8 MORE Graphic Design Myths

posted by Manda 33 Comments

Almost a year ago, I shared some graphic design myths with you in: “8 Common Graphic Design Myths Revealed.” Since that time, I’ve come across another 8 myths that need to be uncovered.

Myth #9: Graphic Designers Fix Computers

I’m not sure what it is, but there is a mass confusion about the limitless knowledge of graphic designers. Apparently because I work on a computer all day, I also know how to take one apart and build it from scratch. I know how to set up networks, load memory, rid computers of viruses, and use any and all programs — no matter if they are design-related or not.

Graphic designers are DESIGNERS. We are not IT specialists. We are not members of the Geek Squad. And we are not software developers or sales associates at your local computer store. Please stop calling us for help with your computers.

Myth #10: Designers Prefer Trades to Cash

I don’t know why, but it seems that the Barter System is alive and well in the world of graphic design. What is it about the services we provide as designers that so few people think we deserve to be paid in cash? Everyone wants to make a trade! If you design my website, I’ll make you a pie. If you create posters for our event, we’ll give you a free ticket to attend.

Designers don’t do what we do for fun. This is our job! We design websites and posters so that we can buy food and electricity. We take cash, and checks, and credit cards, and paypal payments. Not pies. Would you pay your hairstylist, doctor, or mechanic in pies? No? Then, please give designers the same respect and hire them only when you have the budget to pay with real money.

Myth #11: Designers Love to Haggle

Let’s get one more money myth out of the way. It has become a popular belief that purchasing a website is like purchasing a car. Potential clients ask, how much is this going to cost? We ask them questions, get an idea of what they want, put together an estimate, and send it over. And what comes back? Not a simple “Let’s do it” or “Sorry, that’s out of my price range,” but a counter-offer! What?!?!

This myth has become so out of hand, that I’m about ready to change my system. Instead of telling a potential client how much it will cost to do what they want, I need to start asking them what their budget is — and then telling them what they can get for that price. That may give me a break from this myth — and save me and my potential clients a lot of time.

Myth #12: There is a quick-fix Filter or Plugin for almost every Situation

Surprisingly, this is one myth that I hear from both designers and non-designers. I’ve had both students and professionals ask me how to achieve a certain look or build a specific functionality, and as I’m describing the steps they interrupt with, “Isn’t there an easier way?” Isn’t there a magic button I can push to give my website the grunge look? Isn’t there a special setting that will turn my psd into a working website with no work on my part?

Non-designers are equally guilty of this myth. I get a lot of, “Why is that taking so long?” and “This should be a quick change (or a quick project),” because obviously if I have Photoshop, I have a magic genie to finish every job in a flash.

Design takes time. And a lot of hard work, concentration, and attention to detail. Yes, there are some filters to give you a basic look. But, if you want to push any treatment to a professional level, there will be serious work involved. And, yes, there are some plugins that are a major benefit in web design — but they still usually have to be customized for the project at hand. The truth is, if you see something, and are impressed by it, somebody put a lot of time and work into it. No magic involved.

Myth #13: Drawing with a Mouse is Easier than Drawing with a Pencil

You may be surprised by this one. It sounds like a myth, right? But I hear it all of the time from students: “I don’t know how to draw. But it’s okay, I’m going to work on a computer.” What makes people think that it’s easier to draw with a mouse? Chances are, if you can’t draw with a pencil, your skills aren’t going to improve when you start drawing with a mouse. Please, all of you aspiring designers, get a pencil and a sketchbook you love, and practice drawing. Those skills are going to help you tremendously when you have to switch over to creating art with a mouse.

Myth #14: Designers don’t need General Education Classes

There are so many students in design school loving their design courses, and barely scraping by in their math, English, and history classes — rolling their eyes, sketching during lectures, and ignoring their instructors. Why? Because somewhere along the line, the unfortunate and untrue news has spread that general education courses are unnecessary for designers. Not only are they necessary, they could make or break your career.

