Artist vs Designer


I am an artist, and like many other artists, I often have a particular style which can contain texture contrast and line portrayed in a composition that expresses intent. My style is often pre-conceived with vision, creativity and built with craft. I’d like to think I’m great at creating it and expressing it to others. As artists, this is where the story ends – I create something great (as I perceive it) and you the viewer interpret it as great too…. Hopefully. The problem with the term “artist” is that we aren’t always necessarily solving a problem through art, or taken seriously by the layman. This is a major difference between an “artist” and a “designer.” As a designer, people come to me with problems and we go through processes to provide them with solutions so they can achieve their goals.

I often refer to myself as a chameleon in my design because of the process that I go through with my clients. After all, I’m here for my clients. It’s their ideas, services or products that I’m designing, promoting, and evangelizing to the world. Each client is different in where they are in business: from a start-up looking for a logo or a brochure, all the way to a big company that wants to grow market share or retain/reclaim their stakes as a mature company. So I always begin with asking them questions that will help them define their problems, or their “mission,” in order to convey their message through their unique voice as interpreted by the process. Once I have identified their mission I can then look for the delivery system that would be the best use of their time, effort, and money. The creative process is fueled and perpetuated by the collaborative process with the client and their individual end goals: to create stylish reliable products, stunning graphics. or effective e-commerce websites. Outstanding results are the objective and it’s driven by calculated actions measure by excellent customer reviews, sales receipts, and data analysis. Our success is linked to our clients’ success, and I believe that we’re not successful unless they are too.

// Delivery system

In the old days, there were three main ways for a business to promote their product: print, TV, and Radio. Plus, back then there was only one-way communication – the business was broadcasting it, and the customer was receiving it; there was no mechanism to integrate customer feedback into the loop. Today’s market is significantly different. Print, TV, and Radio are still great ways to broadcast to your customer but today there are so many more tools. Websites, blogs, and social media can reach your customer so much more, and they travel with the customer. In the days of past it was enough to broadcast, but now you must also interact with your customers to keep the pulse of your message moving in the direction you want it to.

// Collaboration

With one mind good things are created, but with more minds involved the collective ideas converge and greatness arises. Working with a design team is an organic process and clients need to be heavily involved while creating their product. Challenges in the design process can be better understood if the client is involved in helping resolve these issues. The question of “can’t you just press a button to fix this?” goes away, and realistic goals and timetables are established when clients are a part of the progress. However, there is a time and place for this as well, and if left unchecked clients can sometimes become the “runaway client,” where the client becomes involved in every single tiny decision. When this happens, timelines will always extend exponentially, and the overall project costs skyrocket because every change has a cost in time and resources. Our system keeps budget overruns in check, while keeping collaboration high, and always delivering the desired outcomes our clients were looking for.

// Creative

There is a tremendous amount of research that needs to be done before I even start the creative process. Once all of my research is complete, in addition to my clients’ concerns understood and the design brief in hand, I set out to explore. It’s time to set out to the ocean, catch that wave of inspiration and deliver awe inspiring, stunning creative solutions that will delight my client. The creative process for me extends from far left (out there), to far right (literal interpretation). I explore possibilities, absurdities, and I play with process while questioning “why?” on everything. I do this through intensive thought, post-its, sketches, and primitive models. I sift and conspire with my partners to refine the design process, eventually bringing designs from rough sketch to tighter comps and models. I bring the client back into the conversation and reveal the design direction, and we collaborate together to close in on the target. As we get to the final stages of the process we go over the design brief and ensure all of the targets have been addressed, and that the project is on point and focused so we can give the client the best chance to succeed.

Once the client is happy with their final designs – whether it’s product, graphic, or web – I release it to the hands of our contractors, employees, and/or vendors. I watch the final process from the sidelines like a coach, and oversee each project until it is unveiled to the world like a proud father. The final product may not look, feel, or resemble the ideation process with my artistic design styles/attitude/feelings, but at the end of the day I’m the chameleon. I’m an artist and a designer at the same time, and I display all of that through the final product, which is a culmination of the unique voices of each of my clients – the clients are what makes going to work every day worthwhile. Ego, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. Now, let’s go solve another problem.

Posted on March 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

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About the Author

Chris Baldwin is a serial entrepreneur, designer, and creator. Currently running a business design firm, he continues to help grow fledgling ideas into functional companies. He is an Afghanistan War veteran and father. He brings the creative drive and vision between projects to stay on top of competition and forecast direction.
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