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As a college instructor of design, I’ve discovered how misled many young, blossoming creatives are. They’re convinced that super-sweet photoshop skills will help them pay the bills. While that’s definitely a predecessor to success in this field, it’s a lot bigger than that.

It’s about getting a little deeper than face value.

Clients think they want a website, for example, but what they really want is to increase web traffic to increase leads to increase sales. They know that a new design might help their end-users (people). What we should be providing is solutions to people’s problems. What we shouldn’t be providing is pretty stuff that looks cool.

It doesn’t matter how awesome you are at photoshop or how elegantly you can layout some typography, if your focus is solely on a website or a flyer, you’re going to miss a big opportunity. Every time. If your focus is on listening to the person on the other end cause you really care, you’re gonna get to a deeper level, and you might even find out they don’t even need a website or a flyer, they need much more (or much less). Design is about people not pixels.

If you’re listening carefully to the real needs, it makes all your ideas that much more valuable. If all you want is some quick cash, you’ll sell simply them a website. However, if you really want to help them, you’ll offer them a website that’s intuitive and makes use of SEO or maybe AdWords in order to increase traffic and help them really meet their goals. Maybe you’ll offer to shoot some photos of their office and staff, cause the site is missing a personal, authentic touch. Your solutions are completely on you, but getting deeper than pixels makes you a better designer, and more importantly, a better business person.

What we should be providing is solutions to people’s problems. What we shouldn’t be providing is pretty stuff that looks cool.


When (if) you write up an estimate, make sure that you’re addressing their problems and not just the deliverable, so they can see why the project’s truly adding value. Sometimes clients have the tenancy to look at our work like a commodity – like buying paper towels at Wal Mart. If you’re good at what you do, you’re not an 8-pack of paper towels. Remind them.

You’ll be helping them with a project (that if done correctly) will help their business grow, make them more money, gain new prospects, etc. It’s easy for them to forget that and only see the price tag. Then they start thinking about how to get a bargain cause they’re still just focused on numbers and a site.

Truth be told, there can be a downside to this, though. If you’re really honest, and you’re really more focused on helping out than cashing a check, sometimes it can end up costing you. I can remember a handful of times being on the phone and saying these exact words, “Now, this is probably gonna take some money outta my pocket, but…”

What I mean is, sometimes somebody thinks they need that site, but their site is actually pretty good, and it may not be worth several thousand dollars to re-do it all. There may be another, better way of solving their problems, but it’s gonna earn me less or even nothing at all. The key here is integrity and being authentic. I’m willing to bet that every potential client that I advised in this way looks back and says I’m a real honest dude, and if they had something else they needed done, they’d call me back knowing that I’m gonna give it to them straight. Pixels=paychecks. People=relationships. I just want to help people, even if it means I earn a little less this week.


This has helped me a number of times. Crafting estimates and designing solutions individually for each client is time consuming, but I promise it pays off ten fold. Remember, design is about people not pixels.

Shout out to Hal Gatewood, Adam Nir, and Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash for the photos.
Anthony Gorrity

About Anthony Gorrity

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