How is it that students expect to successfully create an 8-panel roll-fold brochure, or a complex tradeshow booth without math? And, if you ever expect to own your own business, those math skills are going to come in handy when you have to do your own estimates, billing and taxes.

Writing and grammar skills may be the most underrated of the general education classes. I can’t imagine that any designer will manage to get through his or her career without doing at least a little copywriting, and without doing a whole lot of proofing. And, how will you ever make a convincing sales pitch or present a concept to a client without the skills you’ll acquire in speech class?

Even the classes that seem completely out of the realm of design — science, history, and social study classes — will be vital to your career. As a designer, you have to be a chameleon — creating a website for the finance industry one day, and working on a brochure for the construction industry the next. EVERY one of those classes is going to be helpful to you in your career. Please don’t take them for granted.

Myth #15: Designers are Mind Readers

Occasionally people have a hard time communicating their thoughts. And, that’s okay. But, it does make the job of the designer very difficult. Sometimes impossible. “I want a logo, but I don’t know what I want. I’ll know it when I see it.” So, you want me to just keep creating logos until you find one you like? How many years do you expect this to take?

Designers aren’t mind readers. We don’t know you hate the color yellow or that clouds give you nightmares. I believe it is our job, as designers, to ask as many questions as we can. But it is hard to cover everything, and sometimes you (the client) aren’t very good at describing what you want. THIS is why most designers will do more than one composition design. I personally do two out of the box, and then use the feedback from those to work on a third that will hopefully be a home run. All we ask as designers, though, is that you be a little patient if we don’t create a perfect layout or logo on the first try — we aren’t mind readers. We just try to be.

Myth #16: Design is so Easy that Anyone can Learn it in a One-Hour Session & We Would LOVE to Teach You!

This myth is the one that bothers me the most. I went to college for four years (and have quite a bit of debt to show for it), and worked two —sometimes three — jobs at a time while I was starting out as a designer. I read every design book and design blog I could get my hands on (and I still do). I’ve been working and teaching in the design industry for over twelve years. Twelve! And, I get this all of the time: “I don’t want to pay you to do it. Couldn’t you just show me how to do it?”

No. I can’t, and I won’t. Go to school, get good grades, purchase and read every book you can get your hands on, complete every tutorial you come across, purchase the programs and equipment, write the lesson plans and teach the classes, climb the ladder, and spend all of your spare time studying, sketching, and learning. After all of that, you should be able to handle design on your own. Then give me a call. I’ll set you up with my other clients so that you can teach them all you’ve learned in a single one-hour session.

So, there you have it! 8 more design myths. Curious about the first 8? Check them out in: 8 Common Graphic Design Myths Revealed.

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Mark McCorkell March 1, 2010 at 4:07 am

Great article again Manda! And there are so true! Particularly the one about haggling… a lot of clients seem to think the “how cheap can you do it?” approach makes sense, without grasping that the estimate is based on the work needed, not just a number we pluck from the clouds. Asking the client about their budget is absolutely the best way to be specific about what you can do for what they are willing to pay.

Some times I detest dealing with clients because the questions can be frustrating on a whole new level. I get asked some times “have you any specific idea when my website will be live???!!!”, when I am still waiting on content being sent through from that very same client – content that is critical in determining the rest of the design of that very website.

And that “i’ll make you a pie” thing is so true too. I had a guy on Twitter that asked me to “design a website theme” for him, and in exchange he would do a blog post about “my business” and advertise to help me any way he could. Fair trade, eh? A week or two of my time, in exchange for a thumbs up from his blog… hmmm?
.-= Mark McCorkell´s last blog ..Evernote: Design Inspiration Scrapbook… accessible anywhere =-.

Manda March 1, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I know exactly what you mean when you mention the timeline issue. That should be another myth: “Timelines and launch dates depend only on the Designer.” It’s usually us waiting on content or revisions. Hurry up and wait. That’s almost always the case.

