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Do Your Own Graphic Design

So just to be clear, I have to make my own art, prepare it, market it, sell it… and be my own publicist, business manager, social media guru, accountant and graphic designer?  Right, I’m on it.

Oh my God, how much can one person do?  I’ll tell you, one person can achieve quite a lot when you think about it.  Of course, Michelangelo didn’t have to post on Instagram, and I’m guessing that while sculpting Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum had a lot of time to think about his tax deductions, so perhaps the comparisons aren’t fair.  Let’s just agree that you have to do a whole lot as a creative business owner, and though some of our duties may be more important than others, there are none that are not important.  The trick then is to figure out how to address all of the jobs thrust upon us, in such a way as not to overwhelm us.

I get it, it seems like an impossibility, but as I mentioned before, people can do amazing things when they’re motivated.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about all of the different things that we can do to make our creative businesses thrive.  Not just the jobs we have to perform, but also ways for us to stay focused and motivated through it all.  It’s important that each of us remains calm in the face of the enormity of what we “should” be doing, and just find ways to do as much as we can, adding on more weight as we can carry the load.  

So this is my permission speech.  I know I’ve given it before, but it’s super important that none of us ever feels like we’re doing something wrong, just because we can’t keep up.  So that’s done, now you have permission to fail, to lag behind, and prioritize as you see fit.  But you also have the permission to succeed too.

A huge part of what we do centers around marketing.  We talked about marketing plans, advertising and publicity, and the need to get the message out to the world about our art, ourselves, and our businesses.  A huge part of that marketing and communication strategy is graphic design.  If your creative profession is graphic design, congratulations, you may have this bit under control.  I’ve found though that many of the graphic designers I know spend all of their creative time and energy providing their clients with these tools, and often don’t have time left over to apply these skills to their own businesses.  I know that was true for us.  Bogdan was so busy creating amazing video content for customers that when we looked at our internet presence, we had little video content about us.  So even you graphic designers out there may not be off the hook this week.

Graphic Design is a lot more than just pretty pictures, it’s a communication tool between us and our customers.  First impressions matter, and quality, consistent design can not only make you look more professional, it can also make you look more credible to a prospective buyer.  The stronger your design, the more people trust you.  We’ve all experienced clicking on a website, and thinking to ourselves that this company looks truly amateurish, or even creepy.  Artistic companies are no different.  

It’s funny, because you’d think as creatives we’d be great at presenting ourselves graphically… but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  That’s where the true creative and professional skill of the graphic designer becomes so important.  You might consider hiring your design needs out to a professional, after all, you wouldn’t hire an amateur painter to do a mural on your wall.  The issue isn’t one of a lack of respect for the designer, but rather the economics involved.  Sure it would be better to hire all these services out, but if we don’t have the funds to do that, we simply must learn to do things on our own, until we CAN afford to hire the best.

So why is graphic design so important?  Well it seems that 90 percent of what is transmitted in our brains is visual.  That’s huge.  And 3M did research that indicates that images are processed 60,000 times faster in our brains than text.  Amazing.  So your visual messaging is received and absorbed before customers even have a chance to read your witty ad copy.  Then consider that over half of us, 65%, are visual learners anyway.   Imagine just how powerful that is from a marketing standpoint.  And if visual communication is important, imagine how much more powerful video becomes.  

Studies have also correlated a large measure of success in businesses that promote design over those that don’t.  Think of those companies with strong visual brand awareness.  CocaCola, Nike, Mercedes… we recognize these brands at a glance.  And while we’re not likely going to gain that level of brand awareness in our small businesses, the power of that visual marketing is clear.  So what can we learn from these companies?  Firstly that we need to brand everything we do.  We need to have a uniform look and style that is reflected in everything from our website, to our business cards, social media accounts, newsletters, presentations, and videos.  In fact, we should have a style guide, like the big companies and organizations do.  We should know what colors, fonts, logo designs and styles to use.  We should shy away from changing our branding very often.  Consider how long CocaCola has had the same logo.  That consistency of style and branding is perceived by people as professional, successful, and trustworthy.  

And think about it.  It’s not just a question of what we distribute.  Other people can forward our branding around through their social media channels.  It’s free advertising.  HubSpot reports that people like and share infographics 3 times more often than other content.  And with the waning attention span of a busy population, infographics get read more often than narrative written content.  And your own experience will tell you that social media posts with pictures or infographics get read, and shared, much more often than those without graphics.  I wouldn’t even consider sending out a tweet, Pinterest Pin, Facebook or Instagram post without an image attached.  And just compare the attention those posts get if you swap out the image with a video clip. The difference is exponential.

OK, I think we can all agree that graphic design is a vital part of our marketing, branding, and advertising strategies.  But what if we simply don’t have the money to hire the professional designers, and honestly don’t have the talent or training to create our own?  Let’s look at some options, because I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.

The first thing I’d like to mention is Pantone.  They come out with some phenomenal guides to trends in graphic design.  Check them out annually for their predictions and suggestions.  They’re amazing.

If you’re looking for design support on a budget, take a look at Fiverr.  Though most jobs cost more than the original 5 bucks, there are thousands of creatives all over the world bidding for jobs.  These tend to be quite inexpensive, and the quality varies wildly.  Some jerks even have fake profiles, but there are a lot of honest folks out there who will do a job for you quickly, and for very little money.  Of course, you get what you pay for. 

You can also try UpWork, where you post a job, and a budget, and designers bid for the gig.  Unlike Fiverr, you do tend to know who you’re working with, and the designers are generally of a higher quality.  But that also means the price goes up.

Many of the stock image sites have graphics as well, If you’re looking to purchase something that has a clear license attached to it. Istock, Shutterstock, Adobe, and many others out there might be worth a look.

PicMonkey is a platform that allows you to do your own work, but it’s much easier to learn and navigate than say Photoshop.  It has loads of templates, but it is a recurring monthly fee, and quite basic in its scope.  

Canva is a platform I use a lot.  I tried the pro plan for 30 days, but i'm sticking with the free version for now.  I love the templates, and how the projects are already sized properly for different social media.  I can get a template for Pinterest, and a square one for Instagram.  It’s all very simple and quick.  

Design Pickle allows you to have designers on retainer for a monthly fee.  You can get unlimited design help, but you’d have to decide if you need that much graphic support.  Price it out, because if you do need a lot of support, and need it regularly on a schedule, they might be a good option.

Now I don’t get paid by any of these folks, and there are scores more options that I haven’t mentioned.  But you get the idea.  Graphic Design is a huge part of the success of your creative business, and whether you hire it out, or create it yourself, quality, consistent branding and visual marketing is key to the growth of your art business.

So what do I have to do?  Draw you a picture?

John Bishop Fine Art's "Conversations for Freelance Creatives" is a weekly blog/vlog/podcast that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. His work can be seen online, or at his studio at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, Studio 108, in Houston.

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