What Does a Designer Actually Do?

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We live in a time of visual abundance. So much of what we see every day is eye candy and inspiration. As individuals in a social world, we voluntarily take responsibility for contributing to the visual well being of the world, too. Whether or not you're a photographer or designer, you're probably editing photos before posting them to Instagram. You're taking design liberties on SnapChat, and customizing your own designs on Canva. 

So if we're already well-versed in good looks, what does a designer do? There are a ton of skills a great designer can bring to a brand or a project, and all of them come with expertise in strategy and media, sprinkled with a whole lot of magic and intuition. 

Translate

A designer is your translator between your client’s needs and the service or product you provide. Once you’ve defined your ideal client, your goals, and your unique purpose in the market, a designer will find the visual equivalent to them.

Great designers are well-versed in the nuances of the visual language. Their expertise is knowing how designs can form subconscious impressions and communicate ideas with color, shape, and contrast cues.

These little cues help a user distinguish between two brands that might sound similar, but are visually different.

Create

This is the part we usually like to define designers by — they just make things, right? This is the most creative part of the process, but it’s only half the battle. Using the knowledge we’ve gained during the translation phase, this is when designs come to life on sketch pads and computer programs. It's the part we usually see shared on social media, and it’s the meat of the work designers do, but it will only go so far before the next phase comes into play.

Experiment and test

Designs are refined in the fire, and this phase often happens simultaneously with the creation phase until a satisfactory design is produced.

Each decision that is made in the creation phase has to be tested in the environment it will live in. Will the design be used in one, specific place, or in numerous places? What restrictions are inherent with those environments?

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So many things to consider! All of the answers guide the experimentation process and lead us to a final product.

Define

Once the experimentation phase is over, it’s time to make those observations into defined rules for you to roll with on the rest of the project, or on future creations! A designer will know what rules are helpful, and which are unnecessary.

For instance, can your brand fonts be used at all weights provided, or only “regular” and “bold?” Should every graphic that’s a part of your marketing campaign have your full logo? Are all body text blocks supposed to be dark grey, or can some be black and some be grey? 

These rules are seemingly small guidelines for consistency, but they make all the difference across an entire company’s assets. They also help other designers (whether you're working with one or multiple) know how to make decisions that keep them working more efficiently and their final products more refined.

Refine and Prepare

Nothing is set in stone until it’s sent off! The refining process happens once a designer sees the project holistically. There may have been a decision or guideline that she used that needs to be tweaked, or there may be edits that need to be saved until the very end of the process, after design ideas are approved (smoothing out lettering or custom shapes, or aligning images).

Prepare

Last, but certainly not least, your files need to be prepared for wherever they’re going! Files sent off to print need to be exported with settings specific to your printers needs. Files being displayed on a device need to be exported and checked for color and resolution (especially now that retina displays are commonplace and getting fancier than ever!). Depending on where your design is going and how complex it is, this could be a 30-second process, or a day-long process, but it makes all the difference in making sure the final product is worth the hard work!

Convinced a design expert can increase your customer trust, acquisition, and revenue, but not sure where to start? Sign up to receive the free quiz "How to Tell if Your Brand Needs a Little Design Help."

Nicole Yang