Social Media in the Designer’s Life

More and more businesses are relying on social media to draw in potential customers. Many “traditional” companies are starting to trade their newspaper and poster ads for presences on Facebook and Twitter. Will this increasing trend eventually become too much for a Designer to deal with?

Not if she learns how to adapt.

If the current state of the internet proves anything it’s that the creative thrive when they can change.

When the internet first surfaced in the public consciousness, there were those pushing to add their stylistic touches to what was then a data only entity. A photo here, a change of text size and color there. Little elements that eventually grew to form the basis for web design.

Though a lot has changed since we took those first shaky steps on the strange surface of the web, one thing never has. The tenacity of designers.

The current state of the web seems to be gravitating away from the traditional static website that companies used essentially as an online brochure. Though there will always be a place for the company website, just as there will always be a place for company letterhead, more often the business savvy are seeking ways to speak directly to customers.

What does that mean for you? Lets look at that as a two-part answer.

New Times, New Tools.
Dreamweaver is a standard for Web Designers, but from what I’ve seen it isn’t adapting nearly as fast as the need for new media is. Solution: Branch out. Don’t be afraid to use software that isn’t what you focused on in school. In fact, oftentimes what I use now would seem to have nothing at all to do with design.

Facebook sports that extremely structured, blue and white look for almost everything but there are ways to work around this. As an example, look at Coca-cola’s Facebook page:

Though still confined to the standard Facebook format, their designers have found a way to pep it up, What looks like a loosely structured banner with stylized buttons is nothing but a cleverly disguised “Wall” that they posted to. Even adding an app for “Gifts” which sends a simple email attachment image to the recipient, they have worked hard to make their Facebook presence uniquely Coca-Cola.

Likewise Twitter can be customized to show a companies specific qualities.

Any designer that can work around the limits posed by these giants should be able to establish themselves in the growing pack of social media-savvy designers.

Work Hard, Play Harder
Though there are a smattering of tutorials out there that will help you add some new fancy looking profile pic or change your type color, that just isn’t enough. If you really want to learn what you can do, the best way is to dig into it up to your elbows and play. Don’t be afraid that you’re going to crash Facebook. You won’t.

Set something that messes up your homepage? Pull the code you added back out, refresh and see where you stand then. Probably one of the best things about pushing the envelope when it comes to social media sites is it isn’t likely you will tear it.

Change or Die
This is the same kind of “Adapt or Perish” thinking that a designer should always have about technology, no matter what their specialty. If you want to stick to one particular style for your entire career, be prepared to make very little. Art Chantry might have been at the forefront of the grunge movement, but his cut and paste, roto-label style didn’t sustain him indefinitely. What is interesting about that is now there are any number of free “label” typefaces and overblown clip art sites that provide a similar look to his, just much easier and hands-off.

I’m not saying to forsake your traditional passions, but rather don’t be so attached to them that you can’t see past them. Embrace what’s new. You really don’t have much choice if you want to keep going forward.

My own personal journey with design has taken me from a print-only world into web design, social media customization and content management system layout. I take time out on a regular basis to get my bearings in the online world and do my best to adapt to whatever people seem to be talking about. There is always room for creativity regardless of which direction the internet next takes us.

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