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Why are designers so picky?

by Evynne Doue & Jackson Troe

We’ve all thought it…even designers themselves. But hear us out: it’s a *good* thing. In fact, it’s probably one of the best things about us.

And yes, we’ve heard it all before: “Designers are so picky…” They “obsess” over the “smallest things.” Yes, we analyze *everything* and yes, you’ll probably find us tweaking one thing only to move it back.

But let’s take a step back:

Consider that a designer’s headstrong nature, or picky tendencies, are actually born of genuine and reasonable intent. Maybe we could even rephrase the question, “Why are designers so picky?” to “Why are designers so intensely opinionated and passionate?”

First let’s start out by thinking of it from this point-of-view:

Design is a highly skilled labor profession that is rooted in specialized knowledge—You wouldn’t want your plumber to tell you they “think” they got it “close enough” + plumbing wouldn’t even be a skilled profession if we all thought we could just do it ourselves without any knowledge of plumbing. Experts are experts for a reason! And specificity is important.

Designers are borderline neurotic when it comes to scale, size, spatial relationship, visual weight, and alignment. Chances are if you say, “Can we just make the logo bigger?” our heads might explode…

But hear us out:

Genuine trust in a person’s *craft* not only makes that individual’s job easier (and more enjoyable), but it also gives you a more effective solution. Like any successful relationship, clear communication and active listening are the keys to success and longevity.

And hopefully we can speak for all designers when we say: When the designer and client communicate clearly and politely, establish expectations upfront, and are both willing to collaborate, the designer can do a way better job, which means their clients get the best work.

At the end of the day, design involves much more than just graphical elements—it involves problem-solving and strategy. Being picky is how we find the (right) solution. And if you ask a designer what design is they will probably say something along the lines of: “Design is 10% aesthetics and 90% problem-solving.”

However, the lack of a design education doesn’t mean you can’t make design decisions.

It is just important to note that design can be something that is “beyond the average skillset,” especially in the intricate details and reasoning behind certain things like typography, color theory, print production, and user experience. Part of our job is helping clients make informed decisions with our knowledge, education, and experience.

Most designers can admit that while we’re not the best designer in the world, and probably never will be, we all want to deliver value to our clients and their audience.

If design isn’t purposeful, and therefore valuable, can it still be considered design? Probably not. Design is valuable when it provides a return on its investment. In a way, designers are “societal servants,” and sometimes society doesn’t give a shit about design, but a huge (and important) part of our job is educating people on design.

Yes, we have our weird jargon and scary specialized programs, but at the end of the day, it’s more important (and valuable) for us if you understand what we’re talking about, where we’re coming from, and why it’s going to work.

An important thing to note:

We don’t use jargon because we want to seem better than our clients, because we simply…aren’t. Yes, we probably know more about design than our clients do, but it doesn’t mean we’re superior. It’s extremely important to build a rapport with our clients, which is why design education is such an important aspect of designer-to-client communication—in other words, the ability for others to understand our “pickiness.”

Design is about visual communication.

Aesthetics or “making things pretty” are just tools we use to achieve conveying the right message and call-to-action. Design is more closely tied to marketing and advertising than it is art, and has been for a long time. The goal of a finished (and effective) design is for viewers to get the message right away. If it takes more than three seconds to figure out what it is you are trying to coney, you just lost your audience.

We’re not just making rules up as we go along.

As designers, we should be able to rationally justify every decision behind our design choices to our clients—if you ask (and you should), we should have at least one reason for every “picky” opinion.

As briefly mentioned before, specificity is important, and as designers, if we aren’t able to clearly and rationally back up our design choices, we’re doing a half-ass job.

Seriously though, if designers aren’t “picky,” we’re not doing our job correctly, and for the sake of reiteration: every designer should have a specific reason for every design decision they make.

If our reasoning is because “it looks better” or because we “like it better that way,” we’re not designing for our clients anymore—and quite frankly it’s a selfish and irresponsible way to design. It’s far more important to focus on the why and the successful result of that why, than just making it “look good.”

And when we provide our opinion backed through our education in design and your first reaction is to call it picky or even brush it aside because you don’t like it, try to think of it like this:

It’s no different from a doctor giving you a diagnosis you don’t like or agree with—or maybe even a diagnosis that’s the farthest thing from what you were expecting.

It’s important to remember that even though design is often a digital rather than physical/tangible product, it doesn’t mean that we put any less time and care into the work. Design isn’t an instant process that can be done with a few clicks of a mouse and some keyboard shortcuts—most of the “hard” (and lengthy) work happens before we even make it to the computer. There are an infinite number of thoughts, decisions, and redos that have to happen first, which is often overlooked by non-designers.

And lastly, if the designer chose to use 14.75 point type, odds are 14.5 was way too small and 15 was too big ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Evynne Doue is appsky’s Head of Marketing & Design

She acts as appsky’s Brand Manager, creates content for & manages all of appsky’s social media, handles marketing efforts, and is part of the executive team. She has degrees in both graphic design & web design and has been with appsky since May 2017.

Jackson Troe is appsky’s Lead Designer

He creates the faces for most of Appsky’s apps and websites, as well as finding UI and UX solutions for our developers. He has a degree in graphic design and has been with Appsky since January 2018.

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