In this article I wanted to share my experience of the different types of clients we have worked with and how you can go about choosing the right design resource.
To do that I will be looking at the different kinds of roles in design, these are by no means exhaustive but you should get a broad sense of what each role is about and hopefully a clue on which role to work with for your next design project.
Note: I have added photographs of some of the best in the business in each role. These are people who I or my partner and wife, Ankita admire. If you click on each picture, they will take you to a link where you can know more about each of these amazing four gurus in the design and advertising world.
The Creative Director:
Every human being can potentially be an awesome creative director and you do not really need to have any design degrees for it. A creative director is someone who is foremost a story teller. Great creative directors have an uncanny insight into business, design and art along with an ability to inspire their teams and craft inspiring stories. This story telling ability is what really makes a creative director the custodian of brands. Many entrepreneurs are naturally very powerful creative directors who have a strong grip on their brand and how it is developed.
The Art Director:
This person is generally a senior designer with a keen eye for details and generally manages the output of the designers working with them. They implement the vision of the creative director and gets the best out of their designers. Their grip over layouts, colours, fonts and technical prowess is strong due to their years of experience working as a designer themselves.
The Actual Designer:
I am going very very broad here so bear with me. Most designers have specializations that make them unique and sought after. They might be specialized interaction designers or maybe type designers or graphic designers or motion graphics designers or illustrators. The point here is that designers are the people who are actually working on bringing your designs to live under the direction of the creative and art director. Most awesome designers obviously become famous creative and art directors. Here is a quick glance at an article that can give you a bit more meat on types of designers.
These guys are usually forgotten and I nearly forgot to add them in even though I consider myself a half-decent copywriter. A copywriter is someone who is also a storyteller and is crafty with their words. All the quirky and clever slogans and jingles that you have heard or read in advertisements all these years are the handiwork of copywriters.
Now that you have a very basic 101 about design resources, let's get down to what kind of design resources are a good fit for where you might be in your business or entrepreneurial venture:
You are an individual entrepreneur on a budget
If you right now an individual running your business, it is important to spend your money very wisely. Ideally you should be creating and managing the brand yourself as far as possible. You are working towards being your own creative director or hiring the consultative services of a creative director that you like. Also, in my experience you might not have a lot of design requirements. You should only be using the services of a designer once you have a clear idea of what you need to get done. This means, if you want a brochure designed, you have spent quite a bit of time referencing yourself and maybe trying out some rudimentary rough layout sketches. The idea is to give a very clear direction as much as possible so that you have minimum back and forths. With this kit in your pocket, you search for individual designers whose style you love and giving them the clearest of brief and your budget. Generally experienced designers are also good art directors and they will play both roles for your project. Behance is usually a great resource to connect with all kinds of designers.
Conclusion: Manage the brand tightly yourself, creatively direct yourself as far as possible or get an consultant creative director to assist you, goto individual design freelancers with detailed briefs.
You are a very early stage startup or a very small business with a limited marketing budget
You probably might have a lot of design requirements at this stage but not a lot of budget to spend on design. You should still be driving the brand as the creative director and each design project as much as you can. Again hire the services of a consultant creative director from time to time as required. However, at your stage it might be cost-effective to hire a full time designer in-house who primarily works towards getting most of your design requirements to reality. This individual should be good at design softwares and you can have your creative director mentor this young designer for a small fee. From time to time, you can hire the services of an art director or a copywriter on a consultation basis to work with your designer. You can always goto a design studio or individual rockstar designer for complex design projects like if you are looking to create an awesome brand identity or a very engaging infographic or a kickass explainer video.
Conclusion: Manage the brand tightly yourself, hire a full time in-house designer and goto design studios for complex project or outlier requirements. Keep a working relationship with consultant creative directors, art directors and copy writers.
You are a mid stage startup (mostly funded) or a decent sized business with revenue upwards of atleast $1 million
This is where you should seriously start getting an awesome design studio to partner with. Choosing a young and upcoming design studio whose work you love and importantly, a studio that can truly nurture and grow your brand. You are at a stage where you cannot really creatively direct projects and your direct grip on the brand has loosened as your keeping up with a growing business. A good studio will partner with you to create a brand that delights you, your customers and even the studio itself. They will not only fulfill on your visual design requirements but also contribute meaningfully in growing your business by truly adding value to the way your brand is perceived by all your stakeholders. The best example I can think of at this stage is the relationship shared by Airbnb and Design.Studio. Members of Design.Studio travelled with the AirBnb team to 13 cities in 4 continents and stayed with 18 hosts to create the brand from the ground up that pervades every aspect of AirBnb as a company. Read it here. At ADAC Studios too, we are just starting on our journey to create companies that delight. They delight themselves, their stakeholders and they delight us.
Conclusion: Partner with an awesome design studio that you love and the one who you think can truly nurture and develop your brand. Passion over experience is what you are looking out for here in your design studio because you want the founders or the top management involved in your brand as much as possible.
You are an established company
I have not much to say here as you have the resources and the budgets to hire the best in the business and goto top design studios or agencies. The only thing I would recommend is that you have a mind-blowing Chief Design Officer (CDO) who has an experience of crafting delightful brands in their career and has the whole organization sing the same brand language. That makes for a truly legendary brand. One of their main roles should also be to spur creative thinking across the breadth of the organization. The CDO is a design thinking expert and is revolutionizing how your business itself operates through design. You can seriously think about having a buzzing design studio in-house just for your brand with some really cool talent on board.
Conclusion: You have a legendary CDO who is driving your brand.
To sum up, there are a myriad ways that companies and individuals manage and interact with their design resource. There is no clear right way. However, through this article, I wanted to give a certain direction on how to hire and inspire your design resources. What stage are you at in creating an awesome brand that delights you?
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