Friday, July 8, 2016

DIY Designer Defined

If you're reading this post, chances are you landed here through a link I shared somewhere out in the digital universe.

Since I've started using "DIY Designer" as an official term - and since I'm all about simplicity - I decided to house the definition in a permanent location. This way, I can link to it from multiple places and you can read it anytime, anywhere. I've also included why the emergence of the DIY Designer is an amazing opportunity for the professional industry, and things you can do to help equip them. (If you so choose.)

Note: At some point, I probably need to come up a snazzier term that rolls off the tongue a bit easier. But for now, DIY Designer will do. 

Characteristics of a DIY Designer

So who am I talking about when I use the term DIY Designer?

In a nutshell, a DIY Designer has the following traits:

  • They are a solo entrepreneur or small business owner.
  • They have a very limited budget. (Especially if they are just getting their business off the ground.)
  • They recognize good, quality design when they see it. (In other words, they can tell an award-winning site from a crappy one.)
  • They understand how design can impact their business (i.e. branding image, customer perception, sales, etc.).
  • They are savvy when it comes to technology and online marketing. (They get the importance of social media, having a great website, etc.)
  • They are go-getters.

The Struggle Is Real

As noted above, DIY Designers recognize good design and desperately want it for their business. But since they can't afford to hire a professional, they are usually left to their own devices. 

Not surprisingly, this results in a lot of frustration. Consider for a moment all the design elements associated with a business. There's the website, logo, packaging (digital or printed), social media graphics, eBook covers, etc. That's a lot for a professional designer to handle - let alone a business owner!

Also, think about the expertise and skills required to execute those projects. (Not to mention execute them well.) We're talking logo design, layouts for web and print, color theory, resolution, typography, content strategy - the list is pretty endless. 

As professionals, we go through 2-4 years of education just to grasp the basics. Yet these individuals don't have any of that. In essence, their basically earning their degrees (as it were) through endless Google searches, trying to piece together what they need and praying they get it right.

Not only does this test their sanity, but it eats up a lot of time as well. Time, being money when it comes to business, is a very precious commodity. Something that is particularly true if you're starting a business in addition to having a day job, family obligations, etc.

What They Need

While services such as Canva have appeared to help fill the needs of the DIY Designer, there's still a huge gap in the marketplace - especially when it comes to instructional information.

DIY Designers need information that is:

  • Super Simplified. DIY Designers aren't designers by trade, so they need information to be stripped down and presented in the most practical manner possible. (Think of the "For Dummies" series of books, for example.) Even things we consider simple - like basic color theory - can seen complicated and intimidating to a DIY Designer. Keep things simple and straightforward, and only offer a handful of examples to keep them from feeling overwhelmed.

  • Written for the Entrepreneur's Perspective. The DIY Designer may be eager to acquire design knowledge and know-how, but it's for the purpose of building their business. They're not looking to do design for a living. Keep that in mind as you create materials. They don't need to know the in-depth history of the sans-serif font, for example. They just need to know when, why, and how they should use it.  

  • Centralized. Time is extremely valuable to them, so being able to access help on a variety of topics in one place is a huge help. It's by no means a deal-breaker if you're thinking of offering something for this market. But if you can, try to keep everything in one location, making it easy to find and access.

  • Encouraging. We all know how frustrating it is to want to excel at something - yet fall miserably short. DIY Designers are unique in that they recognize quality design, but they aren't naturally equipped to create it. If it's frustrating for us as professionals when we work on projects, it must be a thousand times worse for them. Give them a little encouragement and sense of empowerment. It goes a long way!

Amazing Opportunity

At this point, you might be wondering, "Other than helping out some folks, what is the relevance for the professional community? What's in it for us?"

Answer: Amazing opportunity.

Consider the following:

  • The need of the DIY Designer is fertile ground to educate the public - including future clients and employers - about design! That it's a process. That we make decisions for a reason. That design choices impact business, in all its facets, for better or worse.

  • Fact: As entrepreneurship - particularly solo entrepreneurship - continues to grow, the number of DIY Designers is only going to grow with it.

  • The professional community can either choose to do nothing or seize this amazing opportunity to help others and ourselves.

  • There will always be a need for professionals. The emergence of the DIY Designer isn't going to change that. As these businesses grow, as some of them will inevitably do, they will eventually hire a professional (whether in-house or otherwise). Either way, those owners, having done the design work themselves initially, will be able to make better design decisions - and make better employers and clients.

Have you ever wished that your clients and/or employer better understood what you do? Haven't we all! And while things won't drastically change overnight, this is a wide-open door to progress that is worth walking through.

What You Can Do

So what things can you do to help equip the DIY Designer? In reality, I could do a whole blog post on the topic, but here a few ideas to get the brain gears churning:

Out of the Goodness of Your Heart
  • Keep an eye out for the DIY Designer and be willing to invest in them a little more. They can be friends, clients, etc.
  • Write blog posts specifically geared towards the DIY Designer.
  • Keep a DIY resource list on your website.
  • Hold a free or low-cost talk, seminar, or workshop.

Make Some Money While Doing Good
  • Sell short how-to-guides, eBooks, or online courses geared towards the DIY Designer. Cover topics such as logo design, typography, content strategy - or whatever your expertise is.

Or, if nothing else, refer them to my Design for the Business Mind website. :)