Corporate Design Vs. Freelance Design

Often times when meeting with clients, I find they all ask the same kind of question in some way “What’s your experience? Where have you worked?” Many of the clients i end up doing business want to know more about us as designers and marketers. they don’t want us to be some “mysterious stranger who builds websites” (I actually got that when i asked who built a clients site once. ) I don’t blame them for wanting to know about me, after all i am in the meeting to know more about them. It’s only fair.

I tell them the usual Outside of Design and marketing for small businesses, I am also the Lead Marketing Designer at 84Lumber. Which usually gets an eyebrow raise around the Greater Pittsburgh area because of the established brand they have built. However recently, I got the response of “ I don’t want to look like 84 Lumber.” After choking on the laughter that almost spilled out, I realized he were serious and that he didn’t realize there was a difference in design outlooks between my day job in corporate design and my project as a freelance designer. One step further I wondered the whole drive home how many people out there (including fellow designers) may not know the difference.

Simply said the difference is between maintaining (corporate) and creating (freelance)

Corporate Design is maintaining a Brand

Every company has its own set of brand standards and a “persona” that they portray to the public as branding. The designers position with that company is to uphold that brand and appearance. Believe me there are usually many levels a finished piece goes through to make sure that happens. Each of these levels will often change and/or remove elements. There is a saying that says, “Take all creative ideas for work, create them, and remove them one by one. The left over product is corporate design.”

Freelance design is creating the Brand

In freelance design the hired designer(s) have far more creative flexibility to complete the job. Many times if a freelance designer is contacted the client either has no finished design or product, or is looking to change the one they have. The designers job is to help them establish a strong marketable brand. The “Design Style” of the designer shows through a little bit, but doesn’t overwhelm the message of the design.

So how are they similar and different?