1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
I found out very early that people have the highest respect for printed material, official looking documents, bus tickets, student IDs. Being on a tight budget, I started forging student IDs to get cheap theater tickets, or manipulate bus passes to ride for free. Through that I learned early that design is a magical discipline, and that we have super powers. The words and images we put together and create actually speaks to people and makes them buy into a message or a product.
It wasn’t so much the aesthetics that got me into design, this desire of creating beautiful things, it was more that potential of influencing perceptions that set the course. I got hired early by an ad agency where I was able to hone my craft and so I didn’t have to forge bus stubs anymore. But still, I love to see how things transform trough design, how ideas become packaging, websites or videos that turn a vision into reality.
It never ceases to amaze me.
2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?
This is a tricky question. Life offers many hurdles. When you’re in your twenties you’re often perceived as too young and inexperienced. And when you’re 40 or 50 you’re often considered a has-been and out of touch. I guess you have to overcome those perceptions and offer great work.
My biggest hurdle to overcome was my ego, seeing myself as invincible. You simply do great work, get paid well and things run smoothly (more or less).
You’re in a comfort zone. Then, over time complacency kills the cool cat, especially in design. And if you’re stuck in your comfort zone it’s easy to get out touch with reality. We see tremendous changes in our industry today, new mediums, platforms, ways to interact, ways to create and launch campaigns. Everything happens at break-neck speed. Experience never guarantees continuous recognition and success.
I often compare this with a typewriter-repair shop. You can have twenty plus years of experience as a typewriter-repair guy – but where does this help you today? We constantly have to learn to keep up with things.
When you leave art school, I’d say, 80% of what you’ve learned will be outdated as soon as you step into the real world. Understanding this and preparing yourself will serve you well.
3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?
There are different avenues to get clients. I think the most effective way is having personal relationships with people. Plain and simple. I met clients at the gym, in bars or through friends. One recommendation can often be more effective than 100 mailings.
Let people know what you do and eventually they’ll come or refer someone. Of course there are other ways, too. I had to rebuild my client base from scratch several times when I moved to a new city and when I relocated to this country.
One initiative in particular helped me a lot. It was through a friend who was running several non-profits and didn’t really have any marketing material. I offered him to build a website for free and a mailing template to better reach out to his constituents. I was then allowed to use this platform to also introduce myself and make people aware of my services.
It didn’t take long and I had a handful of clients to start my business. Never underestimate the power of non-profits. You can always connect with interesting and helpful people through those organizations. And one more thing: When you design a website, always add your name and link to your URL at the bottom. Often when people see a nice site they want to find out who created it. I received many inquiries through those links.
4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?
Just do good work and take them seriously by always trying to understand their problems. Nobody gets up in the morning screaming “I need design!”. There is always a reason for why they hire you. Understanding this goes a long way. I like to say: Effective Design requires two things: Empathy to understand a problem and Creativity to solve it.
5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?
Of course. In my experience it always comes down to only two reasons. Either they are short in funding and have to stretch their budget (then the squeaking wheel gets oiled first), or they don’t see real value in what you do. If you analyze this and carefully talk about, you may find the reason why they are paying late and can address this in a positive way. I found out that the client’s challenges can often translate into opportunities.
6. What does your typical work day look like?
There is this saying, when you really love what you’re doing you never really work. My day is filled with ideas and reflections – and of course some time where I sit on a computer or discuss a project with my people. A significant part of the design process is to think about a problem, as Einstein said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?
Always try to understand a problem first before thinking of a solution. Design is not about shiny objects, but solving someone’s problems.
Marc Posch runs Marc Posch Design, a branding and digital marketing studio based in Los Angeles
The studio is known for helping emerging tech and manufacturing companies bring their vision to market via branding, marketing and outstanding design. You can also connect with Marc on Twitter.