Ha Ha! A blog post for a blog design, huh? Oh yeah. Completely fair!! I have worked for trades a few times — but it was always fair: design for coding or design for artwork. All on the same level and in the same price range. It seems that anyone outside our industry just doesn’t understand the value of what we do.

rafael armstrong March 1, 2010 at 11:08 am

Excellent post. I couldn’t help but go “yep”, “uh-huh”, “heard that”, as I was reading this list.
I would like to add/piggyback one thing (there were two, but I seem to be blanking on one right now):

Designers are not (always) developers– Myth 9a. There seems to be a rumor going around that just because you can design a site, you can code it. Even though it’s a helpful skill to have, not all designers will be able to take a PSD or whatever art file there may be and strip it out into usable HTML. If you want/need a developer or programmer, let your designer know so that he/she can provide a more accurate estimate. Don’t assume it’s included in your quote. Hmmm. guess it sort of piggybacks on #11 as well.

How ’bout that?

Thanks again for another great article, Manda.

Manda March 1, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Excellent point, Rafael! I’m one of those people. I can handle XHTML and CSS, but I’m still learning PHP, and will never be at the level of a professional developer (and I’ve come to terms with that 🙂 ) I’m lucky enough to have a couple of talented developers to partner up with on jobs. It’s a beautiful thing — we each do what we’re best at. I’d rather that then try to learn a little of everything, but never be good at anything.

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Leon March 1, 2010 at 11:41 am

LOL, these are really good. The second picture (trades over money) had me rolling over the floor too!

Manda March 1, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed them, Leon! I hate searching for images — it makes me feel good that it may have been worth it this time!

Chris Taylor March 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Please continue this column! You have nailed so many Myths that make us all smack our heads in disbelief…but unfortunately there are oh so many more. Thank you for the entertaining read!

Manda March 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Thanks Chris! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the myths. I’m sure they’re a lot more fun to read about that they are to experience ha ha!

Douglas Bonneville March 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm

How does the “designers fix computer” myth travel so well? That is the strangest one. I used to always get calls about how to fix email from clients that set up new domains, or moved them to new servers. In the early days, I tried to help. Now I realized that any client discussions about “MX Records” needs to be terminated and redirected to the web hosting.

When I recommend web hosts, I only recommend those that are known to have excellent customer service, so that all the “MX Record” and “DNS Setting” questions can be taken care of by someone that gets paid to do that – not me!

Manda March 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I think that is excellent advice, Douglas! Recommending the host for their customer service — brilliant! I’m definitely going to do that in the future…

I’m like you — I used to try to help, but the more you help, the more they ask, and before you know it, you’re an IT guy! I always say that there is a good reason why I’m not an IT person — I don’t have the skills OR the patience!!

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8 MORE Graphic Design Myths…

There are some serious myths floating around about designers, and I think its important that we all finally learn the truth….

David Barker March 2, 2010 at 11:40 am

All of these points are resonating with me so much! I almost want to copy and paste them to my friends (in particular) who believe that because we work on a computer, our design work somehow magically appears… or that because I’m someone who generally enjoys working with computers I’m more than willing to do it all for free or at a huge discount.

I often wonder why they don’t see the logic themselves… if we have clients who are willing to pay full price, why would we go out of our way to accommodate multiple websites for friends for free? I don’t mind helping out where I can, but most act like we have nothing better to do, but we do – paid projects!

I’m currently in a pickle because I decided to help out a friend who has just started her own small business and was looking for a website. “It just needs to be very small and then I can add to it later”, she said… stupid me agreed to help her out at a discount of about 75% because she was a friend. Now we’re going through endless revisions & rehashing of old topics… when all I want to do is be done with it all so I can concentrate on other things.

It’s my own fault – I need to be more honest with her, but that’s easier said than done. I’ve certainly learnt many lessons from it! Once this is done I’m concentrating on personal projects for a while and will be trying to build up my personality to cope with clients better.

