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Are You Looking for a Graphic Designer… When What You Really Need is a Corporate Branding Specialist

When you buy an iPhone, or a Range Rover, or Bose headphones, your first concern is most likely the product itself - what are its features, how does it differ from other models and how is its quality rated? But in the service industry, things are a bit different. For instance, in my own industry - graphic design - what clients are really buying is, first and foremost, the personality, vision and experience of the designer.

When it comes down to choosing which designer to work with, it’s important to consider what you need from that designer and what sets them apart from other professionals in the industry. As a designer, competing with many other very talented and competent individuals, I have had to ask myself what my competitive advantage is in this field. The answer is that over the last fourteen years, my career progression has given me a breadth of experience that includes much more than just traditional graphic design. I am actually more of a corporate branding specialist than just a designer, and that is what enables me to add more value to my clients. I’ll use my own career as an illustration of how they differ.

An Illustration: My Career Progression

I began my career in a fairly traditional graphic design role, within the direct mail print industry. This area deals with the printing and distribution of marketing materials. Though this role offered me very little room for independent creativity, the skills I learned there gave me a great foundation in understanding the printing process, something that is of utmost importance throughout the graphic design industry.

I next moved to an industry in which I had virtually no technical knowledge: Hydro Technology. Initially, my role with this company required fairly standard graphic design: advertising pieces and the annual company holiday card. However, due to the company’s global presence, its design requirements were much more diverse. Thus, I was afforded the opportunity to step out and do more than I would otherwise have been asked to accomplish. I worked on the corporate graphics across all areas of the company: business development, sales, trade shows, and events. My work quickly attracted significant attention and several of my designs won national awards. More importantly though, it was at this company that I first developed my experience with corporate branding, which I have built upon throughout my career.

Subsequently, I went on to work for several companies who also asked for more from me than just design. Most of these roles also crossed over into marketing responsibilities, requiring me to learn how to:

  • Establish and manage marketing, and trade show budgets

  • Oversee all of the company’s advertising across multiple platforms, including website design and maintenance

  • Write and execute the company’s e-publishing and corporate reports

During this time, social media also took off. Everyone in the industry was developing apps and photography and friend sharing platforms. I learned to expand my print advertising campaigns to web-based sites that expanded my companies outreach to their customers and clients.

And lastly, in the most recent position that I held before starting my own business, I worked on all of these things - graphic design, corporate branding and marketing - along with significant event planning for both small and large groups of people. I would host parties for upwards of 400 guests, with a $350,000 budget. These things required a heightened sensitivity to the design consistency across all media, advertising, and promotions, but also a careful eye for budgeting and time-constraints, which are often tight, particularly in event planning.

Pulling it All Together

Hopefully, through this illustration, you gained a better understanding of how corporate branding differs from graphic design. The disparity lies in both the independent freedom that the design professional has and the breadth of the work required of them. Whereas a graphic designer’s work may be narrower - pertaining to only a small section of the company’s public branding and may not be given much creative license - a corporate branding specialist is just the opposite. They have to be able to manage a level of consistency across all of the company’s public image that retains its persona in the client’s eye and yet is still fresh and unique. That requires more experience and a broader skillset.

If you’re asking yourself, couldn’t I just hire a corporate branding specialist and accomplish any and all of what I need, the answer is yes! If you’re wondering whether a corporate branding specialist wouldn’t have a keener eye for the company’s image across all its platforms, my opinion is that yes, they would.

That has been my experience. Because of the breadth of my background, I am able to provide my clients with a complete design/ marketing/ advertising/ trade show/ event planning service set. More than that though, this broad skillset has built in me the capacity to see how all of the pieces of a company’s public facing platforms and events, whether they are print materials, trade shows, websites and social media campaigns, or other mediums, fit together cohesively. Thus, no matter how much or how little my clients need, because of the skills that I have gained, I am able to provide a company with more unified messaging across all of its branding.

I am extremely grateful for all of the experiences that have led me to this point today. But I am even more grateful for what I am doing now: for the ability to help more clients than I ever could have before, across a broad range of industries. I look forward to working with each and every one of them, as we collaboratively optimize their branding and public messaging so that they can build their businesses into the future that they envision, from the past that they have worked so hard to establish.

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