Tensions of a Designer: Portfolio vs. Product


Where is the line? As a designer we are thrown into a grey area after college. "Build a great portfolio" they said, but building my portfolio was often not what was getting me clients, not making me money, and ruining my business reputation. What I'm about to share is very different than the culture I paid to learn about. This is from 10 years in this industry, though I'm in a rather specific niche of it in the church world.

Every client that I've gotten hasn't come from people visiting my site and saying, "Man he's great, I'm going to give him my money". They come from building relationships, and me learning about why and how they do what they do. What meant more wasn't my skill or abilities (though a degree from Full Sail certainly helps), it was the time I took to hear them instead of use them to build my portfolio. They knew when they hired me, that I heard them, and was working in their best interest to make what represented them best. 

I've seen many designers these days be so set in their style, or so high on their ego, that they won't make anything outside of their realm. Let me tell you from experience, and this might hurt some, but most people don't see and really don't care how cool your design is or how long it took to make. They want their information and they want it to look how they want it to look. At the end of the day, that's what you're getting paid for.

I've had to make a lot of designs that I'm not proud of, I don't like and really disagree over. I've constantly had to shut my mouth and always keep in mind that I'm doing this for them, not me. Design should be about serving a company, church or client to the best of your ability. Graphic design these days has to be selfless. Now, I don't go putting these on my site for all to see and showcase my ability from that, but you get my point. Design has to be a client first experience. They're putting food on the table for you. You shouldn't dictate their end product based on your personal preference. 

If you've seen this work for you as well, or not, I'd love to hear and chat! Please feel free to email me! If you are a designer and struggling with making ends meet, I'd love to help as well, shoot me an email to see how you can grow your business, network and sustainability.