I recently came across a presentation by a designer, speaker, and author named Cameron Moll called, “Nine skills that separate good and great designers.” Needless to say, it struck a chord, because it’s a topic that we spend a great deal of time talking and thinking about – both within our agency and with people who are interested in our agency.  Since this blog is a place for us to talk not only about us and our work, but also our industry as a whole, I thought I would take some time to go through the points he makes and do my part to help educate people on the differences between good designers and great designers.

Before diving straight into the points, let’s start by asking ourselves why these are differences that need to be pointed out.  Let’s be honest and admit that everyone that has ever looked into hiring a design firm (including me, before I owned one) has banged their head on their desk and asked themselves, “What is the difference between this firm that charges (a small amount) and this firm that charges (a larger amount)?  Is it just that this firm that charges (a larger amount) designs stuff that looks better?”  While I sometimes wish it were that simple, the truth is it is a much more complicated equation; how something looks is only one small part of it.

Pretend for a second that someone asks you to explain the difference between an $8,000 car and a $25,000 car.  What would you say?  Both cars are going to get you from Point A to Point B, so they must be exactly the same, right?  Probably not.  While both cars will likely achieve the most basic objective of transportation, the person that buys the nicer car often has more objectives in mind, whether it be quality, features, or style.  The same can be used to describe good design and great design.  While good designers will achieve the most basic objective of displaying information on the web, or contact information on a business card, the company that hires a great designer often has more objectives in mind.

Over the course of the next [I don’t know how long it will take], I’ll take you through each of Cameron’s points, explain the differences and try to draw some conclusions.  Hopefully, by the time we’re all done, you’ll be a little closer to understanding the differences and why you should only place something as important as your brand in the hands of someone that knows what to do with it.

Nine skills that separate good designers and great designers:

  1. Good designers decorate / Great designers communicate
  2. Good designers believe “less is more” / Great designers believe “less and more” co-exist
  3. Good designers fix problems / Great designers prevent problems
  4. Good designers are inspired within a genre / Great designers are inspired by total environment
  5. Good designers macrodesign / Great designers microdesign
  6. Good designers treat text as content / Great designers treat text as user interface
  7. Good designers use good typefaces / Great designers use good typography
  8. Good designers code for one instance / Great designers code for many instances
  9. Good designers redesign / Great designers realign