5 ways to tell if you are getting graphic design work

Are you a good graphic designer in Kenya? I often get tasked that question. I always wondered how to answer that question because I know everyone has their own tape measure. So, Wit Design Kenya might be great according to one client because of his/her own set of standards and not so great to another because they have a different set of standards.

Over the years, that simple question has led me to come up with metrics for good graphic design work that allow everyone to bring their own bias to the table, but, leave feeling like the result can be judged by everyone fairly equally. After 13 years as a graphic designer in Kenya I have five key metrics to help you decide if you are getting great graphic design work done for you.

Here goes…

1 knowledge of your audience

ONE: Does the design work reflect knowledge of the audience?

Knowledge of your audience is the key to good graphic design work, not just in Kenya, but the world over. Why? Because if you don’t know your audience, how will you communicate to them?

This knowledge of your audience spans everything from knowing what:

– certain colours mean to them

– the meaning behind a given position of a person in the design

– it would mean to show a car in the design

– the type of car means

– the skin tones of the people in the artwork are

– the words mean to most people

– how well new words are known

– how made up words may be perceived

The list is endless and the amount of attention that must be paid to every element in the design with regard to the effect it will have on the target audience can not be overstated.

How to judge: Ask who the target of a piece of design is before you from an opinion. If you know the audience proceed to judge, if unclear ask about the value of elements of the artwork to the target and how it will affect them. Most of Wit Design Kenya’s clients are shocked to find out they are not the targets of their own artwork. After a moment of course the shock wears off, but, you will be surprised how rarely we remove ourselves from communication that isn’t meant for us.

2 know your brand

TWO: Does the design show knowledge of the brand it speaks for?

This can be easy to spot in some cases. For example if you see a coke add that is predominantly blue, you will stop and say there is something wrong. Why? Because Coke is red. It can be a little harder though,when it comes to language.

Here’s an an example of this. Here is an example of this.

Did you spot the difference? If you did, great. If you didn’t, the difference is the use of the contraction ‘here’s’ instead of the words ‘here is.’

Why is this important? Well, think about it… When someone you know changes small things about how they speak, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? That there is something wrong? That they are preoccupied with something else? That they are hiding something? Worse, perhaps, that they are not telling you the truth?

Your design will be another interaction with your target audience and your designer preparing it must show that they understand your brand or else they will cause your target to doubt the resulting communication, instead of trust it.

How to judge: Ask yourself: Is the language consistent? The mood? The tone? The organisation being spoken for through the piece of design was a person, would they sound like everything is ok?

3 brand imprint

THREE: Does it leave a brand imprint?

This is a fairly straight forward point. Is the resulting design memorable for what it is. I add “for what it is” because the point is more poignant for a billboard than it might be for a corporate poster to be hung at a single activation drive at a given mall in Nairobi.

How do you determine if something is memorable? Again, I find a series of questions is good.

– Does it feel like something you have seen before?

– Does it strike an emotional nerve?

– What does the audience expect from medium (the bigger the medium the bigger the expectation)?

These three questions can save you a lot of Kenya shillings.

How to judge: Determine how your target would feel upon seeing your designer’s work. Would they stop what they are doing and think for a few moments on what you have just shown them? If yes – you nailed it!

4 wandting more

FOUR: Does it leave you wanting more?

This doesn’t happen often. I have often heard people on airplanes or in offices saying “thats a great ad” and often by the time I have turned my head to see what they are talking about they have flipped the page.

What you want is to have people linger on your advertisement, poster or flyer. To have them still looking at it a few seconds after they have commented on it.

Great ways to do this are:

– To use high quality pictures

– To use clever copy (words)

– To use space wisely – don’t squeeze anything

– To truly add value to the targets life

These are not cheap or easy to come by, so when judging this aspect of a design, begin by looking inward and ask yourself, what was my budget again?

How to judge: Take into account the budget you have made available as well as the time. Compare the best images you can find with what you have received, and the copy with some of your favourite quips or lines from literature. If the balance is good, it is very likely that the resulting design will have your audience lingering and wanting more.

5 call to action

FIVE: Does it tell your targets what to do?

I love this one because sometimes it happens that clients and their designers get a gorgeous piece of artwork done, it checks all the boxes from the points above, but, it doesn’t have a call to action.

Why is a call to action important? Because its rude to get my attention and then tell me nothing.

How to judge: Is there a call to action anywhere on the artwork? Is it BIG enough for everyone to see? If not, fix this and celebrate. You’ve managed to get great work done.

Job Ballard, Lead Creative, Wit Design Kenya