Tuesday, June 9, 2009

7 Habits of Effective Designers

I recently read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Franklin Covey, and was trying to figure out how I can apply this to my business and the world of graphic design. The seven habits he puts forth are great and can be applied to many areas of life.

Be proactive

For a designer, being proactive means you are contacting people about jobs letting clients know what you are working on and networking. Each of these things can help to generate new jobs from clients and new clients. Keeping in contact with existing clients and talking with them can open up possible jobs. They may mention an upcoming event or a direction they want to take with their advertising giving you an opportunity to help them.

Begin with the end in mind

When you begin a project make sure to have clearly defined goals. Know what the desired outcome is thus helping you define the project and keep on task. There are times when you and the client will define a project but as you get into it, the project changes. This can change the cost of the project which is easier to show if you had the project defined to start with.

Put first things first

This one sounds like a "Well, duh," idea but there are times you get excited about a project and forget a critical step. Make sure you work through your process and follow all your steps. This helps to make sure you have all the info from the client to start with, you have a contract in place, and you and the client are looking toward the same goal.

Think win-win

As a designer it is our job to give the client the best solution as well as a solution they are happy with. You have ideas of what the final product should be and so do they. When you design for someone, you want to make sure you collaborate with them. Share ideas but know that you may need to compromise to your client’s desire. Remember, your client knows their business better than you do. When you collaborate and work together you can come to a solution you are both pleased with.

Seek first to understand then be understood

This may be one of the most important steps. When we sit down with a client it is important to understand their needs so you can accurately talk to them and make sure that you are doing the right thing. Once you understand their needs you can make suggestions regarding improvements. It is important you leave preconceived ideas at the door so you can fully understand the client’s needs and explain what you can do for them. This helps to create the win-win situation and leads onto synergy.


Work with the client and use your network. Everyone views things differently and at times, it is important to get a new perspective. As you work on a project, keep the client updated and share your ideas so you can have feedback. There have been many times I have felt I had a project in the bag only to find out it was not the direction the client wanted to go. It will also give you greater buy-in from the client at the end of the project as they feel like they are part of the process. Remember, your network of other designers and friends can help you. Share ideas with them and get feedback. I have a few design friends I like to share projects with for their feedback. Many times it has saved me from going in a direction that would have ended up not working. Cooperation is the key to good synergy.

Sharpen the saw

This is often overlooked and neglected. You need to be constantly learning new skills and updating the ones you already have. Creating a network of designers can help by keeping you up-to-date on new trends. Attending a seminar like the HOW Design Conference can give you new insights and help you connect with other designers. Taking courses at Lynda.com can teach you new skills or get you up to speed on new software. Once you're a professional the learning doesn't end.

Each of these habits is great for not only designers but others too. The key is to figure out how they work for you.