When I was a student in design school, I once did an assignment for a teacher who made us stand up and present our projects to the entire class. Now I’m not the best public presenter, and as a teenager in college, I was even worse.
After I fumbled through my presentation, my teacher pulled me aside and said that I’d had the best ideas out of everyone in the class, but gave the worst presentation. I was too shy, and I didn’t inspire any confidence in my audience. My presentation had no “pop,” and thus it was boring and forgettable. I earned a disappointing grade as a result.
As a professional designer, I’ve since had it reinforced again and again that, when it comes to ideas, it’s all about how you present them. A good presentation can force people to take your ideas more seriously and assign more value to them.
Dress Your Ideas For Success
Here’s a sad but true fact: people are much more likely to be interested in your work if you “dress it up” nicely. If something is presented poorly, it will be perceived that way, regardless of its actual value. If you’re uncomfortable presenting your ideas and selling a client on them, take classes and read books on presentation and public speaking.
It might be awkward, but the effort you put into presenting your ideas and making a genuine connection with people is going to make the difference between an obscure designer and a breakout superstar.
Technical craftsmanship counts as well. Don’t cut corners. Spend the extra time to make your design as crisp and perfect as possible. I know people say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. But I say that the sloppy is the enemy of the great. When you were younger, your parents probably told you to “dress for success.” That’s true not just for your appearance, but for anything you create which represents you professionally.
Anything that has your name attached to it also carries the strength of your reputation on its back. Don’t unknowingly develop a reputation for shoddy, third-rate work.
Gotta Have A Gimmick
There’s a classic musical number in the 1962 film Gypsy, about burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, in which young Rose is educated about the key to burlesque success by her fellow strippers.
It’s obviously meant to be funny (and it is), but there’s a powerful marketing tactic embedded in the song: whatever you do, make sure it gets people’s attention, because if it doesn’t, you’ll never make the sale.
Theatrics and flair count for a lot. We are visual creatures and we respond to the pretty, the flashy, and the attention grabbing. For example, a color photograph is going to get more attention than a black and white one (unless the black and white photo is the only one among a bunch of color photos), and a video is always going to get more attention than a still image.
This is even more true nowadays, when we’ve all been inundated with showy, blinking ads and fast-moving media offerings. It takes even more to catch people’s attention these days, but that’s where your problem-solving design skills come in handy.
Using Your Sixth Sense
The more senses you can engage for your viewers, the better your response will be. Visual, sound, motion, color – whatever you can incorporate that will create a holistic experience and engages your audience as much as possible.
Obviously, this needs to be calibrated according to the specific niche you’re designing for, but basic human psychology doesn’t change. People will certainly retain more information about your content the more experiential and interactive it is.
Make It Count
Everything – and I mean everything – about your design project should tell a story, from the colors to the photography to every single word in your copy. If there’s anything that isn’t contributing to the story you want to tell, take it out immediately.
Again, it’s important to make sure your clients understand why a design choice is the right one or the wrong one. The closer you are to the money, the easier this will be. It’s quite easy to convince a client that your solution will help them get more customers, and thus make more money.
Customer Service Counts
Excellent customer service can take a restaurant from mediocre to amazing. In the culinary world, they say that presentation is three-quarters of a meal. That means that you are 75% more likely to enjoy a plate of food if it looks nice.
That sounds like a lot, but think about it: would you walk into a restaurant that had greasy, spoiled-looking food sitting out on its counters, and be filled with confidence about whatever they were about to serve you? Or maybe the food looks fine, but the waitstaff is surly and inattentive, ignoring your questions or calls for service. Would that whet your appetite? I didn’t think so.
As a designer, “service” should be at the forefront of your mind at all times, even if you don’t think it’s part of your job description. You’re performing a service for your clients, and that includes the little details that make you stand out from your competition.
Thank you notes, extras and freebies, offers to help out whenever you’re needed and add value to your client will all help keep you at the top of your client’s mind when they’re thinking about hiring or referring someone.