The Decline of the Graphic Design Industry 45
The Role of the Designer Is to Create Value 47
Our Industry Before the Millennium 48
The Dot-com Boom & Bust 49
Print Designers Versus Web Designers 50
The Self-Proclaimed Branding Gurus 51
The Downfall of the HTML Programmer 52
The Designing Client/Web Developer 53
The Ripple Effec On the Printing Industry 54
The Arrival of the Fast Food Branding Services 55
Developing Countries Want Their Piece of the Pie 56
Design Schools Need to Be Held Accountable 57

Chapter 3
Embracing Change for Tomorrow 59
An Industry Profoundly Transformed 61
Designing in Humanitys Most Creative Era 64
Passing the Knowledge to the Developing Designer 68
Professional Technical Advice for Today 69
What Your Environment Cannot Teach You 77

Designers Insights

Chapter 4
What You Will Never Learn in Design School 83
Understanding the Responsibilities of the Designer 88
Protecing Yourself from the Print Industry 88
With Big Risks Come Big Rewards 94
Contracing Outside Suppliers 96
The Benefits of Building Your Creative Network 99
The Master and the Apprentice 101

Chapter 5
Giving the New Generation of Designers a
Fighting Chance 104
What the Older Generation Is Lacking Is Vision 105
Teaching the New Generation Where Their
Value Comes From 107
If Only They Knew How Close They Came to
Succeeding 110
How Our Market Reaced to Our Changing
Industry 111
Finding that Perfec Niche Job 115

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Chapter 6
How to Create Value for Your Clients 119
A Proven Step-by-Step Method for Creating Value 121
Trends Come and Go 127
Study the True Masters 130
The Best Books and Trade Magazines 133
Professional Associations 135

Chapter 7
The World Wide Web Then and Now 140
Designing the Online Experience of Tomorrow 145
The Future of the Web is Responsive 148
Clients and the Social Media Phenomena 150

Chapter 8
An Introducion to Branding 153
What is Branding? 155
What Can You Brand? 157
Creating a Brand Experience 158
Great Brands Affecs Everything 161

Designers Insights

Chapter 9
Design Integration Finally Explained 164
Creating a Visual Identity System 165
How to Apply a Visual ID Systems to Serve
Your Clients Growing Needs 169
Creating Graphic Standards Manuals 174

Chapter 10
Three Basic Skills You Must Master 177
Skill One 179
Skill Two 180
Skill Three 182
The Payoff 184

Chapter 11
Visualizationthe Secret of Creativity 187
The Art of Visualizing 189
The Key to Visualizing Is Focus 193
Creating Is a Discipline 194
Training Your Mind to Be in the Zone 196
How Your Brain Works 198
Knowledge Is Inspiration 199

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Chapter 12
Your Job Is Providing Service 202
Sizing Up the Client 206
What a Satisfied Client Can Do for You 210
The Designer/Client Relationship 213

Chapter 13
A Word of Advise for the Junior Designer 216
Bring your A Game Every Day 217
The Client Expecs Perfecion 219
Follow Studio Procedures 221
Your Earning Power: Expecations Versus Reality 222
The Sophie Story 226
The Bob Story 233
The Danny Story 237
The Jim Story 242

Chapter 14
Assessing your Strengths and Weaknesses 248
Graphic Designa Highly-Competitive Profession 251
Know What the Boss Wants and Needs 256
What is Expeced of the Junior Designer 258
Growing as an Intermediate Designer 260

Designers Insights

The Responsibilities of the Senior Designer 263

Understand What Makes a Successful Design Firm 265
Leaving Clients with the Feeling of Increase 268
Employability Is Your Only Job Security 267
Find a MentorSucceed Faster 270
You Are the Sum of Your Connecions 272

Chapter 15
The Positive Effecs of Optimism 274
Creating a Winning Attitude 276
The Razors Edge 281

Chapter 16
Changethe New Beginning 285
Building Your Plan 288

Conclusion 292

Key Moments in Graphic Design History 317

Visit 320

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer


Designers Insights invited veteran graphic designer Mario

Godbout, to write this book as an opportunity to speak his
mind about experiencing graphic design as a career. We know
his enthusiasm, for the profession he loves, can help give a
positive direction and provide hope for young designers, both
today and tomorrow, to achieve personal success.

Mario has achieved considerable success of his own, practicing

as a professional, award-winning graphic designer in Canadas
National Capital Region over the past 25 years. He first studied
Fine Arts at university and then changed direction, and sub-
sequently graduated from the graphic design program at a
community college. From initially working for a progressive
graphic design group in the 1980s, he quickly moved forward
to create and found his own design agency in the early 90s,
which continues to be active in the marketplace.

During this lengthy period, Mario has experienced both good

times and bad. As the graphic design industry changed dra-
matically in recent years, he quietly witnessed the decline in the
quality of design work being produced, which the industry had
worked so hard to establish high standards for. This decline in
quality troubled him.

As a creative person, he explored and tried other ways to hang

in there as the workplace changed, where others threw up
their hands in defeat. The design community lost agencies and
suppliers as well, as the printing industry also suffered from the

Designers Insights

same changes, with many closing their doors. But Mario has
relented and feels that now is the time to set the record straight.
That there is still an important need for the graphic designer in
todays volatile communications and design environments.

Mario understands that todays new generation of designers

are different. Their open attitude, media awareness and accep-
tance of new technologies has changed both the playing field
and the graphic design game itself. He realizes their developing
talents, knowledge and skills can benefit from his guidance, to
help steer their career course.... and that he wants to provide
that positive support.

As a seasoned professional, Mario wanted to take this oppor-

tunity to illustrate how he was able to adapt to change, so the
designers of tomorrow can follow a path that is full of hope and
promise. He wants young designers to embrace this super
creative era we are living in, where ideas and creative thinking
can break the rules and explore new exciting ways of delivering
visual messaging. To not be pessimistic, but optimistic about
the future.

This book is from an industry insiders unique perspective.

Marios diverse knowledge and business expertise is given
with enthusiasm and hope. His meaningful content provides a
credibility that should stimulate and inspire young designers to
succeed... as he has done, for the past quarter century.

Stephen J. Hards

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer


We are a group of veteran design professionals with years of

experience and we call ourselves Designers Insights. The idea
behind creating a website and writing a book came from the fact
that we were noticing, over recent decades, a steady decline
in the quality of graphic design and we felt we needed to act
now. We think this is happening simply because fundamental
graphic design knowledge, which made our profession great in
the past and so in demand, is no longer being passed along to
todays new generation of designers. What we are witnessing
now is the steady decline of the graphic design industry.

Why? Well to begin with, graphic design fundamentals are no

longer being taught in design schools. Curriculums are out of
touch with what the marketplace desperately needs the ability
to communicate effectively and generate profits. Secondly,
conceptual design should always establish the framework and
guide all subsequent design decisions. The desperate use of
special effects or gimmicks like drop shadows, gradients and
transparency will never be a suitable replacement for a good
idea, which becomes the blueprint for your project. Thirdly, the
growth of new technologies fueled a competitive rivalry, dividing
print and web designers over the past two decades even
though our common goal has always been to communicate
clearly and effectively with whatever means available.

Today, we are all witness to this and some of us feel powerless,

faced with the growing competition offering fast-food design or
pre-designed templates online, which come either from domes-

Designers Insights

tic markets or developing countries. The sad result is that the

general public has been left with the impression that graphics
are nice, but have no real value. Many even think graphics are
free. Clients are mostly concerned about the cost of making
the mechanics work programming, printing, advertising and
distribution. Where have we failed them so miserably?

Well to begin with, the graphic designers primary job was

always to add value to a product, a service or an event by
making it known, desirable and by clearly communicating its
benefits thereby creating measurable profits for their clients.
By creating a real demand for our creative services, it will
inevitably raise designs real value once again and will greatly
benefit the whole graphic design community. We know this
can only be achieved by passing along proven and critical
on-the-job knowledge to the current generation of designers.
At Designers Insights we are going to teach you how to create
real measurable value for your creative services. We are going
to teach you how to become irreplaceable in the eyes of your
clients. We are going to teach you how to be successful for the
benefit of all.

Our objective with the DI website is to assist you, the profes-

sional graphic designer, in your day-to-day work. We have
gathered, in one complete collection, all the essential technical
knowledge you need to be more efficient, while feeding your
creativity. We also achieve this by showcasing the work of
todays top designers and by presenting uplifting thoughts and
inspirational quotes from design legends, given in the true spirit

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

of master to apprentice. Theres no other design site that com-

pares to DI anywhere on the web.

