Now Everyone is a Designer • Nxtbook Media

Now Everyone is a Designer

Written by Joy Beachy

Though the title reads, “Now Everyone is a Designer” it could just have easily said, “Not Everyone is a Designer”. In our world we see a lot of publishers and companies worried that everyone has become a publisher. Even the most unlikely businesses are putting out white papers and ebooks to reach their audiences with content marketing or to provide an added value. Today’s technology has empowered businesses and new writers to create, publish and promote their content like never before. But what has slipped under the radar is that today’s technology has also empowered businesses to use design programs like InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator to layout everything from long-form content to advertisements, promotions and feedback forms. With the introduction of “everyone as publisher” came “everyone as designer,” and the fallout came in misunderstanding the purpose of design.

A recent post to Foliomag by Roy Beagley got it right when he framed the problem as follows:

“With the explosion of websites, apps and all things digital, plus the move from managing circulation to developing audiences, even more programs became available to make designing easier. Suddenly promotions were being judged not by the results produced, but by how knowledgeable the keyboard operator was, how quickly they could be deployed and most importantly, in many instances, by the number of people who viewed the promotion.”  — Read the full article on foliomag.com

It’s logical that as the publishing world works to understand the value of metrics in digital publishing, so too should they work to understand the value of quality design in their audience development and promotional efforts. Just because design elements can be applied, and applied quickly, doesn’t mean they are effective. It doesn’t matter how many eyes view your design, the design actually has to work.

Or consider it this way: Quality design extends much further than making content “pretty” or “professional.” It even reaches beyond adding branding or keeping up with design trends. Indeed, sometimes even seemingly poor design choices can serve the higher purpose of design: to communicate and compel. One of our designers, Brent Hughes, commented on this topic by saying the following:

“Good design is not always beautiful design. It’s not always what you expect. In fact, the unexpected is usually better. First you have know your audience, your subject, and you have to have good copy. But you also have to have a sense for conveying an idea with the design, rather than making it look ‘good.’ I agree with the concept that a designer is needed for more than just the technical execution of a design, but also for the thought process that goes behind why it looks the way it does, so it’s designed with purpose over looking good or a particular way.”

I asked if he could think of an instance in which someone would use “bad design” and Hughes replied:

“If there was, then it would become good design. If it was being used for a well thought out reason, and it was understood that the ugliness or bad-ness would be effective, then for that purpose, the design is good. Design isn’t good based on what it looks like or who likes it, but because it is effective.”

It comes down to this: whether you’re using in-house designers or hiring a firm for design, the questions you should ask shouldn’t be about how well-versed they are in design programs. Rather, research if their designs actually work.