Should we trust design by social media approval?

Derek Green Thursday, September 28, 2017

I was scrolling through my LinkedIn news feed recently, when I saw yet another post asking for the design opinions of its members. To summarise the post briefly, it contained a graphic that displayed the same word in five different typefaces. The author asked its network to select the word in the font that they thought would be most attractive to a ‘millennial’ audience. 

After shaking my head slowly and releasing a long, deep sigh, I proceeded to scan through the comments left by other members below the post. I was surprised and encouraged by what I read. The consensus of opinion seemed to say don’t seek approval for your design work from social media networks. As many responders pointed out, not everyone has the design expertise or creative finesse to provide a measured judgement.

For me, design is subjective. It’s like the evergreen question, “What is art?” What one person finds attractive and engaging, another will dislike and reject. A huge amount of time during my design school education was spent in libraries, art galleries and museums, studying information, looking at artefacts and sketching. Of course this was the pre-internet world, where as students we had to get-up from our desks and go places in order to find inspiration and influences. By comparison, the typical design student these days seems only capable of doing a quick Google search.

Graphic of thumbs-up icons in a circle

I met one of my old Edinburgh College of Art graphic design students a few weeks ago for a drink and catch-up. During our conversation she told me that the agency she works for has to keep a very close-eye on their interns now. Apparently many open their Pinterest boards at the start of a project – as they consider this to be ‘research’ – and then start plagiarising ideas from images they’ve saved there. Alarmingly most interns see nothing wrong with this approach.

Over the past few years the number of micro job sites, like Fiverr, has increased. For the uninitiated, micro jobs are considered to be short, task-type jobs, that are commissioned from specialists and booked via the internet. Looking at these types of site I notice that the design providers of micro jobs always promise to create ‘awesome’, ‘attractive’, ‘cool’ or ‘professional’ graphics. No one ever appears to use the word ‘appropriate’ though. Interestingly I know several people who have used these sites and none have been satisfied with the design results they’ve received back. As the saying goes, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Customers come to [gawr-juhs] because they’ve identified we have the design skills that they don’t. What our clients are looking for from us, is our help, advice and assistance with their visual identity, branding and online presence. Therefore I believe its our role, as visual communicators, to be the expert and authority of our subject. Once we’ve ascertained the full scale of the project, we need time to research, explore and fully respond to the brief that has been given to us. This may include creating unique icons, selecting appropriate colour palettes, and choosing the correct typefaces.

This isn’t meant to sound arrogant, but personally I’ve always had great faith in my own ability to design. It was one of the reasons why I chose to go to art school in the first place. I enjoy being a visual detective, looking for the clues that may be the optical link or answer for a particular project. On occasions I may consult privately with design peers or suppliers that I know, trust and respect, simply to gauge their reaction or to establish if a solution can be technically produced. But at no point have I ever gone online and said “Hey guys, which one of these logos do you prefer? A, B or C?” I believe [gawr-juhs] customers deserve much better than that.

So our advice to any creative who’s unable to decide which of their design solutions they should present, is stay away from social media polls. Go back to your client’s brief. Reread it. Review your research. Examine your thought processes. Consider how, and why, you reached the final compositions that you did. Ask yourself the question “Which one matches your client’s requirements?” But most importantly, make a choice yourself, and then present it with conviction. After all, these are the skills that your client has identified that you have, and that they are paying you for.

Feeling Inspired to Work Together?

It doesn’t matter how big or small your project is, we’d love to chat to you about it.

Let’s Go!