What makes a good graphic designer?

This is an intriguing and not altogether straightforward question.

If good in our context means, effective, competent or skilful then my definition of a good graphic designer would be: A professional who skilfully constructs methods of effectively communicating a clients requirements in order to fulfil a set of desired outcomes.

But thats only half of the battle.

Talented graphic designers, those who are technically astute, have an artistic sensibility or those who are conceptually gifted can be ineffective designers. Industry skills and traits alone mean nothing because it’s the quality of targeted output that ultimately defines us – because as professional service providers, we are wrapped up in the success or failure of our projects and this largely comes down the client and the brief. I can guarantee that the best logos, annual reports designs, websites etc are based on a rock solid brief and great inter client relationships.

If the brief and it’s stated deliverables are either a) undefined b) unrealistic or the client’s motivations are a) ill informed or b) misguided, then the output, no matter how visually arresting is likely to have limited success.

So here’s my list of what makes a good designer, notice these are personal qualities rather skills you’d learn at a design school.

Top 5 qualities of a ‘good’ graphic designer.

1. The ability to listen objectively.

2. The confidence and patience to not be immediately reactive.
This is a tough one. You attend a meeting and are presented with the problem during a verbal briefing. Your client is understandably excited to forge ahead with the project for which your services are required… sometimes that briefing can start to merge into a brainstorming event of sorts. STOP. Bad idea.

It’s all well and good to listen to the idea as part of the briefing but don’t get pulled into coming up with solutions on the fly. Use skill number 1, think before you speak. Let your process define what you have to say in answer to the brief.

3. Diplomacy.
The client/marketeer etc has a problem, but it appears they also think they have the solution, not just the business solution as would be expected but also the creative solution. They have the vision for the campaign, poster, headline etc… and, well… it ain’t great. But they think it’s revolutionary and perfect. Use skill number 1, combined with skills 2 and 3 to artfully and constructively manoeuvre the conversation back to point.

4. Patience.
You need tons of it… especially if you’re self employed.

5. Initiative.
Especially important as junior in a busy studio environment or as designer of any level facing the age old situation of having a client with champagne tastes and, at best a 6pack of XXXX Gold budget.

So there we have it, my Top 5 qualities needed to be a really good graphic designer – but hey, that’s just my opinion!