An appeal to young designers...

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

Hello and welcome back! We'd like to start off by apologising that we haven't posted in a few months, things have been busy at BRIX HQ (which is no excuse, by the way). We're also still working through getting our BRIX: In Conversation with... interviews all sorted, with a few people already locked down, but we're still waiting to confirm a few more just so we can post them every week, WITHOUT FAIL.

But today, we wanted to talk about a phenomenon that's sweeping through social media in regards to design, and not one that we think is particularly helpful. It looks like this:

If you go on any generic graphic design account on Instagram or Twitter, you're sure to see some posts like this. There's nothing particularly wrong with them, they're just not particularly appealing to potential clients, and dare we say, the lazy option for young designers coming out of college/university. But this post isn't about saying that this work is rubbish, but it is about giving you some ideas and tips for developing your skillset and portfolio, and not falling into this trap.

Trust us, we know how difficult it is to gain clients and it's really hard sometimes, particularly when you're starting out, and we would highly recommend setting yourself test briefs in order to update your portfolio - but this is the reason we're writing this post, to give you some ideas to how to avoid the generic Instagram trend of falling into the trap of not pushing yourself, and to actually create some fantastic content that will get yourselves out there.

We're definitely not saying everyone should be fantastic at design straight away, because we're all a work in progress, but from what we see, it seems that this work is being posted to attract potential clients rather than just showing people your progress. However, we're prepared to eat our words, so if this is the case and we've missed something, we apologise in advance!

Let's work on the assumption that these are being used to attract clients though and look at the downsides to these posts though, and how we can remedy the problems of falling into this trap:

1. These do not reflect realistic briefs

The first danger in posting this kind of work is that it doesn't reflect real life briefs. Everyone wants paid design clients, which is great, and it's awesome to be paid for something you love doing. However, these types of projects do not really show anything of value to clients.

Yes, these pieces of work show an understanding of design in some ways, but in another way, they also show a lack of creativity and thinking that comes alongside logo identity and design work in general. That's not to say that some solutions that follow along these lines wouldn't be effective, because they can be, but I don't think they should be used in order to avoid actually working through the challenges of creating a compelling identity.

It may be that these projects are literally just done to create something, rather than follow any purpose. I think this is a trap that I fell into as a younger designer though, I designed things just for the looks, and didn't show much regard for the brief, I just designed things for my portfolio that didn't require much thought (a bad move, in other words). We would highly recommend trying to solve more difficult challenges though. The work we featured above might attract some people, but realistically, they're not going to be the clients that will want to hire you because of the value you'll bring to the business. You'll be a waiter, rather than an advisor.

Which moves onto our next point...

2. Your portfolio deserves better

In a world where design is becoming more and more prevalent, and people are choosing it as a career, it's important to try and think outside the box - to separate yourself. Like we mentioned above, it's unlikely that you're going to gain the type of clients you want by posting a logo that says "dog" which a dogs face instead of the "O".

Now, we're all for making up projects and working on mock projects to use in your portfolio, but it can be done in a far better way than the above projects, and we're sure you can all show more creative flair. Allow us to offer an alternative suggestion ...

Instead of working on typographic logos which say "bowling" or "dog" or whatever the case may be, why not try and create a made up company with a more realistic name instead? It's unlikely that someone is going to come to you and say, "I'm creating a company called "dog", and I want to "o" of the dog to be a dogs face". In that case, I would strongly suggest questioning them with "why?" and seeing what they say. That sort of request comes from a perspective of being a waiter rather than an advisor to clients; which is the relationship we should all want to have as creatives.

Not only that, but working on more realistic projects, and showing the logo identity or poster campaign in a real world environment will be much more appealing to prospective clients, as they'll see you're thinking about the application of the final design pieces. Yes, it will take you way longer to think about the brief and dissect it, but you will need to take that time in a real life brief anyway, so why not streamline your process? You can go out and take some photos of a restaurant to create mockups to use in your portfolio, the list is endless! It will take time to create these pieces of work, but it will not only help you think creatively and come up with a realistic solution to a problem. A design studio called Farm Design re-launched their whole business with the approach of working on test briefs, and they're now a very accomplished agency!

Clients want to see a deeper level of thinking and professionalism, they want to know that you'll be able to tackle complex design, and even business challenges - and you won't be able to show that by making generic names of companies that use features of the word the company is called. Not only will that company find it difficult to thrive in todays economical climate (if it was to enter the real world), but it would have no regard for people experiencing the brand.

I mean, we can't even defend these ones. They're just poor.

3. It shows a lack of trust in your abilities

Finally, if all the other reasons weren't enough, allow us to bring out the ace card. Not trying your hardest with your portfolio pieces shows a lack of belief and trust in your own abilities. It's likely that if you're reading this, you're probably interested in design, or are a designer yourself. You've probably studied for countless hours in the pursuit of becoming a designer, you may have even studied at university level. In which case, you're more than qualified to get big clients, and clients you deserve, because you've got the creative skill level to tackle these problems. Ultimately, your portfolio deserves care and attention because you can really show the quality of work you can deliver. That's what's most important to potential clients, showing the value you can bring to them, and the quality in which you can do that.

If you don't feel you're at this level yet, get in touch with us. We're thinking about running some courses in the future which could help, and we're more than happy to recommend some resources to you to continue to develop you as a creative. We don't want this post to be snobby, and we don't want to look down on people who post this sort of work on Instagram, because some people have had some levels of success doing it. But we just want to offer our opinion, and give some tips on gaining the clients who will truly value the service you offer!

As you'll hear basically everywhere now, design isn't just about looks, but it's about function. It's about solving the challenges people face creatively. That takes time, and so should your portfolio work.

We didn't want to just moan in this post, but we wanted to give ourselves and you guys a different level of thinking when it comes to social media posts and portfolio pieces. We're not doing it to insult your abilities, but we're trying to make sure you get the most out of them and develop them, just as we're trying to do ourselves. This stuff is hard, but the rewards you get from them can be fantastic!

Give us a shout if you have any questions or disagreements!

Adam - The BRIX Team