Our book, How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer, was written

with the objective of instantly adding twenty-five years of on-
the-job professional knowledge to any designer, regardless of
their experience or skill level something the website cannot
do. Our book gs into in-depth detail about the true business
of graphic design. This book is one-of-a-kind. There is no other
industry book like it anywhere. It was designed for the sole
purpose of helping you thrive and succeed in the very competi-
tive profession you have chosen, by giving you hard facts you
can use and by guiding you every step of the way. Imagine if
you could see yourself in twenty-five years, knowing what you
have learned during that time, how different your career would
be now. Our book will change your life.

Our mission at Designers Insights, will continue by sharing our

passion for design, by preserving high standards of graphic
design, by offering education and training, by providing profes-
sional knowledge along with up-to-date resources and last,
but most important... by inspiring you to succeed in ways you
may have only dreamed of.

Visit and leave feeling inspired and fully


Designers Insights


Why did I write this book? Why did I even think I could write a
book? Id never written anything before, except printing in-
structions. Well, the answer is simple, because Ive been there.
Because Ive walked in your shoes. Because I overcame great
struggles and Ive had great successes in my career. I wrote it,
because I know exactly how it feels. I know exactly how you feel
wherever you are at this time in your own graphic designers
career. Let me start by sharing my own story

Before graduating from high school, I was like most kids at that
age; I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was good
at only one thing. I was a good artist. My first mentor was my art
teacher. She said that I was destined to become a great artist,
that I really didnt have any other choice in the matter, and she
always offered me great moral support where there was none
from my family. She made the biggest positive impact on my life
at that time, and Im forever grateful to Rgine Mallet. The next
school year, I was torn between my family expectations and
what I felt I needed to do, so on the first day of school, at the last
possible minute, I gathered my courage and walked up the stairs
to the main office of the only French university in my province, and
enrolled in the Fine Arts Program. That was the best decision of
my life up until then. I just loved it! Drawing, sculpting, painting,
film making, animation, and working in these art studios all day,
sometimes all night, was extremely gratifying to me. But as a first
year student, when I looked at the artists doing their masters
degrees, I thought to myself, this is not what I want to do with
my life. I realized that the life of a fine-art artist was not for me.

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

It was a life of struggles and I have always had more of an en-

trepreneurial spirit, which came from my family background. I
expected so much more from my life, so I did the next best
thing, I moved to the big city, far away from home, to Ottawa,
our nations capital, and I took a two-year college course to
become a graphic designer.

When I graduated from college, I was extremely fortunate that

my last school placement was with one of the best creative firms
in town. Turquoise Design. My art director became my second
mentor and made the most positive impact on my entire career.
He was a very kind man, with exceptional creative abilities. I owe
Mark Timmings all the success Ive ever had as a graphic de-
signer, and as a business person. He made me the professional
I am today. He taught me everything he knew about great design,
how to serve clients, how to solve supplier, client, and project
crises effectively and swiftly, and how to always generate a
positive outcome from every negative situation. He introduced
me to the best clients in town and I started doing work for them.
These extraordinary clients became my regular clients, their
extraordinary projects became my projects, and all of this only
because they trusted Marks judgment. It had nothing to do with
me or my creative abilities. I was in my early twenties back then.
Sadly, after almost five years of working for the firm, Mark left
for Vancouver for personal reasons and the firm closed its shop.
Meanwhile, the firm still had great clients, and Mark offered to
keep me working with him on their projects, as a freelancer. I
quickly said yes and thats how Mario Godbout Design was
started. I was thrilled. I had always wanted to have my own busi-
ness and Mark, again, made it super simple for me. So from

Designers Insights

one day to the next, I went from intermediate designer to busi-

ness owner! Honestly, I had no idea of the amplitude of what I
had just done, but my ego liked it and I trusted Marks judgment
with my life!

After a year working out of my apartment, I rented the second

floor of a century-old brick commercial building for my growing
business. Originally the place was used as an old general store,
up until the mid-1900s, but now the first floor housed a Caf.
Everything in its interior was authentic; natural wood floors, old
and big Victorian molding, high pressed tin ceilings with huge
original windows all around. It was a very cool place you could
still feel the authenticity and history of the building. The caf was
a cultural center for artists. The walls were used as a gallery and
featured upcoming artists, and the place hosted many openings
and events. It had a mixed crowd of younger and older people
and professionals. People in suits, sitting next to an unemployed
artist, and everyone in between; it simply had a great creative

By then, my firm had started landing some pretty big, high-profile

clients and projects. Business was booming and I had three
designers working for me, plus I had built a really good network
of outside suppliers to complete my team. It was at the turn of
the millennium, when everyone thought the sky was really the
limit, and then, boom! The dot-com bubble burst, the high-tech
companies crashed, and a recession followed. As a young entre-
preneur, I was not at all prepared to deal with this. I mean, it had
nothing to do with how I was taught to deal with a crisis. This was
way bigger than me and my little problems of being a business

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

owner with a staff to provide for. Regardless of the slow econ-

omy, I managed to keep thriving, and a couple of years later, I
bought a century-old brick house of my own, renovated it and
turned the first floor into a graphic design studio, replicating
exactly the same creative environment I had loved when I was
working for my first firm. At that time, my firm grew to more than
seven employees.

During this period, I trained dozens of young designers for well

over a decade, exactly the same way I was taught by my art
director. Always doing my best to give them the same in-depth
knowledge and guidance I was given as a junior designer, which
made me successful for so many years, and made most of them
very successful too. In Chapter 13, I will share with you the per-
sonal stories of Sophie, Bob, Danny and Jim, so you can learn
first-hand from their successes and failures. But before you get
to chapter 13, let me share with you my own personal struggles
as a creative designer, not as a business owner, even though
business immensely affected the direction I took.

At first, I was like any young talented designer. I gladly believed

what they taught me in design school and worshiped at the
altar of the visual with all my designer friends. During my first
year and the years that followed, I started winning awards; lots
of design awards, local, national and international awards. My
head grew so big, I really thought I was going to become the
next super star of graphic design, and I gave it my best. Every
day, I would slave at the task of becoming the best of the best.
For a long time, winning awards was all that it took to get the
best clients and the best projects, up until I learned my biggest

Designers Insights

lesson as a designer. I wasnt really bringing real value for my

clients. Yes, I made them look amazing, and in return, it made them
look very smart, their projects went on to have great success, and
everybody had something to win from these collaborations. But
every time the economy slowed down, all I had to show for it was
a ton of awards, a great portfolio, and a growing staff I felt re-
sponsible for. I had no real knowledge of how to create value for
my clients, so they could, in turn, make measurable profits and
could attribute their new found success to me or my firm. My
clients at that time were in the arts and cultural sectors. I was
promoting cultural events, exhibitions, governor general awards,
prestigious projects, but I had almost no private sector business.
I left this to all the other design companies. I didnt care.

Well, during the past twenty years, our industry had many ups
and downs, mainly due to the economy, the recessions, gov-
ernment policies, followed by the next big thing and the constant
rise of new technologies, which profoundly transformed our in-
dustry in ways we couldnt even imagine back then. I wasnt
prepared for any of this. I was on a roll in my thirties, but then
reality struck, and struck hard. In order to keep my agency alive
and keep my valuable staff, I had to start working for more private
companies. What a shock that was. These guys couldnt care
less about my award winning designs of the past, and I quickly,
out of necessity, learned how to create value for their customers.
After ten years of doing it my way, I had to start listening to my
clients wants and needs, I mean really listen, if I was going to
survive. I needed to adapt, and adapt quickly. Then my whole
philosophy changed dramatically, I had to put my humongous
ego aside. I went completely in the opposite direction, and I

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

started making money for my clients. Creating real value for their
brand and offerings. I even stopped entering graphic design con-
tests entirely, right on the spot. I never entered another design
contest again, to this day. I needed this reality check. The result
was that it made my company very successful once again, and
for the next decade after.

