10 reasons you can't fool a designer

So you’ve spent a vast amount of money on design school, and it’s going to take an age to pay those debts off. But before you start bemoaning your lot, it’s time to take a step back and count your blessings.

The skills you’ve learned as a designer aren’t just what got you into your ace design job. These are true life skills that will come in handy throughout the whole time you spend on God’s Earth. 

Here we present 10 reasons your design skills mean you won’t get fooled again...

01. We notice the little details

We can easily spot a bad attempt at phishing. The font isn't quite right…

We can easily spot a bad attempt at phishing. The font isn't quite right…

Most people think they’d never fall for something like a phishing con, where criminals lure you to a fake website purporting to be your bank, and capture your login details. But such schemes are becoming ever more sophisticated. Even CEOs of huge companies are falling for such scams.

Designers, though, are never likely to get sucked into a fake website. If there’s anyone who’d notice that the kerning is just that tiny bit off, that Pantone doesn’t quite fit with the normal brand palette, and the overlying grid system isn’t perfectly aligned, it’s a designer.

02. We can smell marketing BS

We’ve had years of experience dealing with clients and marketing colleagues who spout the latest jargon and spin reams of BS in our direction. Our job is generally to unpack said BS and make some kind of sense of it (or occasionally call it out for what it is, as Stefan Sagmeister did on this occasion). 

This means that when seductive marketing comes at us in our private lives, be it from billboards, TV advertising or the dreaded ‘sponsored tweet’, we know exactly what’s behind it. We can appreciate its brilliance, of course, even muse on how it might be done better, but we certainly won’t get fooled by it.

03. We question stuff

As designers, we query everything

As designers, we query everything

The axiom goes that art is about aesthetics; design is about functionality. Which means that whatever we’re designing, be it printed brochure or mobile app, we’re constantly thinking about how well it’s serving its purpose, how user-friendly it is, and how it could be improved.

Such a mindset makes us resistant to following the crowd when we’re told, for instance, that we absolutely have to have the latest cool device, tote bag or fixie bike. Rather than just swooning at how beautiful it is, we tend to think longer and harder about whether we actually need it. 

Unless it’s made by Apple, of course. Then we don’t need to think. It’s beautiful. We want it. Get over it.

04. We know what we’re worth

We’ve all encountered cheap-arsed clients who belittle our profession, in an attempt to pay us less. 'It’s just pressing a few buttons in Photoshop, after all,' they moan. 'How hard could it be?'

That approach might occasionally work with interns or students. But working designers know exactly how much value design and creativity can add to the bottom line, in an era when virtually all the world’s biggest companies are now, essentially, design companies.

So don’t try to lowball an experienced designer. It’s a total waste of time, and you’ll soon find yourself sitting in an empty room. 

05. We understand psychology

As designers, it’s important we empathise with consumers and understand their needs and wants. The essence of design, in a sense, lies in understanding human nature, for all its faults and flaws.

So when companies try to boost their profits by using cheap psychological tricks, it’s far less likely to work on us. Especially if we work in UX design, where there’s even a term for this kind of thing ('dark patterns').

06. We know about stock libraries

Hi Ariane!

Hi Ariane!

If you don’t know what a stock library is (and quite frankly, there’s no reason most people should), it’s reasonable to assume that people who are featured on a leaflet, say, or an amusing blog post on a design website, agreed to be photographed for it and support its aims. 

Designers, however, know better. So when the anti-foreigner British National Party handed out leaflets featuring 'British pensioners', it wasn’t long before they’d been outed as Italian models, appearing courtesy of a well-known stock agency.

07. We don’t fall for demagogues

Politicians who seek power at any cost often try to hoodwink the public by appealing to their basic instincts, whether that’s greed (unfundable promises of pay rises and tax cuts) or fear (drumming up conspiracy theories and racial hatred). 

But seductive as they are, designers normally remain immune to their charms. After all, have you seen the typography on that logo?

08. We know how useful 'exposure' is. Not

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Thankfully, any young designer who’s been asked to work for free in return for the 'exposure' and 'getting their name out there' has learned a valuable lesson in the relative values of cold, hard cash versus empty promises. Which, sadly, is pretty much every designer alive today.

We know how to protect our work, so you can't trick us into giving it to you

We know how to protect our work, so you can't trick us into giving it to you

Not only do we understand the value of our intellectual property, we understand how clear the law is in protecting it. So when those who steal our graphics or photographs bluster that 'it was on Twitter/Facebook/Google, so that means it’s in the public domain', we’re savvy enough to get our company’s lawyer involved right away.

10. We’re wise to April Fool’s posts

Time was when April Fool’s Day was all about children playing harmless pranks on each other. Then a few years ago, big-name PR firms got involved and all of us a sudden every creative and tech blog was running a 'hilarious' fake news story about Adobe launching a Photoshop toaster, or Krispy Kreme changing the spelling of its name to help out the poor, confused Brits. It’s probably time to move on and stop doing that now, guys. We’re no longer fooled, amused, or impressed.

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.