Manda March 3, 2010 at 11:03 am

I’m so sorry that you’re in that situation, David!! I’ve been there myself — this is one of those lessons that we all seem to learn the hard way. I was reading a blog post the other day that I loved: 5 Dreaded buzz kill phrases every freelancer should avoid, and there was a something in there that really stuck with me: The less money a client has (or is willing to spend), the more difficult they are going to be to work with. And, that statement is so true. You think you’re doing somebody a favor, but in the end, you’re just creating headaches for yourself — and in my own experience with this, losing money.

It’s hard to turn down friends and family. But, I’m almost to the point where I’m ready to establish a “No friends and family” policy. It never turns out well. I think you need to make it clear to your friend that if she was a normal client, she would have been given X amount of revisions, and that she has passed that limit. Let her know that you have other clients who are paying full price, and you can’t risk losing them. Tell her you need to wrap that job in the next couple of days — that the design will have to be what it is, and if she has one final round of text revisions, you’ll make those, but then you need to move onto paying clients. I know how hard it is, but it has to be done. You should probably set her up with someone else for future updates and revisions also — you don’t want to be her go-to guy every time she wants to update her site. Maybe find a college student that would be willing to take a lesser hourly rate?

It sounds like you have a wonderful personality for clients 🙂 Too nice, maybe. Just try to keep in mind your prices, and what your time is worth, and stick to it!! Best of luck to you!

carey March 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm

OMG,IKR @”David Barker”. I think you need to be honest with your friend and tell her you need to raise the price or have to stop work on the project now because you have too many other projects that need your attention (paid ones). Good luck.

Manda March 3, 2010 at 11:06 am

I completely agree with you Carey!

Chris LaFrombois March 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Awesome post Manda!! I would definitely have to agree with with all of these myths, but I unfortunately may have inadvertently caused some (like #9, because I can fix computers).

Rafael has a great point, I am skilled enough to code with XHTML/CSS/PHP but am in no way a web programmer. I’m a coder. We should create a wikipedia article on the differences in skill sets. Or how about a Creative Opera blog post about it 🙂

Manda March 3, 2010 at 11:07 am

Great idea, Chris!! I’ll add it to my list of upcoming post topics 🙂

Just...B March 4, 2010 at 12:09 am

Holy cow! You really nailed these. Especially 10, 11 & 15. The whole trade thing has gotten completely out of control. Not sure where this is coming from but its making me coo coo for cocoa puffs! My recent fav was the trade for glass blowing classes. I’m just not sure what to do with that information!?? And marketers need to stop asking me for my “wholesale prices”! As for mind-reading *sigh* sometimes the nature of the beast.

Lately I have found solace in the “clients from hell” website – sad, funny and all to real.

Yari March 16, 2010 at 11:38 am

These are brilliant! I’ll definitely be re-posting and sharing the knowledge. Thanks for sharing!

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aShocka May 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

hell yes! I will send a link to this article to my new clients 🙂

Dayne Oram May 31, 2010 at 5:36 pm

These were a couple of really interesting articles! I’m hoping to set out in the graphic design industry too… Luckily for me, I understand most of those myths, and understand most of the difficulties involved! I’m also happy to know I’m on the right track, by sketching all the time, completing tutorials on PSDtuts+ and Abduzeedo quite often.

( Note on #14) By the way, I’m not that great in biology or chemistry, but i’m okay in physics… I often do well in english, art & maths, and I speak almost fluent french (I’m 15). After reading #14 I’m starting to wonder… Am I on the right tracks after all?

Anonymous August 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I stumbled upon this site while researching for work. I’m a few months late but I love/can totally relate to this post.

My particular experience was with designing a friend of a friend’s t-shirt for her sorority. I figured I’d do it since I’m a fellow Greek girl and I had the free time. Plus it would be a bonus for my portfolio, although I didn’t super need it.

I sent her FOUR mocks of different designs. She rejected 3 and told me to go off the last one. I should have already raised the flag at this point. Since I’m providing the design for free, I was under the assumption that she just wanted something quick that looked decent (since she needed the shirts the following week). However I obliged and changed the design and re-sent her the fourth one.