The lesson to be learned here is obvious; by putting my ego

first I couldnt survive. The second lesson is that I had to adapt
quickly to the changing markets needs and wants. I had to
embrace new technologies and find new ways to make my clients
more profitable. A designers capacity to adapt to change, like a
chameleon, is what makes him successful. Being efficient from
the very beginning of a new project by meeting its requirements
head on, and our capacity to adapt quickly, is the key to our
growing success. Thats our greatest strength! It is by constantly
finding new ways of bringing more value to the market, that we
succeed. Ill pause here on this subject, because the next sixteen
chapters of this book are covering every aspect of How to suc-
ceed as a graphic designer. These sixteen chapters will teach
you how to become invaluable in the competitive profession you
have chosen, by applying proven professional design knowl-
edge that works for your clients.

My primary reason for writing this book is that I want to share

with you my twenty-five years of on-the-job designer knowledge,
so you can also look forward to having a long and successful
career. Secondly, during these past twenty-five years of being
in business, I went from working with the highest standards in
graphic design, winning all sorts of awards, to witnessing two

Designers Insights

decades of our industry becoming a shadow of its former self.

This steady decline of the graphic design industry has to stop.
By passing on this precious knowledge to the next generation
of designers, maybejust maybewe can all begin to make
our industry great again and in demand. Our profession needs
to become relevant to the world once more, because we are!
We hold a high responsibility within society, we are shaping its
culture! Thats the by-product of our role as graphic designers.

Thirdly, I also strongly believe that we need to start closing any

generation gap, between the older designers and the younger
generation, if we are to create the business ventures of tomor-
row. If our industry is to thrive again, it will be through cooperation
and learning from our past failures and successes as graphic
designers. By taking back our place within the whole commu-
nications industry, we will achieve our common goal. This book
will give you step-by-step methods which you can start using
right away in your day-to-day work to make you invaluable in
the eyes of your clients and employers. Ive been teaching young
designers for so many years and I sincerely wish this kind of
success for you.

At forty-seven years old, maybe my attempt to change our in-

dustry may seem futile, but applying the knowledge that made
this profession great is not! I guarantee that! This book was
written to begin an ongoing, one-on-one conversation with the
next generation of graphic designers. My careers continuing
success came from what I was taught by industry professionals
a long time ago, and I want to share this past, and my present,
knowledge with you, the current generation of designers, in the

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

true spirit of master to apprentice. This may feel like throwing a

rock in the ocean, but it is my sincere wish that its ripples will
reach you, wherever you are.

Mario Godbout, RGD

Designers Insights

Its art if cant be explained.
Its fashion if no one asks for an explanation.
Its design if it dsnt need explanation.
Wouter Stokkel

If youre reading this book, it is probably for one of two

reasons. You either have great ambitions, and are look-
ing to succeed in a big way, or youre disappointed with
where your design career has taken you and feel lost. As
a developing designer, youre probably asking yourself,
How am I going to survive and keep making a living as
a designer? I can hardly even recognize my industry any-
more! If youre just starting as a graphic designer, youre
probably asking yourself, Where do I fit in? Where do I
go from here if Im to have a long and fulfilling career as
a designer?

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

This book was written for the graduating designer, the

junior designer and the developing designer, who are
faced with the challenges of being todays generation of
graphic designers. We believe so strongly in the designers
insights provided in this book that it should become a
mandatory manual for all graphic design schools and their
graduating design students. To the seasoned designers,
it will give you the key missing ingredients to take your
career to the next level and put you right back on the path
of growth and success. This book was designed as a per-
sonal development tool and is a step-by-step guide to
develop the right mental attitude to succeed in this highly
competitive industry regardless of your age.

This book was written with objecive of instantly adding

twenty-five years of proven on-the-job professional know-
ledge to any designer, regardless of your present experience
or skill level. Imagine if you could step back and look at
your career and see yourself in twenty-five years, knowing
what you have learned during this time, how different
your career would be now. Our book will do just that;
it will change your life! Lets be clear. This publication
is about the true, sometimes ugly, business of graphic
design. We will give you the hard facs and show you the
profound transformations and challenges our industry
is still going through. Through our insights, teachings,

Designers Insights

and instrucion we will clearly show you how to become

invaluable and irreplaceable to potential employers, to
current clients and to the design industry. This is the
best job security of all. Our book will give the kind of
information you cant get from schools, colleagues or
your friends. This book is one-of a-kind.

Our mission at Designers Insights is to build up funda-

mental and advanced design knowledge to greatly enhance
your day-to-day workplace performance. It dsnt matter
if youre a junior designer fresh out of school, an inter-
mediate designer whos been on the job for a while, a senior
designer with years of experience, or even an art direcor.
All that matters is, if youre at a point in your career where
you feel you are lost, stagnating, have been left behind,
are feeling disappointed with your design career expec-
tations and wonder how you are ever going to find your
place in the design community then this book was
written for you. Our book will rapidly take you from
where you are to where you want to be.

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer


It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me

34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.
Paula Scher

Perhaps you already feel that you have tons of creative

talent, growing ambitions and are ready to conquer this
creative business and make a name for yourself. Or,
maybe you feel you are not that creative, that you have
limited talent and therefore feel less ambitious and
wonder how youre ever going to make it in this creative
business. Rest assured, youll soon discover in the next
chapters why its rarely the most creative designers that
have long lasting careers in design. That its all about
creating the right mental attitude you will need to develop
as a professional. Know that talent without persistence,
will, and desire vanishes quickly and even the most modest
talent with these characeristics can grow rapidly.

There can be several reasons for feeling frustrated or lost.

Perhaps you feel you have been short-changed after
spending all that time in college. Or possibly its about
being stuck in the same position for so long. Maybe youve
been changing companies regularly trying to find that
perfec fit for you without success. You may feel that

Designers Insights

youre struggling to have your work recognized by your

peers and colleagues. If youre still looking for what you
feel was promised to you and feel an overwhelming
need to move ahead and fulfill your dreams this book
will show you how and why this is happening to you.
We will show you why it is critical that seasoned designers
need to work hand in hand with the new generation and
why young designers need to embrace the older generation
to achieve their common goals. It is only by combining
their knowledge that they will create the new business
ventures of tomorrow.

This book will teach you how to improve your design

capabilities and make you relevant and valuable in todays
market. It will teach you that creativity is by definition a
muscle and well teach you how to grow it. We will teach
you the ins and outs of creating the winning client/
designer relationship and how easy it is to create new
connecions, but most important how to create your
own opportunities were you see none at the moment.
The resulting positive leap forward will lead you to better
paying positions and create a more satisfying, rewarding,
long-lasting career in any market, recession or business
climate. What we will share with you will provide you
with more than job security. Our insights will give you

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer


Stay hungry, say foolish. Steve Jobs

Weve all shared a similar dream. At one point in your life

you were excited about becoming a graphic designer.
What a great idea making a living doing what you love
to do. Maybe you wanted to become a designer because
you always enjoyed to draw or showed talent in visual arts.
Maybe you got into it because you have a keen sense of
design in general. Maybe its because youre a creative
person and reached a point were you needed a paying job.
Some of you probably thought it would be an exciting,
rewarding job doing design and learning the latest creative
software. Maybe it was simply the prospec of doing cre-
ative work for a living that got you all excited. After all,
being passionate about your work is what its all about.

Maybe what originally got you excited is that you heard

that designers make a good living, and the great ones are
capable of earning lots of money. Maybe its all about the
lifestyle. You picured yourself as a young urban profes-
sional. A rising design talent with the latest Mac laptop
and a great circle of agency friends. You thought it would
be awesome to work in a stimulating, creative environ-
ment with some great creative people and for some
of us that has become a reality.

Designers Insights

Do you often ask yourself: What about me? Why do I

feel like its just not happening for me at this time? Is it
that I lack creativity, imagination or fresh ideas? Do I
lack some technical skills? Or is it because I havent met
the right person who will help me develop my skills or
introduce me to new career opportunities? Is it because
I just havent found the right firm for me? Or is it just
the economy?

If you find yourself constantly asking these kind of

questions, this book has all the answers youre searching
for and should be your new starting point. Its your
opportunity to get you back on track and moving ahead!


Having guts always works out for me.

Stefan Sagmeister

Our objecive is to give you all the facs you need. It

may not always be pretty, but you will know everything
you need to know about this business. We will give you
the cold, hard facs. Some stuff you will not want to
hear, but need to. By the time youve finished reading
this book, we guarantee youre going to be pumped up

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

to succeed! You will gain all the key knowledge and

information that you need in order to create the right
career plan, step-by-step, how to put it in motion, and
find the right people to associate with. We will show you
how easy it is to create your own opportunities. But most
important, we will show you how to create a winning
attitude to meet these opportunities.

