Category Archives: marketing

A Designer’s Business Sense


Designers spend several hours cleaning up drawings and getting it camera-ready for their projects. I include myself in this category. I have to find the fastest way to do things or I will be forever in the lurch!

A major problem of all talented designers I would like to address is the fact that we are by nature, single-minded creatures hellbent on perfecting our craft and all the while, ignoring the business aspect of production. How does one stand out?

We hardly ever spend resources on marketing or advertising. If it’s free and on the web, hooray.
If it means contacting an ad agency, marketing specialist, appointing a PR firm, or contracting a business consultant, well forget it because hey, we can do it ourselves.

I’ve personally met some people to enter the ICFF and drop a few thousand on limited booth space only to run out of homemade flyers/ business cards prematurely. Add to that a lackluster website or some shoddy little thing put together at the last minute because they spent months arranging for manufacturers to produce their prototypes and ready them up in time for the show.

And being the true artists that we are, we produce all manner of slick, flash/ java infused sites that are exceedingly fascinating in appearance, yet offer poor navigation and minimal functionality. Because we set it up ourselves. Because we took that one multimedia class, or our buddy showed us how to do it that one day and we are a quick study. Now customers can view fancy floating graphics on a slow loading page, and discover about 2 or 3 pages of php.

Now what’s the idea of going through all that trouble if your website isn’t up to par? I can’t think of anything more irresponsible.

In past clerical jobs, I’ve had to do a whole lot of setting up superiors for tradeshow entry. Endless forms to fill, partners and sales reps to contact, travel arrangements, contacting carriers, supplying valid credit card numbers, arranging for carriers, packing up product, etc. It’s all a big headache, especially when you are given minimal preferences to work with and they come from the person who is out of town on business!

Know this now: Entering a tradeshow is not light business.

Average 10×15 booth usually runs in the gamut of about $1,000-$3,000 per show. That’s per well-known tradeshow. Corner booths are slightly pricier, and island booths really take the cake in price. Booths are hard to reserve and timing is everything.

The very popular ones are even more costly. Go ahead and find out how much a small booth is for any show at the Jacob Javits Center in NY. Woohoo, sticker-shock!

And most places hire unionized labor, so you aren’t allowed to carry in your own stuff no matter how light it is.

You must follow proper procedure. And use the standard overhead flourescent lighting that comes with the place. Or for a nominal fee, order the show’s adjustable incandescent bulbs. You need to sit while you tend your booth? Stools are rentable, along with folding chairs
and tables. Want carpeting for your booth? It’ll cost ya. That’s on top of your booth space price tag.

I doubt many newbies understand anything about LED scanners you can rent. You swipe them over a booth’s badge # (it has inset barcode) and at the end of the show, the folks who arranged the show compile this data into what is usually a universal spreadsheet that
gets emailed to you. It’s quite nifty at gathering every visitor’s email address, phone number and such. Way better than having them sign a guestbook or having to manually take down the data, which is now considered gauche because it holds up your precious time.

So many designers focus on just polishing up their prototype, with little regard to arranging for press kits. That’s more like an afterthought in the back of our minds. Gee, do I have time to draw something up in Ilustrator real quick? Hmm, I dunno. I’ll just use what I had leftover from last year, they’ll never know.

Much like in college, where you pull an all nighter only over the extended course of several weeks. You fool yourself into thinking you have enough time and before you know it, it’s already 3 mo. till deadline. Your website hasn’t been updated. You still have to change the graphics on your businesscard to reflect this year and the change in your email address.

We really are artists, all loopy and focused on one thing. Project completion. Proper business mandates never even come into focus that we’re so damn busy. This, is the kind of thing schools seriously need to teach you better.

We had a one-semester crash course in this. I found it extremely helpful and wondered why the hell it wasn’t a requirement or lasted longer than a semester. The professor was excellent, someone I could really admire because he wasn’t one of these losers plucked up by the college
out of a magazine article. No, this guy had his own business that he operated for several years. And what he said made you really think.

And he proposed this question: “Would you rather be a better designer, or be a better businessman?” We all got the ?HUH? look splashed on our faces. In our particular school, form was emphasized over drawing/ CAD skills. So we thought as sculptors and illustrators would; similar mindset.

But never occurred to us to have to put together a business plan, or to go on the net to the SCORE website or anything. Or, to our horror, compete as businessmen with one another upon graduation. Now that’s a whole lotta competition! What was least covered was how we can market our own goods. Most important, no?

The internet was still a fledling then, heading towards the Dot Com Boom /Crash. Today, there are so many outlets for us to market ourselves, but just as challenging for us to truly stand out in a sea of millions of webpages and just as many talented designers.
Just as I stood at ICFF with several hundred booths and all, wonderful consumer products. I turned to a friend of mine and said, “Jesus, how does one stand out?” 3 days, 3 floors, and several thousand sq. ft. to really stand out in the crowd. What an investment, eh?

Which brings me to why I am writing about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This isn’t just for marketing consultancies anymore. This is key in helping your own websites rise above the rest. If you aren’t taking advantage of this helpful tool, as a designer, or as anybody doing business online, then you are a fool. This is what helps you in the ranks in a sea of pretty websites and similar competitors. My professor answered the question with something along the lines of “You have to be both, especially in the very beginning.” And most artists are broke (for reference, see my About Me section) so we have to take on the roles of Public Relations and Website Administrator ourselves. It is crucial.

Remember that being talented and being clever have nothing to do with one another.
But looking for key tools that aid your SEO is absolutely essential for the growth of your business.

And I’m going to do everything I can to amass enough interest with SEO. Stay tuned.