A Look at Today’s Graphic Design Industry: An Interview with 2 Thriving Designers

Mar 10, 2016 | 212 Articles, Business, Content Marketing, Graphic Design, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Social Media

Recently I had the opportunity to get together with two experienced graphic designers to pick their brains. We talked about trends, workloads, and the ever-changing world of things like fonts, colors, textures, etc.

Terry Julien has been a freelance graphic designer for more than 30 years. That means he was working in this arena before the Internet became ubiquitous, before Adobe and the Creative Suite were launched to the masses, and before Macs were accepted as more than just toys for home computing. (Check out some of his work at Julien Design Studios http://juliendesignstudio.com/)

Thom Phelps has worked in this same field for almost 20 years. His career has taken him into various corporate organizations, while allowing him to continue working in the freelance arena via his company, Portal 1. A published author, Thom also has several books on Amazon.

Check out some of our conversation:

David – What’s new?

Terry – Surprisingly, print! Print is not dead. I’m surprised how it’s come back around, and I’m getting a lot of requests to work on print jobs.

Thom – Yep, while it’s still heavily leaning electronic, there are more and more requests for postcards, ads, and even newsletters.

Terry – And brochures are big! Lots and lots of collateral for clients.

David – So what’s new is really old?

Thom – Yes. Everything is cyclical. But that doesn’t mean electronic is dead. I get a ton of requests for Facebook banners, website updates, and graphics.

Terry – I agree. But I’ve noticed that it’s less about designing websites, and more about high-end Facebook banners, and trying to update web templates. A lot of clients are paying for their previous shortsightedness. They purchased a low cost…

David – You mean cheap?

Thom – Yes, typically cheap.

Terry – A low-cost (I’m taking the high road) website that was a template, and now they’re having to make major changes or request it be completely redesigned—which means more requests for website management, content management, etc.

Thom – And most of these sites are not mobile-ready. They’re not responsive. They are super limited. A shortcut in the past is coming back to cost them today.

David – Sadly, we see that too. And not just in the area of web design. It’s the same with video, social media, marketing strategy…

Terry – Hey, I thought this was a discussion of graphic design?

David – OK, back on track. So, other than this trend (basically fixing the errors of the past), what else is happening? How do you stay current?

Terry – We live in a time where information and training are at our fingertips. I can read and learn, and watch a video talking about a new technique…all in the same morning. And it rarely costs anything!

Thom – Thanks, YouTube. Google is my go-to research library, first and foremost. But I also go to festivals—lots of good brainstorming.

Terry – Good point. Information is seemingly everywhere.

Thom – There’s no excuse for not staying current and up to date, unless you spend all of your time wasting time on social media vs. using it to increase your skillset.

David – Speaking of social media, are you seeing more requests for design work there?

Terry – Tons! Most of my clients have figured out their need to be on social media as a means of generating awareness and leads. Everyone is there—and without a strong representation, you’re missing out to your competitors. We’re not just talking about Facebook, but that’s one of the leaders.

Thom – I agree. And they need more than a design. Just like anything, clients need a strategy for communications, and they need to follow through to make it worthwhile.

David – We see a lot of clients trying to do social media themselves.

Thom – Big mistake! It’s like anything else—if it’s not your priority, not your full-time job, it’ll get lost in the busyness of the day. Plus, posting a comment does not make for a successful social media strategy.

Terry – Funny. Everyone thinks they can do it cheaper or faster…then when it fails they are quick to say the medium doesn’t work rather than understanding that it was the methodology.

Thom – I love it when a company hires the youngest or “hippest” employee for their social media position. (That sound you hear is them crashing and burning.) Just because you understand how to use a tool doesn’t mean you understand the market or how to message things.

Terry – I agree. Understanding the purpose of the tools, in this case social media, is more important than knowing how to use it. You have to do the research on markets to address, which social media tool to use and when, how to write appropriate content and messaging…heck, without having a strong concept of marketing strategy, you’re just adding to the noise and wasting time.

David – Sort of like using your nephew for graphic design work, since he is taking an art class at college?

Thom – Oh man, or using that friend of a friend who needs some work and owns a video camera. Run away, run away!

Terry – Would you really want to trust that kid in the biology class with your surgery? Why would you trust your brand, your reputation, your revenue to someone without any real experience or a track record? Hopefully your reputation is worth the investment.

Thom – Not for all of my clients.

David – Well, we’ve sort of gotten off track again. All good stuff, though. And super valuable to talk about.

Terry – There’s a big shift into flat graphics. No longer are embossed or shiny edges the trend. Everything is flat—and not as much shading or 3D elements. I’m seeing a lot more demand for strong colors and fewer shadows.

Thom – Yep. That’s the direction things have gone, which I like a lot—cleaner, more professional. Less “gimmicky.”

David – That’ll make things more appealing to the eye, right?

Thom – Yes. And they should last longer – more shelf life.

David – This is all good information. Any last comments?

Terry – My beer is empty.

Thom – I’d like a sandwich.

David – Looks like we’re done. Thanks, guys!

More from our blog:

Taking Video Marketing to the Next Level

As new technologies develop, the possibilities for your company's video initiatives are endless. But popularity favors the ones who make a splash first. Our whitepaper will give you three simple tips for staying ahead of the curve.