And finally, our intention at Designers Insights is to

encourage designers like you to associate more with the
graphic design community and make you realize that you
are not alone, that your acions in your daily pracice have
a profound affec on us all, on the whole design industry,
whether good or bad. That it is vital that we work to-
gether, sharing thoughts, ideas and knowledge, so we can
as a group, elevate the standards for high quality work-
manship as a professional community and find solutions
to common problems.

This book is one-of-a-kind. There is no other industry

book like it anywhere. We believe so strongly that its
unique content will provide you with invaluable advice
which you can start using right away and continue to use
throughout your career. This essential guide on How to
Succeed as a Graphic Designer is intended to help you
develop a winning edge. It will teach how to create your

Designers Insights

own opportunities where you think there are none and

will propel your career forward by leaps and bounds.
People will say: How did you do that? How did you
get so far so fast?

This book is meant to be read and reread, studied, under-

lined, and used as a guide. The sixteen chapters offer you
solutions, insights and bold advice. Our goal is to give you
the winning edge. Master to apprentice. If you are serious
about succeeding as a graphic designer, this book will
change your life starting today.

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Chapter 1

I want everything we do to be beautiful. I dont give a

damn whether the client undersands that thats worth
anything, or that the client thinks its worth anything, or
whether it is worth anything. Its worth it to me. Its the
way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful
things, even if nobody cares. Saul Bass

At Designers Insights, our mission will always be to

preserve the quality and integrity of what made graphic
design a great profession in the past and so in-demand, by
sharing our knowledge for the future generation, so they
can learn from or mistakes and what made us success-
ful. We will show you why creative services created such
an exceptional value for our clients and their clients. We
are passionate about great design and feel it is urgent to
share our passion with the current generation of designers.

Designers Insights

Let us start by sharing with you the recent history of

our industry, our observations and concerns, and why we
thought it was absolutely necessary to publish this book
at this moment in time.



You never can do what the kids do. What you do is look
at yourself and find your own way to address the fac that
the times have changed and that you have to pay attention.
You cant be a designer and say, Oh, this is timeless.
Nothing is timeless! Paula Scher

It is only by understanding our past history that we can

make informed decisions for the future, as a design
community, with the common goal of embracing the
times we are living in. This is by far the most creative era
humanity has ever seen, when finally, science is ready to
serve the arts, and by embracing this revolution as a com-
munity, we can once again have a thriving industry. The
next two chapters will take you on an amazing journey
of discovery by giving you the highlights of our recent
history and key moments in time that profoundly changed
our industry and made it what it is today. There are so

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

many lessons to be learned here and we feel it needs to

be said without polishing it or being worried about of-
fending other people in our industry.

First, you have to take in the bigger picure and look at it

from outside the box. Most of it happened at the turn of
the new millennium. Picure this: It was a time in human
history when the entire world was changing dramatically,
with the rise of new technologies and the World Wide
Web, which promised to make the world a smaller place
by revolutionizing communications forever and making
us all rich. The world was changing not only economi-
cally, but what created the most profound change, was
that it transformed the entire world culturally. This cul-
tural revolution is still happening today. It was a moment
in time equivalent only to the invention of the railroad,
the automobile, radio and television, and it created a new
Eldorado, where everybody wanted a piece of it at any
cost. It was the best of times and the worst of times for
our industry. A modern western really, but without guns!
It all started with

Designers Insights


When Apple and Steve Jobs, released the first Macintosh

computer in 1984, featuring bitmap graphics, it signaled
the end of an era, launching the new Digital Age, which
would profoundly transform our industry in ways we
couldnt even start to imagine back then. Looking back
on it, it didnt feel like that to me at all. In 1987, only a
few years later, I was in college and we were all using
Macintosh computers and really didnt think much of
it. Yes, it was super cool but Macs were just another tool
to draw with, typeset and do layout, and other cool stuff.
Its only when I got my first job, after graduating, that
I realized the amplitude of this phenomena. I mean the
whole graphic design industry were still using ONLY
drafting tables back then. Here I was in a professional
studio and I was the only guy who knew how to use a
Macintosh computer! Possessing this knowledge made
me extra valuable to the firm, even as a junior designer.
I was overly thrilled to say the least! Owners were talking
about buying their first two Macintosh, for about five
creative people, imagine, and I was the only one who
could train them how to use it. Great, I thought! After
a couple of years, nobody was using drafting tables any-
more, but I clearly remember a fierce rivalry between
traditional designers using art boards and drafting tables

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

and designers who embraced this new technology. This

was one major touchy subjec for the older guys. You just
didnt talk about it with them, as a youngster, if you knew
what was good for you.



In 1985, when Adobe released the Pos Script Language

Type 1, this event signaled the end of the 500-year-old
profession of the Master Typographer. What you need
to understand, is back then, graphic designers used art
boards on drafting tables to layout graphics. They used
perfecly registered layer upon layer of acetates, each
containing a different color graphic to be printed, with
detailed handwritten instrucions, in order for the film
house to produce final films for the printer to create the
printing plates from. Not many of you remember using
X-Aco blades, PMT sheets, Letraset and typographic
galleys or know what a waxing machine was used for.
Back then, graphic designers drew elaborate design grids
to layout their graphics and ordered typography from
typographersan outside supplier who would profes-
sionally typeset the final text, based on specific instrucions
designers would provide to them. The biggest change

Designers Insights

with the arrival of the Macintosh, was that the designer

suddenly became a typographer. This gave us enormous
control over typography and would revolutionize the
graphic design industry. But sadly, around 1990, it also
proved to be the end of the Master Typographer.



Soon after, in 1989, when I got my first job after gradua-

ting, design software like Adobe Illusrator, Aldus Pagemaker
and QuarkXpress, replaced our X-Aco blades and drafting
tables to layout documents and create our graphics. At that
time, a fierce rivalry grew between traditional designers
using art boards and designers who embraced this new
technology. Its seems so silly now, but it was such a big
deal back then. Computers were certainly the beginning
of a new revolution in graphic design and were here to
stay. These new softwares were so advanced that you no
longer needed a film-house to separate colors, like it had
been done on traditional camera-ready artwork pasted
on art boards for well over fifty years. From now on, you
simply had to provide the printer with your graphic files,
and in the hands of knowledgeable pre-press personnel,
they could output the negative films direcly from your

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

files. Within only a short couple of years, this new soft-

ware marked the end of the film house industry as well.
A couple of years later, the negative film also became ob-
solete, since the printer had adopted new technology
that could output direcly to the offset printing plates.


The World Wide Web was by far the biggest event in

modern communications since the introducion of the
first commercially printed book in the thirteenth century.
It was invented in 1980, but only became popular or
accessible when the first modern browsers became avail-
able in 1992 with Mosaic, and again in 1993, with the
launch of the extremely popular Netscape browser. By
1996, it became obvious to most companies, that a web
presence was no longer optional but necessary. I had
already started my own firm back then and by 1999, we
all witnessed with amazement the Dot-com Boom.
Suddenly, every company in the world needed a website,
which fueled a massive need for web designers and HTML
programmers. It was a dramatic revolution in commu-
nications and proved to the birth of many web developing
companies. But in 2001, the bubble which promised so
much burst, and I mean burst big time and many Dot-

Designers Insights

com startups went out of business just as quickly as they

started. The World Wide Web had failed to deliver the
wealth it had promised. But some companies did survive
and thrive, especially online retailers. However, many web
developing companies went under and closed their doors.
The negative effec of the web on the graphic design in-
dustry was that it fueled a rivalry between print designers
and web designers and created two completely separate
industries, which still exist today.



At the turn of the millennium, while the Dot-com was

booming, suddenly there was an enormous need for
commercial photography and illustration. Business was
booming in the imagery industry, which resulted in the
emergence of many Imagery Banks online. Suddenly,
high quality commercial photography and illustrations
instantly became affordable for the designer to use on
small projecs with limited budgets. The need to spend
big money on elaborate photo shoots or commissioning
an illustrator to create original artwork, only became a
necessity for big budget projecs. Whats ironic here, is
what initially created an enormous demand for their

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

services, also created the quick demise of their industry.

Our whole industry went from the sky is the limit atti-
tude, to hitting rock bottom hard, over and over again.
Within less than a decade, most commercial photogra-
phers and illustrators could no longer afford to be in
business because of a lack of demand.



