This post originally appeared at Bridged Design
If you dropped out of school and can't find a job, you're unemployed. If you just graduated college and came home to live with your parents, you're taking a year off. The way we frame things is integral to the way we react to them. The problem with framing creative value, however, is that you can't readily see the product you're getting, as you can with, say, jewelry. Sell a diamond ring for fifty-percent less than the competition and something must be wrong with it, but sell a creative service for a fourth of the price and you just got yourself a deal! Perception is funny like that, except the only laughs you'll hear are the ones coming from the prospects you’re trying to sell to.
Creative frauds are everywhere. You can spot them by their lack of a portfolio, the absence of a formal degree and the willingness to work for abysmal prices. The latter is the most dangerous due to its seductiveness. Lucky for you there's a sweet spot that exists in the creative professions. Think of it as a bullseye -- the focal point of creative interest. Roy Sutherland defined this spot as the intersection of economics (price), technology (toolkit) and psychology (creativity). If you find this holy trinity, then you are in the midst of a true creative professional. Finding this spot, however, is not so much about looking for the right attributes, as it is the wrong ones, such as precarious pricing.
When Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to create The Last Supper, he probably didn't ask da Vinci what tools he was using, or if he was using dry wall or wet plaster for canvas. But you're not hiring Leonardo da Vinci, so go ahead and ask. If she so much as utters the words "Microsoft Publisher," run. Run fast and run hard. But let's humor this faux-creative miscreant and assume she actually pitches you a smart idea. When it comes down to it, no matter how brilliant her idea, without the proper tools and knowledge to wield them, your Mona Lisa is going to come out looking like it was drawn in crayon by a five-year-old.
Examine the following: The trifold brochure on the left was created by an amateur designer using Microsoft Publisher, while the one on the right was created by a professional designer using industry-standard design software, Adobe Creative Suite. It should also be noted that most commercial printers do not accept Microsoft files for professional printing.
Okay, so you’ve done your due diligence, vetted your prospective creative professional and found no trace of MS Publisher or other training-wheel design software in her repertoire. That's a green light, no? Not quite. Think of the fine dining restaurant: no matter how expensive the entree, or how state-of-art the skillet that cooked it; a lack of presentation makes it look sloppy. That's where psychology comes into play.
Creative people are nuts. Not nuts in the rum-chugging homeless sort of way, but nuts in the wine-tasting wealthy eccentric way. Professional designers do not utilize artistic skill alone, but a mixture of art, science, psychology and philosophy. They take in and retain a plethora of technical information that may seem pointless minutia to most. For example, most people look at paper and see simply paper, whereas true marketing and design professionals know the type of paper, down to its weight, dimensions and texture, and understand its role to serve as a frame of reference that not only compliments, but actually improves your clients perception of the content.
The comparison depicted in Figure 2 is a real case study of a magazine design and layout project that was first awarded to the low-price freelancer with no real credentials (relative of an employee). After several missed deadlines, the client received the magazine on the left as “final” and ready to go to press. As you can imagine, this was completely unacceptable and time was running out. After paying the amateur designer for hours of wasted time, the client had to turn to (and again, pay) a professional designer to “fix” everything on an extremely truncated timeline. In the end, the job got done and turned out great, but ended up costing a lot more money, time, and stress than it needed to. Always go with a creative professional that has demonstrated expertise. You end up saving more in the long run, and the effectiveness of the resulting design will yield a much higher return on your investment.
As you can see, the psychology behind your project is not merely an added benefit, it's the difference between being unemployed and taking a year off.