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Have you ever needed graphic design services for your business, maybe to update your logo, create brochures, or design a website?

When it comes to your business, graphic design plays a pivotal role in establishing brand identity, conveying messages, and engaging audiences. As businesses strive to stand out in a saturated market, the demand for high-quality graphic design is more pressing than ever.

However, the advent of numerous graphic design software and applications has blurred the lines between professional and amateur graphic designers. Graphic design software and apps are now feely available for anyone to learn and use. Have a spare afternoon? You can teach yourself on YouTube, through online tutorials, guides, or even good old trial and error. But this has made the line between professional and amateur graphic designers seemingly blurry. Today, anyone with access to Photoshop or even something like Canva can whip up a quick design or two and call themselves a designer. However, graphic design is more than creating visually appealing images, it’s an art and specialised professional skill.

Hiring an amateur over a professional designer to save money often ends up costing more in the long run.

Common Pain Points

As a local SME business we understand that you may be tempted by the allure of low-cost design solutions offered by amateurs, or even do-it-yourself platforms that allow you to pull something quick and simple together in-house. However, the necessity for engaging, high-quality, and brand-aligned design cannot be understated. Maybe you’ve tried the cheap and cheerful route previously and it’s not given you your desired ROI? Or maybe it’s taking too much time out from someone’s main role while they try to cobble something together in-house? Whatever it may be, we know that the use of amateurs can lead to several pain points, such as:


  • Inconsistent Branding: Amateur designs often result in a disjointed brand identity, confusing your audience.
  • Lowered Perceived Value: Poorly designed materials can tarnish your brand’s reputation, making your products or services seem less valued.
  • Missed Communication Objectives: Design is not just pretty pictures – it’s a form of communication. Amateur designs might fail to convey the intended message, leading to lost opportunities.
  • Worst of all, it just looks poor compared to how you really want your brand and business to be perceived externally. Instead of proudly sharing it with others, you ignore it, which is probably what everyone else does too. So, it becomes a waste of time and resources!

Navigating these common issues only shines a spotlight on the indispensable value a professional graphic designer can bring. But, how can you spot the difference between a seasoned design maestro and a budding amateur?

Understanding Graphic Design

At its core, graphic design is the craft of creating visual content to convey specific messages. It applies visual hierarchy, typography, images, and colours to meet specific requirements. The goal is to present information in a manner that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also easy to comprehend, that gets its message across in a matter of seconds, in order to elicit a response from the audience. It also, of course, has to appeal to a specific target audience. A professional will use research, knowledge and experience to do that. An amateur won’t.

The Professional Graphic Designer

Professional graphic designers have dedicated significant time and resources to mastering the craft of graphic design. They will often have formal education in the field and bind their software skills with extensive experience, deep understanding of design elements and principles, market insights, and supplementary creative interests – such as illustration, photography and editing.

As mentioned previously, professional graphic designers don’t just create visually appealing images. They create strategic visual solutions. They listen to your goals, dissect detailed briefs, research, plan, and execute designs that not only look good but also solve the problem at hand, drive engagement, and (importantly) deliver return on investment.

They know that each colour, font choice, or image placement can subtly affect a viewer’s mood or response. They can navigate the fine balance between aesthetics, functionality, and appropriate communication.

Process and Workflow

Professionals have an established creative process and workflow that they follow for each project. This helps them stay organised, meet deadlines, and deliver high-quality work consistently. Some elements of a professional designer’s workflow may include:

• Briefing calls to determine objectives, audience, timeline, and other requirements
• Research into the industry, competitors, and target audience
• Conceptualisation and brainstorming of design ideas
• Creating moodboards to explore visuals styles
• Presenting initial ideas or concepts to the client for feedback
• Refining designs and creating multiple drafts and iterations
• Ensuring brand consistency across all touchpoints
• Performing quality assurance checks before final delivery

Amateurs often do not have an established process or workflow. They may start designing without a clear brief or direction from the client. Their work may seem disorganised, inconsistent, or disconnected from the brand and goals. Amateurs may also have difficulty meeting deadlines, communicating effectively, or delivering polished work. And a lack of structure shows in the final product.

Critical Differences

So, what else sets a professional and an amateur apart?

  • Design theory knowledge: Pros have a firm understanding of design theory, including colour theory, typography, visual hierarchy, and balance. They understand how to put these skills to work to create the desired effect, something amateurs are often unaware of or may overlook.
  • Experience: Professional designers have gained exposure and experience by working on diverse projects. They recognise common pitfalls, cliches, and formulas and know how to avoid them, or subvert them.
  • Creativity: Creativity is more than making a design look good. Professionals can think outside the box, injecting fresh creative thinking into diverse projects. Amateurs often resort to cliches or overused trends.
  • Understanding the Brief: Professionals know the right questions to ask before starting a project to understand what the client wants to achieve. Amateurs, on the other hand, often jump straight into design without understanding the project’s scope fully.
  • Time Management: Professionals appreciate deadlines and the importance of timely delivery. They have learned to cope with stress and work demands efficiently – an area where amateurs often struggle.
  • Revisions: Dealing with client revisions is an integral part of a professional’s work. They won’t crumble under criticism but use it constructively to produce a design solution that meets the client’s satisfaction.
  • Return on Investment: Investing in professional graphic design is just that—an investment. Professionals bring a level of assurance that your branding and marketing materials will not just meet but exceed expectations, leading to better engagement, conversion, and ultimately, a stronger brand. On the other hand, the initial savings from choosing an amateur can quickly evaporate if the end product fails to achieve its intended purpose.

In conclusion, the discernible difference between professional and amateur graphic designers boils down to knowledge, skills, experience, creativity, and business acumen. It’s like comparing a Michelin-starred chef to an enthusiastic home cook. Both can produce great meals, but there’s a depth of knowledge and understanding utilised by the professional that’s generally unmatched by the amateur. Just because you own a crackling wok doesn’t make you a master of delicious cuisine!

Just as you’d choose a professional mechanic over a car enthusiast to fix your car, you should trust professional graphic designers with your design needs to get a product that aligns with your business requirements and resonates with your target audience.

If you’re ready to elevate your brand, website, or marketing materials, partner with an agency that has experienced professional graphic designers. At Relative, our designers have decades of expertise in the principles, processes, tools, and strategies that will help accomplish your goals and provide real value for your business.

Luke Burnett profile picture

About the author

Luke is Relative’s Senior Project Manager, with experience of delivering projects from traditional press and high-volume print campaigns, to SEO & content marketing, and website design & development. His role involves building relationships and working closely with clients, design and digital development teams.

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