The offset printing industry also took a really big hit with
the arrival of the new millennium. This was because the
Internet was providing a cheap alternative to making con-
tent available to all online, which dramatically reduced
the need for printing and eliminated the enormous cost
associated with distribution and buying paper. What the
printing industry never saw coming a few years later, and
which had the biggest negative impac, was yet another
cultural revolution. Its new problem had nothing to do
with the cost of printing and distributing paper anymore.
Thanks again to Mr. Steve Jobs of Apple, and the launch
of the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, readers quickly
grew addiced to getting their information from their
mobile devices. Today, we are witnessing many newspa-
pers, whether small or big, announcing the end of their

Designers Insights

paper publications. Carrying a paper publication is simply

not cool anymore, or profitable. To sum up, we all know
that printing will never completely go away. There will
always be a need for a beautiful book and for packaging,
for example, but one thing is for sure, what remains of
the printing industry will never be the same again.

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Chapter 2

The hardes thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

So here we are now. Facing an unknown future. Where do

we go from here? Where do we begin? Where have we
failed our clients so miserably? Will this decline ever stop
and stabilize at one point? The new generation of designers
reading this book may be asking themselves what the
hell is this guy talking about? But please bear with me.
The answer to the question of stabilization is yes. Just like
printers, there will always be a need for graphic designers,
and what we are acually witnessing today is not neces-
sarily the decline of the graphic design industry, but its
complete transformation. In order to make room for

Designers Insights

the new, what inevitably comes with it, is the need to

get rid of the old. One cannot exist with the other.

The growth of the Internet and new technologies created

this massive transformation, which is still happening today.
Whats most important is that this change brought with it
a profound human revolution, changing the entire world
culturally, and this is what we need to focus on to find
solutions. It dramatically transformed our daily habits
and how we communicate. Even the younger designers
can relate to this now and are starting to understand what
were talking about. Today, how people get their infor-
mation and how they communicate with each other is
the only thing that really matters. Within this lies the key
to all the solutions to our common problems.

At this point in time, our industry is still readjusting itself

to serve the needs of the changing marketplace. If we are
to reinvent ourselves, to become once again relevant and
in demand, we still have to dig much deeper to under-
stand and analyze what really happened to the graphic
design industry. We are all part of a big circle that unites
us and what happens to one of us, will always affec others,
regardless of what generation you are part of. Under-
standing where the graphic design industry is operating,
within the entire communications industry, is the starting
point to finding solutions for tomorrow.

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer



Without shetic, design is either the humdrum repetition

of familiar clichs or a wild scramble for novelty. Without
the shetic, the computer is but a mindless speed machine,
producing effecs without subsance. Form without
relevant content, or content without meaningful form.
Paul Rand

Let us begin by clearly defining where the real value of

a professional graphic designer always came from. The
only reason why clients have a need for our creative ser-
vices, is because we have the ability to make them more
successful and more profitable. Thats it! This is the only
reason why our clients pay us the big money. Regardless
if youre a young designer or an older designer! Our job
is to create more value and profits for them. If we fail them
at this task, we are not only taking value away from their
business, but also taking value away from our own services.
We think this is exacly what is happening to the graphic
design industry today. Our communications industry
took away most of our value and we need to restore it as
a community. Put yourself in the place of the client. In
todays marketplace, if a company is to be more successful,
profitable, and wants to generate more money, it has a
choice between contracing a Marketing agency, an

Designers Insights

Advertising agency, a Video Producion company, a Web

Development firm, a Graphic Design firm, a Photogra-
pher/Illustrator or even a Printing company. They will
usually choose what will generate a greater return on
investment (ROI), depending if they are selling a produc,
a service, or promoting an event or program.



For the benefit of the new generation of designers, let

me start with this. Before the turn of the millennium,
all the above industries would pretty much do business
without infringing on another service industry. Why?
Well, simply because it wasnt their area of expertise.
Some of the old guys would say its the computers that
changed everything, but regardless Back then, if a
client wanted to start a new venture, it would first go to
the graphic design firm to create its visual brand. If
they wanted to sell more producs, it would go to an
Advertising agency. If it wanted to expand into new
markets it would go to a Marketing agency and the
list gs on. Whats most important to remember, and
what was great back then, is that we all clearly brought
something of great value to our customers. It was clear

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

to the client and everyone was happy making a good

living and generating profits. Youll notice, back then,
that we were the first link in the chain for a new venture,
which made graphic designers very influential within the
whole communications industry. Today, we appear less
relevant than the web developers. This needs to change
because its simply not true. We need to gain back our
relevance and value!


At the turn of the millennium, clients were faced with

the growth of new technologies and the arrival of Dot-
com boom, as well as the introducion of many new
alternative media to choose fromand were not talking
about Facebook, it didnt exist back then Clients were
lost in the mix and were afraid to miss out on the next big
dot-com opportunity and desperately needed advice and
guidance. The market reaced to this new demand by
starting to offer complete turnkey services, and for the first
time in the communications industry, agencies started
offering services outside their own knowledge and ex-
pertise, and yes, affordable computers made this very
easy. All of a sudden, marketing, communications, and
advertising agencies were merging together and offering

Designers Insights

a combination of services. Services like graphic design,

photography, web development and advertising, just to
name a few. Why? Simply because they saw a huge op-
portunity to grow big and thats what the market wanted
at the time a true full-service agency. These new bigger,
more powerful companies aggressively conquered their
local markets and most were quite successful, up until
the crash of the dot-com bubble a couple of years later,
followed by the high technology crash. By the end of
2007, a new recession struck and a lot of them did not
survive because of overhead expenses.



What also became very destrucive at that time for the

graphic design industry, and weve mentioned this before,
was the non-stop rivalry between print designers and web
designers, which created two completely separate indus-
tries. While the graphic design industry was trying to hold
onto what was left of their market, clients were easily
lured by the promise of the web development firms that
claimed to offer complete brand identity services at a very
low cost. For the client, web development appeared to
be very expensive. One argument that always surfaced was

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

their need to invest in their brand first with a graphic

design firm before spending a ton of money creating a
website. To solve this recurring problem, the web devel-
opers simply pushed us out of the way by including
branding at a low cost, as part of the development of a
new website. They said forget the graphic designers,
you dont need them. Full service agencies were doing
exacly the same thing, either charging more or charging
what we were charging our clients.


Suddenly, everybody started to offer branding services

without any real knowledge of what a brand really was.
We all witnessed the birth of so many self-proclaimed
gurus who surfaced out of thin air. Some were the real
thing, but most just made it up on the fly. It was primarily
a tacic on the part of the full service agencies and the
web industry to push graphic designers out of the way.
Branding became such a trendy word everybody was
using it to lure clients in. Branding this, branding that,
grow your brand! A lot of companies are still doing this
today, thinking they are doing their clients a favor.
What they are acually doing is taking away any real

Designers Insights

value associated with creating a brand. The brands they

create are crap and are not helping their clients. They
are acually doing the exac opposite, which is taking
away from them any chance they have at creating some-
thing unique, which would position them favorably in
their market. It is only by creating more value and by
generating measurable profits, that both client and de-
signer become more valuable and successful.



Late in 2000, many HTML programmers called it quits!

The web industry was going through profound changes
and many HTML programmers just didnt want to do
it anymore. What happened is that at one point clients
became tired of always going back to the web agency to do
minor changes. This growing need to have more control
over their website created a new fast growing web busi-
ness. Suddenly, we started to see the emergence of various
system administrators. Web developers created a new
market for themselves, by creating a bunch of website
templates for which they would charge only a small
amount, but with the intention of getting paid over
and over again. Brilliant! Not only were they creating

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

recurring income for themselves, they were also giving

the client what the client wanted. Now the client could
access the back end of the Admin System and suddenly
they had the ability to change the front end, to do their
own changes and not be billed ridiculous amounts of
money every time they needed to update the content of
their website.



This is where the story really turns tragic for the whole
graphic design community and not only for the web
development industry. Today, any person can simply
browse the web, find a website template, which mostly
only consists of a color palette mixed with textures, onto
which theyve added a crazy amount of drop shadows and
gradients. To top it off, it also comes with cool animated
effecs, and is now responsive for all mobile users. The
only work left to do for the client is to add their newly
created logo, add text, and a selecion of stock images
all of it found almost for free online. From that point on,
the client was now the designer and the web developer.
Or, in exchange for a small monthly fee these online sup-
pliers would do it all for you, for free!