She then sent me another email telling me to completely scratch the design and to come up with a new one based on something she thought of. Ok…if you thought of it yourself why didn’t you do it yourself. She then asked me if I could hurry and get it done since the deadline was coming up. I never finished that project for her and I’m glad I didn’t waste my time. I secretly hope that since I never finished the project for her, she had to go with some default, clip-art design.

Bottom line, if you’re getting something for free, take what you can get. I felt pretty generous offering 4 designs and even continuing with editing one but if you’re on a time crunch with no budget, don’t be picky.

Friends of friends aren’t any better than family or direct friends. I know that now.

Manda August 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Hi Anonymous,
I feel for you — as I think all designers do. You were extremely generous, and I’m sorry it wasn’t appreciated. It’s a lesson we ALL learn — and unfortunately, we all learn it the hard way. I’ve experienced this a few times, actually and now I know, the less someone wants to pay, the more they will expect from you. I don’t know why it works that way, it just does. Try not to let it sour you completely. I still do work for not-for-profits and friends, but I’m very honest upfront. I let them know that if they aren’t paying, then my payment comes in the way of a portfolio piece. And, for me to come out of a project with a nice portfolio piece, tI will be making the final design decisions. If they know me, they know they can trust me to make the best decisions for their company and their business — and since they’re not paying me, they’ll just have to let go of their dreams of a powder pink and mauve website 🙂

Ferienhaus Ferienwohnung November 29, 2010 at 8:01 am

Good point of view. You chose great photos 🙂

business continuity December 8, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Doh! Please delete my previous post. Just wanted to say this is a nice extension on your previous post. I especially like #11, but your solution is a catch 22, because you don’t want to haggle, but you don’t want to lose your creativity either. It’s like well I had this great plan for your site, but for that price you can only have bits and pieces of my big picture. Ughh such a tug-a-war, mind and body!

Elin October 4, 2011 at 3:42 am

I’ve seen the first batch of myths, and as expected your post made me laugh! 🙂

Sean Cain September 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Fantastic article, Manda. You had me laughing out loud with “clouds give you nightmares” in number 15.

Myth number 16 is also hilarious because it’s so true. I consider myself a somewhat decent web and graphic designer, but for smaller businesses and non-profit organizations, and you have no idea how many people ask to meet them in a coffee shop and teach them WordPress “in a couple of hours.”

They probably couldn’t even learn how to complete their first post and install a plugin in that much time.

And I thought I was the only one in the world who spends almost as much time reading and learning about new coding language, plugins and software than doing actual work for clients.

If they only knew what it’s really like to do this for a living…

Jacquelin Frank June 17, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Wonderful Article! I’ve experience so many of these myths myself – this was great to read. I used to work an a flash artist creating illustrative work for Facebook games and I know freelance as a graphic designer. A couple I’ve experienced time and time again are:

1) Illustration is the same as graphic design.
“You do Illustration? So that means you’re a graphic designer right?”
(Illustration is not just Graphic design but Graphic Design is a form of Illustration and usually is a much different focus of art in the job world than illustration.)

2) If you create art digitally it is graphic design.
“Graphic design just means that you do art digitally on the computer right?”
(I used to do purely illustration on the computer and graphic design can most definitely be a traditional art.)

3) Everything can be fixed easily in photoshop.
“Why did that take so long? Can’t you just adjust the levels or something of the whole page in Photoshop?”
(First of all it depends on the work being done and how – different programs are used to create different things. For example flash is used to create vector images and animations for games while Photoshop can be used to create a bg image for a poster. Most of the time you can’t just easily adjust all the assets of a flash file in Photoshop and then keep working on the vectors. Second – it depends completely on how the file is set up. Assets can be done in pieces so you can just wave a magic wand over the whole file to change one small thing on everything – although in some cases like editing a flat image it can. Sometimes you have to go in and adjust everything individually for the best result or because its the only way.)

Dom February 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I’d trade a paragraph critique for a pie. Great list, puts some things into perspective for ignorant clients.


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