I’m getting on my soapbox today. Today, I’m going to share one my pet peeves (pun intended) and why it’s necessary to “eat your own dog food“.
I have seen several website and graphic designers with business names, websites, logos, etc that are not creative. Recently, I was visiting once such website that was very “minimalist”. There were a lot of portfolio pictures, but few words… a website equivalent of a Flickr album. It didn’t have a logo and the company name was essentially John Doe Design. If I’m looking for a graphic designer, I’m looking for someone who is creative.
Creativity starts at your company name, your “identity”. Jeff Fisher’s article ‘Literally “making a name for yourself”‘ delves into this issue further. Jeff points out “coming up with a clear, explanatory, clever name is always a challenge, but it can be your most important introduction to the world”. He’s absolutely right and, in my opinion, anyone in the creative field should have a name that says “hey, I’m creative”. John Doe Design isn’t going to cut it.
Next up, the website experience. I see this all the time and I understand the problem. Website designers will either suffer from not having enough time to put together the site they want OR they can’t agree on what the site should look like (too many creative cooks in the kitchen). The result is a hastily pulled together site that says what they do and has information about the projects they have done, but is very definitely not their best work (of course, usually meant to be a temporary site).
Here’s the thing… The consumers (those of us who need websites, but have no earthly idea how you do your magic) don’t know or care why your website is less than stellar. We’re going to judge you based on what your site looks like. You can say you have worked on lots of fabulous projects, but (at least to me) the one project that says the most about you is your own. For all I know, you played a small role in those other projects, so I’m most curious about how you present yourself. Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s how we think and everybody does it.
I’ve been focusing on graphic and website design because that’s the world I live in most frequently, but I’ll give you simple example that most people can relate to. The hair salon. When I walk into a new salon, you know which stylist I want? The one with great hair! I know…she probably didn’t cut her own hair, but I don’t care. If she’s smart enough to get the right cut for herself, so I immediately trust her more with my hair.
It’s absolutely essential to “eat your own dog food”. I know it’s difficult and you’re busy with other things, but in the long term you’ll be much better off if you take the time to be your own best customer. Also, if you’re at a mental block with your own project, there’s no shame in seeking an outsider to help. I think it’s often most difficult to work on your own project and many of us would be wise to utilize our peer network to get some objective advice. What’s important is what the customer sees, not how you made it happen.
Stepping off the soapbox.