Designers Insights



The profound changes our industry was going through

also created a ripple effec on the printing industry and
on the quality of their printing services. Most printers
completely got rid of their two color presses and replaced
them with better four color process presses, since so many
of them became available to purchase from print shops
who had just closed, putting an end to the spot color
jobs and producion cost savings associated with them.
Now a two color job is about the same price as four
color job, which made their new Print On Demand
services more appealing for small runs and low budget
jobs. What the current generation of designers need to
understand is, digital printing is basically a high end
photocopying machine and its cheap. It looks cheap and
it feels cheap when you compare it to traditional offset
printing that uses inks that penetrate the paper instead
of a toner which is cooked on the surface. When you fold
paper with toner, it cracks and looks terrible, the surface
coating is uneven, glossy in spots, and looks terrible.
Digital printing on uncoated stock always brings up a
gagging reflex and makes me sick. Some high end presses,
like an Indigo digital press, are much better, but youre
restriced to using indigo papers, and when you compare

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

the difference in price between it and traditional offset

printing, its marginal.



Developing countries are now creating middle class

citizens by offering online services. Who can blame them
for wanting the same things we have in life! For one, they
are extremely motivated to provide you with the best pos-
sible service and can pretty much offer anything we can
do on a computer, for a tenth of the cost compared to
hiring a local agency to do it. They can provide any
technical or creative service imaginable. Most of these
online services are communities in which members can
create their own profile and start offering their services,
by clearly identifying how much they charge for a specific
service. Other online websites will enable you start a bid-
ding war. For example, you can offer $30 to have your logo
created. You simply have to tell them what your business
is about and provide detailed information of what you
want. Online designers will read your offer and can bid
for your projec by providing you with various creative
concepts but you only have to pay the winning bidder.
This way, you can easily receive well over 200 free logo

Designers Insights

versions to choose from and only pay the ridiculous

amount of 30 bucks. We are now witnessing logo designs
for as low as $5! Who the hell are offering these services,
may we ask?



We dont think our local industry can go any lower than

this. The printing industry, combined with the specialty
gift item industry, saw a mega opportunity in the market-
place and started offering creative services either online
or by using traditional mail-marketing. They distributed
flyers using their own mailing house, which offered small
business owners, and new startup companies, complete
startup packages. This included several different logos to
choose from, printed business cards, a stationery package,
printed checks with security labels, and the creation of
a new website, in exchange for a small monthly hosting
fee. They would also offer the design and printing of
specialty gift items like calendars, key chains, coffee mugs,
drinking bottles, and of course a vast selecion of apparel
embroidered with your newly created logo. All of this
for the crazy low package price of just a few hundred
dollars! What is most disturbing is when companies,

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

which had nothing to do with our industry, started of-

fering the same services! Ask for it at your local Cosco!
It makes us wonder who is designing these fast food
brands at such ridiculously low prices. Probably designers
from developing countries. But thats just a guess!



The graphic design industry is currently faced with yet

another challenge. A very delicate problem for the grad-
uate designers. These are challenging times for every
industry, including colleges and universities. They are in
the business of recruiting new students and need to show
a profit at the end of the year, just like any other business.
In order to recruit more students, most advertise unreal-
istic statistics like 90% of their graduate find jobs after
graduating. Well, thats simply not true anymore! The
graphic design industry or the web industry cannot recruit
hundreds, let alone thousands of new graduates locally
every year, with the marketplace being what it is now.
These new designers are flooding a market which can
hardly support designers who have jobs and years of
experience, even though some local web agencies may
still be growing by doing business with other countries.

Designers Insights

We are not saying that there are no longer opportunities

for new designers, fresh out of school, because there are.
But what we are clearly indicating is that our industry,
or the web industry, cannot recruit hundreds, if not
thousands, of new graduates every year.

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Chapter 3



Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the
only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe
is great work. The only way to do great work is to love
what you do. If you havent found it yet, keep looking.
Dont settle. As with all matters of the heart, youll know
when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it jus
gets better and better as the years roll on.
Steve Jobs

After having painted a pretty grim picure of the state of

the graphic design industry, now comes the time to em-
brace change and start by reassuring everybody, especially
the younger generation of designers, by saying that things

Designers Insights

arent either bad or good at this moment in time; that

bad or good is only a point of view. Everybody, regard-
less of age, still has the ability to choose between a glass
which is half full or one which is half empty. It really
only comes down to a choice. As professionals we are
always looking for ways to adapt our creative services to
our clients growing needs. Even though our industry has
undergone a tremendous transformation, most of us are
still thriving, or to be more precise, designers who con-
sistently bring value to their clients are still designing
and thriving. Our sincere objecive with this book is to
give the current generation of designers the ability to
embrace this change and give the older generation new
hope, so we can all, in turn, look forward to having a
long-lasting and successful career as graphic designers.
At this point you may ask yourself, how can Designers
Insights even pretend that this book will change the
course of my career? How can we boldly say that this
book will change my life after reading it? Well, if we
dont make a believer out of you by the end of this
chapter, you simply wont feel obliged to buy this book.
Right? To you, the glass may still look like its half empty.

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer


We are so obsessed with the Net and technology that we

forget the message... We imagine to be able to do anything,
and our software helps us believe we can... But we
mus move beyond the how to reconsider the what
and the why... Neville Brody

One thing for sure, our industry is still going through

profound changes as I am writing these lines and I hon-
estly see no end in sight. Why? Because the needs and
wants of our clients are still constantly changing and
evolving. To me, it feels exacly like we are back at the turn
of the millennium when the whole communications
industry was trying to fulfill the new needs and new
demands created by the Internet, which had introduced
so many new alternative media for a rapidly growing new
audience. The only thing thats fundamentally different
today, compared to back then, is that technology is finally
at a point where it is good and ready to deliver on the
Internets promise to change our lives and the way we
communicate together, but this time, technology is ready
to serve the arts. This is the fundamental difference.

The only other big change or revolution that happened

right in the middle of the past two decades, which we

Designers Insights

also have to take into account, is the astounding growth

of the Social Media Phenomena after Mark Zuckerberg
launched Facebook in 2004. It changed forever the way
people interac with each other and created a totally
new web-based industry. Today 25% of all time spent
online is on social media. Gender acivity online is 50%
male, 50% female. Internet advertising makes up nearly
25% of the entire ad market. E-Commerce is still growing
at a rate of 20% per year and videos are now what attrac
the most views online. The gaming industry has also
surpassed the movie industry in revenues.

Now, if we closely analyze these numbers, this means

that the remaining 75% of the entire communications
industry is still spent using traditional media; television,
radio, newspaper, magazine, printers, trade-show, etc.
But our clients are still faced with the difficult choice,
when spending their money, to decide what will generate
a greater ROI. So you could say that our whole com-
munications industry has changed by 25%. Another
major facor we need to take into consideration, when
analyzing todays marketplace, is the growing population.
Like any generation that came before us, it is certainly
the generation of tomorrow which will dicate what the
market will demand tomorrow. When we look at our
kids, the next generation, its easy to predic that they

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

will still be spending 75% of their time using only online

media. Now that dsnt mean that traditional media like
billboard advertising, television, radio, or trade-shows,
just to name a few, will go away anytime soon. No, they
will only keep evolving, changing and adapting, just
like us.

To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means

you can control or maser. Milton Glaser

Today, what this means to the professional graphic

designer who wants to succeed, especially for the older
generation, is that they will need to master many more
disciplines, and offer more services, compared to just ten
years ago. If theres one point all small agency owners
agree on, its that we need to end any rivalry that exists
and start collaborating with other creative people who
offer services we dont. We all agree that its by combining
our strengths that we will succeed and not by dividing
them, like we did in the past. The winners of the future
will certainly be the ones who collaborate with one an-
other. This current generation of designers needs to be
aware of this fac. For example, graphic designers and
web developers are finally, after all this time, working
hand-in-hand and creating amazing new producs for
their clients, using each others forces and the latest tech-

Designers Insights

nology. Photographers are now offering video services

using 35mm digital cameras. My agency offers corporate
video producion as a new service and Im loving it! Im
the direcor, the editor and graphic designer and to com-
plete my team, in addition to the photographer and his
assistants, I collaborate with a creative writer, an animator
and a sound professional. This is great stuff!


