Why Your Company Needs a Design Philosophy
Create consistency for great designs and share with your employees
Framers in today’s industry excel at creating great designs or they would no longer be in business. There are only two reasons why independent professional picture framers are still in demand. First, to preserve and protect valuable art and sentimental collectibles and second, to offer designs which enhance the appearance of what is being framed, stimulating clients to invest in frame designs that transform their art and décor.
However, being good at creating fantastic designs is hard to do. Like many professions where the results rely on creativity and talent, it can be very difficult to instill that ability throughout the company. As owners we can easily forget just how much we know. One way to create consistency for great designs is to build a design philosophy which can be shared and taught to others in your company.
A design philosophy is the documentation of the mental design process you go through when you create a design for your clients. By outlining and teaching a process, you can offer consistent talent regardless of who the designer is, build a proper approach for dialog between your team and your clients, create a system which emphasizes design talent and maybe best of all, reduce the dependence on your talent to the overall success of the company – allowing yourself time to do other important activities.
Steps to creating your own company design philosophy:
Create and document a starting point for every design
Remember, this philosophy is NOT about the dialog you use with the customer. It is strictly a documentation of the mental process used to design any project a customer brings to you. So every process needs a beginning. What do you look for first? What is the first thing you look at in the art which then dictates the next steps for creating consistent design? In my company’s design philosophy, that first step is to identify the focal point of the art, the one single aspect of the art that needed to be enhanced by the overall design. Once the focal point is identified, all the following steps are based on emphasizing that specific part of the art.
Observe and identify the artistic elements of the art
This is important because you will need to use design tactics which complement the art instead of competing with it. Artistic elements include concepts like space, rhythm, proportion, balance, emphasis and unity. You may not be aware of what each term technically means, but you are using these concepts in the designs you create. Learning these terms and documenting what they mean to professional design allows you to create teachable concepts which can be used by your entire team. If you use different terms that is fine; just be sure to create terms that can be documented and defined.
To be truly successful, your store needs a design philosophy that can be shared and taught to others.
Document the terms you created in #2 by defining them
For example, if you used “proportion” as an artistic concept, step 3 involves documenting the definition and the importance of this concept for creating great designs.
Definition: the size relationship of the parts to the entity and to one another.
Importance: using proper proportion ensures that the artwork is not overshadowed by external elements such as moulding, matting etc.
Create visuals for each documented design concept
Since design is very visual, your team will learn these concepts best if they can see examples of what you mean by proper use of your terms. Create specific teaching examples or show past projects which illustrate each of your concepts, and explain why each concept was important to the design. By using visuals to illustrate the effects and importance of your design concepts, you can create a deeper understanding of their value.
These examples show how proportion might be illustrated:
The first example shows how a wide frame can work even though the images are small. The design works proportionately because of the relationship between the frame size and the mat margins. Because of this, the focus is on the cluster grouping of the small photos in the center.
In the second example, a gold frame and artwork with gold highlights stand out against a muted background. Because of this high contrast, placing the frame too close to the artwork would have crowded it and made the design look too busy. By incorporating the right proportion between artwork size, mat margin and frame size, the artwork is featured correctly.
Create design exercises for your team to practice
These will allow your team members to gain practical experience using your design philosophy before working with clients. Practice builds confidence and results so creating a training exercise into your design philosophy document ensures that your team understands design like you do. It’s as simple as having the trainee identify the focal point of various pieces of art. Start with simple examples and graduate to more difficult examples as their ability grows. Once your team members can identify and use all your design concepts, allow them to start designing practice projects. Then ask them to explain why they designed their pieces the way they did, using the proper terminology defined in your design philosophy.
The purpose of a company design philosophy is not to create “cookie-cutter” designs. Each of your designers will still be able to design using their own creative talents, but the concepts behind designing with share a common philosophy as a basis for proper design. Once each team member understands your company’s philosophy on proper design, they will still be able to interpret how those concepts should come together. There is no “right” or “wrong” design if the concepts of your design philosophy are observed by the team and individual style is still an important part of the process.
Remember, the goal is to create a team of designers who can create consistent results based on design concepts which enhance the art. If you can accomplish this, your clients will receive a great product regardless of who designed the project. There are many benefits of a company design philosophy program including the ability to grow your company through the talents of your team, produce a consistent product and reduce dependency on your talents. It takes a bit of work to put this together, but the results will bring many years of benefits to your company.
Design Philosophy Workbook
Jumpstart your style guide with a customizable workbook
If you don’t know WHY you’re good at design, how can you teach your employees how to design a framing project? KB Consulting can help you define your philsophy. This easy-to-use manual puts your design philosophy into words. Instruct your designers on how to design creatively while adhering to your rules. If your customers only want to work with you, not your employees, you need to standardize your employee’s design skills. Get started today! »