Earning the respect you deserve as a Graphic Designer is a challenge when you’re the only creative type in the business. How do you earn respect from internal customers and gain kudos with the CEO, management and other non-creative departments? Division within a business usually occurs when non-designer and designer types have no understanding of what the other does.

A Graphic Designer’s job is to translate marketing strategies and messages into visual communication that promotes or sells services/products to an intended target audience. Graphic Design is everywhere in an organisation from logos on letterheads and business cards, to packaging, annual reports and sales tender materials. It is one of the most important factors in building business differentiation. You understand it, your boss and the CEO understand it…And you all the know that without graphic design there is no brand componentry that make your business stand out in the crowd. Knowing this gives you as the Graphic Designer ‘real value’ add to an organisation and gaining the respect of others.

There are many ways to promote yourself in the business where you do the delicate dance between the different departments, where there are no designer types. You might even be managed by a non-designer.

Become your own cheerleader and follow these easy tips:

Own your work
Know what you do as a designer and own your portfolio of work. This gives you both confidence in your portfolio and harnesses your ability to present ideas about the brand to the business. Understanding your work includes knowing your style and more importantly timeless design wins over trends. What is your unique selling proposition? What differentiates your design work from your competitors work? Know who your business competitors are.

Don’t try being someone you are not. When you are doing the sell; if the work does not represent the real you, stakeholders can sniff out a cheat.

Understand how design fits in the organisation
Get the upper hand and learn what other parts of the business do. Learn how to speak business and structure how you talk to internal clients. Lead meetings around the business problems by being to the point and talking about the;1. task at hand 2. action and 3. result/outcome or benefit realised.

  1. task at hand (why, who and where)
  2. action point (what you’re going to do)
  3. result/outcome or benefit realised (for the business)

Talking about colours, fonts and pictures all the time will not help. Intermix these topics only if asked and talk about Return On Investment (ROI), market share and sales cycle/sales pipeline. Before you do start talking about these terms, do know what these mean. There are many financial courses for non-finance people; participate in one.

Coursera does a whole suite of financial courses for non-financial backgrounds. Check out finance for non finance managers and the Australian Institute of Management do some good ones too. If you’re in a bigger orgnaisation they are usually run internally.

Be part Brand Manager
Be part brand manager and know the company’s story. Know how to explain why and how the design fits within the brand and the organisation. How does design help the bottom line (the final total of the balance sheet of the business)? An example is the redesign of a new website helped with brand awareness and benefited the organisation with double sales this quarter. Speak to accounts and find out how many sales there were since the redesign.

Knowledge of design process
Know how to:

  • Quantify how long each project takes and what tasks there are. Unrealistic expectations need to be talked through with the business . Articulating timings helps you concentrate on finishing the project rather than worrying about all the other deadlines you can’t finish. If there are complicated projects, know what needs sacrificing if deadlines are not met.
  • Write a design brief that includes identifying the problem that needs a solution, project goals, time-line, objective, cost and activities.  A well-written plan solves most problems and it serves as a road map and letter of agreement. The most wonderful results occur when you and the business work together to write a brief.

Carpe diem and seize every opportunity in confidently promoting your graphic design work and yourself at every opportunity. If Joe from accounts asks you, “How are things?” be able to talk about the project you’re currently working on or something you’ve got happening in the future.