True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done,

the zes of creating things new.
Antoine de Saint Exupery

If youre a graphic designer today, you just cant limit

yourself to print design anymore, especially seasoned
designers, youre also designing for the web, doing online
projecs and multimedia applications. All these new
media are crisscrossing each other and mixing with tra-
ditional media. The new growing trend is that graphic
design agencies are merging, or collaborating, with mar-
keting agencies and web development agencies, offering
full services to local, national and international clients,
who are constantly looking for innovative ways to gen-

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

erate awareness, interest and profits. But contrary to what

happened previously at the turn of the millennium, we
feel that this is a positive change because technology,
after two decades, has finally grown to a point that it is
now possible to reconcile art with science. Take this
from an older guy who has seen it all.

Technology, where it is today, feels exacly like it was

before the millennium, when anything that you would
create for the web was considered new. The first online
retail store, the first online book store, the first online art
gallery, the first chronicles (blogs) everything was a
first for a short while. But the technology back then was
far from being ready to service the artists or designers
needs. It was dumb, slow and archaic. Today, with what
is still the recent arrival of mobile devices of all sizes,
technologies have evolved to the point where we can
design real, efficient, interacive publications that are
making paper publications obsolete. You can now engage
your readers in a completely new interacive and dynamic
presentation with animated graphics. You can watch
videos, buy producs, view an event schedule and buy
tickets, start a conversation by sharing with your friends,
or play games. The possibilities are endless for creative
individuals like us. Just like we previously thought at the
turn of the century. It only took two decades to make it

Designers Insights

happen, but now the technology is good! The times we

are now living in are truly the most creative time that
humanity has ever seen. Where art and science really are
coming together and cannot exist without the other. It
all needs to be designed and to be well designed if we
are to bring real value to the marketplace.

Hopefully weve learned from our mistakes of the past.

The good news is our clients now have way more needs
than ever before, compared to just a decade ago, when
technology still wasnt ready. Our clients deserve that
we can once again serve them like true professionals by
creating brilliantly designed, completely new interacive
concepts, that can be adapted to serve the whole specrum
of available media. What designers need to understand
is that most clients arent aware of what is possible today,
and are all looking for insights and professional advice
on how to make their publications more unique and more
exciting for their audience. It is our job to come up with
creative ideas by mixing traditional and non-traditional,
and not only serve them the good old traditional website
or brochure. We have a responsibility towards them to
innovate and create new stuff.

This will bring more value to their business, so they can

create measurable profits and, in turn, attribute their
new successes to us again. Its obvious the real value of

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

the professional designer has never and will never change.

Just like designers will always create print publications,
but its now a mix of traditional and new. Clients will
always have growing needs for an online presence requir-
ing web developers, graphic designers, creative writers,
photographers, video producion and the need to con-
tinuously feed their social media. In addition, as in the
past, they will always have a need for traditional print
design, produc brochures, exhibition booths, integrated
branding services, etc.

These are truly the most exciting times to be designing in!

There is a saying that gs like this: A pessimist sees the
difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the
opportunity in every difficulty. Is the glass half full or
half empty? See, it is really only a matter of perspecive!
Yes, technology is now at a point where it has become
affordable and accessible to everyone. Some would say,
it has also created more competition, but we dont want
to see it that way, simply because there is nothing to
gain from that perspecive. When everybody collaborates
together, we are all winners! Companies still wanting to
compete with one other are certainly going to be the
losers of tomorrow. That feels more like an ac of des-
peration to us in the creative business. Lets make this
super clear. If we are to survive as graphic designers,
and thrive once again, it will be through cooperation.

Designers Insights



Design is the search for a magical balance between business

and art; art and craft; intuition and reason; concept and
detail; playfulness and formality; client and designer;
designer and printer; and printer and public.
Valerie Pettis

Now that weve learned that we should start mastering

more new technologies, that we are living in humanitys
most creative era, that we should collaborate more with
other creative people, that we need to accept that the
market will constantly be evolving and changing, let us
never lose sight again of the real value graphic designers
bring to the table, because we will just be repeating the
mistakes of yesterday over and over again. Well repeat
this once more: The graphic designers primary job is to
add value to a produc, a service, an event or program
by making it known, desirable, and by clearly communi-
cating its benefits thereby creating measurable profits
for their client. By creating a real demand for our creative
services, it will inevitably raise designs real value once
again and will greatly benefit the whole graphic design
community. If our industry is to thrive again today, we
need to raise the value of our customers offerings. Plain

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

and simple. Im sure everybody reading this, regardless

of your age, can agree with me, on this point.

Personally, I still have clients who started doing business

with me when I started my career well over twenty-five
years ago. These clients are so grateful that Ive contributed
to their growing businesses all these years and are very
grateful of where Ive positioned their businesses in their
marketplaces, making them successful and profitable.
Wouldnt you say that this type of business relationship
was mutually beneficial over the years? Of course it was!
We see no reason why this should change, and most of
them are very receptive to new ideas and new technologies.
The next move is ours to make. Lets do what we do best
and be creative!



It cant be sressed enough that in order to produce great

graphics, you have to have a good produc and a
good client capable of making decisions. Primo Angeli

Thats great advice to any developing designer whos

looking for similar success. Lets repeat this too: In order

Designers Insights

to create real value for both yourself and your clients,

conceptual design should always establish the framework
and guide all subsequent design decisions. The desperate
use of special effecs or gimmicks like drop shadows,
gradients, and transparency will never be a suitable re-
placement for a good idea, which becomes the blueprint
for your projec.

Many desperate acs of design including gradients, drop

shadows, and the gratuitous use of transparency are
perpetuated in the absence of a srong concept. A good idea
provides a framework for design decisions, guiding
the work. Noreen Morioka

First advice: When youre designing and are in the

conceptual phase, never, ever start using gimmicks like
drop shadows and gradients to make your design more
pretty. Youre just fooling yourself. Your designs should
always have meaning, they should have a strong con-
cept and should be able to stand on their own using
only vecors and solid colors or if the content requires,
by also using imagery. Always remove anything which is
not 100% necessary for the concept. Personally, I only
use solid black and white when Im in the conceptual
phase. If your idea works in black, and you have a great
idea, only then are you really starting to create something

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

of value, and its a clear indication that you are on the

right path.

Perfecion is achieved, not when there is nothing more

to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint Exupery

Second advice: Any good design should always include

the following basic elements if they are to be considered
professional, high quality designs. Anything less is just
amateur and will never create any kind of lasting value.
Here are the three basic design elements needed in order
to create any design for todays market needs:

1. Typography system
2. Layout grid system
3. Color palette

By establishing these three basic design elements, it allows

you to consistently reproduce your concept, in any for-
mat, for any media (print, web, etc.), traditional and
non-traditional. With this very basic system, you can
create posters, ads, brochures, videos, a logo, even a basic
website. But whats most important here, is that any
designer can take over your projec, and by applying
your system, they can do all subsequent producion

Designers Insights

work, creating all the other communication tools, and

consistently have the same results.

That said, designers who frequently design for the web

will have a really big problem with this. It just sounds way
to traditional. Thats the way it was done generations ago!
To them, text is a free flowing medium within a cell, or
box, if they are using InDesign. Layout grid systems are
for old fools and why the hell would I need to create a
typographic system? No one really needs a layout grid
system anymore! Type is just type! If it looks good, it
looks good! At the extreme, it may sound to you like we
are simply retarded; you were never taught to do it this
way. No one in your entourage applies any of this rubbish,
to any of their designs, and that is exacly our point. Please
bear with me

Now lets illustrate how you can build a very elaborate

design using this same system. Lets say you want to
create a complete brand identity system; you will need
to include:

1. Logo
2. Tagline
3. Typography system
4. Layout grid system

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

5. Color palette
6. Image bank
7. Unique vecor graphics
8. Corporate messaging

By doing so, you have established the basic foundations to

consistently reproduce, over and over again, your clients
brand effecively, regardless of who ds all subsequent
work, whether you or other designers.

Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-produc of a good

idea and modes expecations. Paul Rand

Third advice: Experienced designers always apply these

basic principles to all the designs they create without even
thinking about it. Regardless if its a big or small job. It
has become a habit and a sure sign to other designers that
a true professional worked on it. That said, ideas never
start with a grid or any type of system, but once your ideas
are well defined, then comes the time to apply this system.
This system is always the first test to see if that idea will
work well and be applicable to a real world use. If it cant
be done, then your design is art and you will never be able
to reproduce it effecively on other communication tools,
or have the ability to effecively communicate your clients
message, and keep its integrity. Now understand that

Designers Insights

your typography system can be super elaborate or very

simple, your layout grid system could also be elaborate
or simple, same with the color palette, the image bank,
messaging, etc. The pros will always prefer a very simple
system, because its way more efficient compared to an
elaborate system, which can easily become a nightmare for
other designers to reproduce. Plus, an elaborate system
simply dsnt communicate as well for your clients and
yes, its much, much harder to do as a designer. You really
need to analyze your clients content, understand it com-
pletely and break it down into clear blocks of information,
using limited graphics, images and text.

