I realized that I have lots of conversations with people about the web design profession, the state of the industry, what role design should play, etcetera. Rarely do these conversations make it to this blog though; I want to change that.

A Designer’s Worth

Why they pay you the big bucks.

If you’re a web designer, why does your employer (or clients if you’re freelance) pay you? Because you can take a Photoshop file and turn it into an HTML document? Because you’re the sharpest at Photoshop?

Not really.

At least they shouldn’t.

You’re worth what they pay you because your able to process information into a visual solution. I highlighted a Saul Bass quote a while ago that sums this idea well: Design is thinking made visual.

This is the skill that will make you valuable. Companies can outsource PSD to HTML work for cheaper than you can do it. I can teach someone how to use Photoshop in a few weeks. These are useful and necessary skills for a web designer, definitely, but on which alone they are not worth banking a career.

What makes you valuable is your ability to problem solve, to think through the problem and present a solution. This translates to almost any industry as well, not just web design. It’s what sets you apart from others.

In specific terms, a web designer presents the solution in the form of a website design. Your design is formed from the constraints and the goals of the project — how you solved them — not your favorite colors and typefaces.

It’s not easy though, the person for whom you did the website won’t always appreciate your problem solving. “I don’t like that font.” “All my competitors have a flash intro page.” It will be your job to explain to them the specifics and nuances of your design (humbly); and because you approached the design as a problem solving endeavor you will have plenty of reasoning behind your decisions.