Some Things Aren’t Good DIY Projects
Back in the day, the design community fretted about home Desktop Publishing software like Microsoft Publisher and Print Shop. The press, especially the computer press, predicted the demise of graphic design as a profession, now that John Q. Public had all the tools he needed to produce his own layouts. Doom and gloom are always “good news” in the news industry, so this was a good story to fill otherwise idle columns on slow news days. And of course Microsoft and other software makers had good reasons to tell people that DIY design was the way to go.
The demise didn’t happen. In fact, there are more designers doing more work for more clients than ever before.
There are several reasons for this:
Home and office publishing programs didn’t give people the tools they needed to produce professional results, and it soon became clear that the most obvious effect of the desktop publishing revolution was an abundance of ugly documents;
Professional grade design tools appeared on the market (Aldus Pagemaker, Quark Xpress and eventually Adobe InDesign, the current king of this market) that could create professional work, even if they were not easy to master;
Designers took to computer-based design like ducks to water;
The cost saving from computer-controlled print workflows was immense, so the money saved on production costs could go into better design, and
The World Wide Web came along, opening a whole new field of design work that existed only on the computer.
An even more important reason was totally missed by almost everyone, including many designers: good graphic design in any medium is a combination of art and craftsmanship that take training to learn and skill to execute. Just because you have a bunch of great tools you bought in a fit of inspiration at Home Depot doesn’t mean you now have everything you need to build a house or remodel your back room. It isn’t the tools (although amateur tools are often a nightmare to work with) so much as knowing what you’re supposed to do with them that results in a beautiful end product.
It’s All About the Message
In the case of graphic design, the designer is supposed to create an image, a layout, a combination of form and function that by itself gets the message across to the viewer. The copy might be brilliant, but if nobody reads it because the design is poor (the main reason stuff doesn’t get read) then it is pointless.
What about art? — Well, sure, the aesthetic is important, but only if it contributes to the message. If it distracts from the message, alters it, or makes it unclear, it won’t bring in any business for the client no matter how many awards it gets. Anything that gets in the way of delivering the message is a Bad Thing.
The oddity is that almost anyone can see that one thing is well done as compared with an amateur equivalent, even if they can’t quite say why. You don’t have to be a automotive engineer to perceive there’s a difference between a Ferrari and a Yugo.
This is true in any field where craftsmanship is involved. The details are usually not seen, far less identified by someone outside the craft, but they are visible to a professional. Without those myriad tiny details that go into a finished piece, a design looks “not quite right,” just as many amateur home remodeling projects look subtly but definitely unfinished.
So what do you get when you hire a designer? You get professional experience and expertise, you get someone who will make you or your company look terrific (in the eyes of your intended audience), and most of all you will get your message across to the people you want to reach.
You’re making an investment. Good design gets your message across so you get the maximum return.