Seven reasons creative designers should seek technical excellence

We hire lots of designers, many of them from the local technical university. I'm always surprised at how many of them have really crappy technical skills. It seems to go with the underlying meme in society that computers are for guys. Invariably, these designers are very concerned with doing creative work and being seen as creative.

Rodin The Thinker by Brian Hillegas CC

Here's how bad it can get. Our latest hire (with a Master's Degree in technical design!) could not even do a scan properly. She handed back jaggy 700 px x 1000 px scans of 12 x 18 photos with bad black and white points.

Wake up ladies. Design is a craft. There is no more excuse for you not having first rate technical skills than for a carpenter not to be able to use a lathe properly.

Perhaps they could make the argument that they are more sculptors than wood workers. Did Rodin have to know how to use a lathe (actually Rodin worked mainly in bronze)?

Wrong analogy. What we do at Foliovision is 90% commercial design (based on ten years experience, almost no one wants to pay for creative design - focusing on creative design is a recipe for early bankruptcy but that's another post). A commercial design studio relies on quick turnaround and efficiency. Here's how technical proficiency will help you:

  1. Good technical skills will make the work of your colleagues much easier.
  2. Good technical skills will make your own work much faster and more efficient. You'll be able to get through projects in a third or a quarter as much time. That makes your productivity three or four times higher.
  3. High productivity will get you great bonuses.
  4. Speed on turnaround makes for very happy clients.
  5. Technical excellence will make you more self-assured in your work.
  6. Technical excellence will allow you to push further in your creative design work as the tool will become an extension of your arm.
  7. Technical excellence will build you a great portfolio (unlike a recent one I saw where there was a good Rapunzel idea but the rocky cutouts on the people wouldn't have qualified for green screen in an early eighties music video).

Technical excellence is just a matter of application and mindset. There's no reason you shouldn't understand how your computer and your software works, at least the basics. You should know how to make sure your software is running right and know when your drive is too full or too fragmented. You should have truly ace Photoshop skills so that when a difficult task is assigned you, you can smile and say sure.

Many of the guys do take the trouble to learn good technical skills. Which is why the male designers for the most part overtake the female ones.

While you are at it learning technical skills, you may also want to have a look at basic communication strategies from marketing. You should have enough deep sense to know that the design fad of low-contrast websites is just tripping up your client.

Being creative is NOT an excuse for being technically near incompetent and outright stupid in communication.

Set the bar a bit higher for yourselves. Your clients' well-being and your career depends on it.

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