The secret of all effecive advertising is not the creation

of new and tricky words and picures, but one of putting
familiar words and picures into new relationships.
Leo Burnett

Fourth advice: Never ever lose sight of your primary

objecive when designing which is to serve your clients
purpose by adding value to its produc, its service, its event
or program by making it known, desirable and by clearly
communicating its benefits. Its never an art projec! Take
your artistic needs and your ego out of the equation
Get it? If yes, congratulations! Youve just stepped into
a much bigger world of possibilities. Soon youll learn

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

how to create elaborate campaigns using this proven

system and we will teach you how you can take any plain,
boring projec, like a program brochure, and turn it into
an effecive multimedia awareness campaign, without
much more effort, simply by applying more advanced
knowledge. This will make you invaluable in the eyes
of your clients and employers. If you have an open mind
and are willing to learn more, youve just taken your first
steps on a path of success and profitability in graphic
design, for both yourself and your clients. If no, may
we suggest you go back to the beginning of this chapter
and read it more carefully? Life is short!

If you have no intuitive sense of design, then call yourself

an information architec and only use Helvetica.
David Carson

What we have just showed you are the basics of what we

call integrated design. Or integrated branding, if you
prefer. What you first need to learn, if you are not already
doing so, is to master how to use and create any design,
using a visual identity system, and learn to apply this
knowledge to any projec. It needs to become a habit.
It dsnt matter if the system will never be applied again
to other communication tools, like for instance, a stand-
alone brochure. What it will do for your brochure is

Designers Insights

create visual consistency and harmony from front cover

to back cover. When I design a brochure, for example, one
for a cultural event, I usually go crazy with my visual
identity system and make it super complicated. Why?
Just because its a lot of fun and it looks amazing when
done properly, meaning the message needs to be ultra-
clear and simple, which is tough, but the layout could
be extremely complex and diverse.

Good design is all about making other designers feel

like idiots because that idea wasnt theirs.
Frank Chimero

The reason we felt it was crucial to share this information

with you up front, is because it has become a necessity
today that designers are able to create and recreate coher-
ent messaging for their clients. That is because, today,
were always applying our designs to so many different
media and platforms, which crisscross each other and
also mix with other traditional and non-traditional media.
This is a real challenge for any designer, junior or senior.
Soon well teach you that you are part of a much larger
community and that you play a vital role within the whole
communications industry. Well teach you how to integrate
this system with Integrated Marketing Communication
(IMC). We are part of one big industry, the communi-

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

cations industry, and these systems enable us to work

together, to realize the full potential of a campaign, with
a common goal of using various communication disci-
plines (advertising, public relations, sales promotions,
etc.), in order to provide clarity, consistency and increased
impac when combined within a comprehensive commu-
nications plan, which are all centered around the customer.

(Chapter 9 is dedicated entirely to the subjec of Integrated

Design and gs into much greater detail, while Chapter 8
explains the power of Branding and what it can do for you
and your clients.)



The public is more familiar with bad design than good

design. It is, in effec, conditioned to prefer bad design,
because that is what it lives with. The new becomes
threatening, the old reassuring. Paul Rand

On a daily basis, we are being bombarded with graphic

design mediocrity. We walk about and dont even notice
it anymore. It surrounds us and penetrates our subcon-
scious at an astounding rate. It has now become the

Designers Insights

accepted norm. Its everywhere, and getting worse since

anyone can generate it on their computers. You see bad
design every time you use your mobile devices, when you
look at billboards, bus signage, telephone poles, walls,
newspapers it dominates the Internet. In fac, its every-
where you look. Its mediocrity. Its visual pollution and to
non-designers and designers alike, we accept it because
it has always been there and its just the way it is.

Too many people think that its the resolution of their

screens that make graphics look good and beautiful.
Some are more concerned about the speed of their Wi-Fi
connecion when they search for information and really
dont care how it looks. The Internet has unfortunately
allowed substandard to become the norm. Not that the
world was perfec before, far from it, but now its just
getting worse. Weve all seen misaligned text, illegible
text and images that fail to load. But its perceived as
the way things are, like theyre all normal occurrences.
Quality standards have diminished worldwide in graphic
design and we, as designers, simply cannot give up and
accept it or is it possible that this is because many of
us cant see the difference ourselves?

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

The life of a designer is a life of fight. Fight agains the

ugliness. Jus like a docor fights agains disease. For us, the
visual disease is what we have around, and what we try to
do is cure it somehow with design. Massimo Vignelli

It makes us wonder how many web templates it will take

before people cant take it anymore? Maybe its because
they really enjoy looking at all the drop shadows. We
admit, its clever, it makes a graphic look like its jumping
off the page. But when you really start thinking about
this problem, its acually not really that hard to offer
better than average design. Think about it. I mean, were
pretty sure that any designer, with even limited talent,
could do much better than simply come up with the
conceptual drop shadow if they had someone who
could show them the difference between whats good
and whats bad.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that

I may learn how to do it. Pablo Picasso

You really dont need to be Picasso. What you really need

is proper guidance, right? Art direcion. What designers
really need is for someone, or a group of people, to show
them what good design is. Okay, heres another hard
fac Weird, Im starting to enjoy hard facs now, any-

Designers Insights

way This is how it works and it is true for every de-

signer, whether they admit it or not. It gs like this: If you
were lucky enough to have worked with good designers,
you will inevitably learn what good design is regardless
of your talent. True or false? If you were unfortunate, but
lucky enough to find a first job, and started working with
a group of designers which werent that good, but thought
they were, wouldnt you think that their work was good
work? How could you tell the difference between what
is good and what is bad design?

Mos of the mediocre design today comes from designers who

are faithfully doing as they were taught in school:
they worship at the altar of the visual. Michael Bierut

Heres another hard fac: Your teachers werent good

enough to find a job in the real world, thats why they
teach. So, who are you going to turn to for guidance?
Your friends? Colleagues? Family?

I would show my jobs to my mother, and she would

always say the same thing: Thats nice dear. And then she
would say, Did you write it? or Did you do the drawing?
or Did you take the picures? Id always answer No,
then I realized the problem. My answer was then,
I made this happen. Its called design. Brian Webb

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Our sincere objecive with this book, is to pass this

knowledge to the current generation of designers so
you can also look forward to having a long-lasting and
successful career as a graphic designer. I for one, was very
lucky that my first job was with one of the best design
firms in town and we had great clients, with amazing
projecs. My art direcor was an exceptional designer
and he had a team of about five designers working for
him, plus producion designers. Within my first year, I
had already won the firm its first international award for
excellence. In my second year, I was winning more awards
as a junior designer than the senior designers that worked
with me. Did I start succeeding at that level because I was
more talented compared to everyone else in my studio?
I really dont think so. The truth is, I owe my entire career
and all the success that Ive had, to one person and one
person alone who made me the designer I am today. All
the credit gs to my art direcor who taught me every-
thing he knew about good design, plus I was fortunate
enough that the senior designers were also giving me
great guidance. We had an exceptional creative team, but
when my head grew too large for my shoulders, I started
my own design firm with the objecive of replicating the
same creative environment with success.

Designers Insights

Being a famous designer is like being a famous dentis.

Noreen Moriok

In conclusion to this chapter, let us remind you that we

are a group of veteran design professionals with years of
experience and wish the same success for you wherever
you are, regardless of the circumstances that brought you
here, or reading this line of text. We want to give you the
same chances, the same opportunities we had, of working
with the best, for the best, so you can also become the
best that you can be! We want to share with you our
in-depth knowledge of the graphic design industry and
our passion for design for you to succeed in ways you
cant imagine right now. Master to apprentice.

If you do good work for good clients, it will lead to other

good work for other good clients. If you do bad work
for bad clients, it will lead to other bad work for other
bad clients. Michael Bierut

How to Succeed as a Graphic Designer

Chapter 4

We hope you have enjoyed reading our

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entire publication, please go directly to:

Designers Insights


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