It’s funny what a good teacher experience can be. And not just the bad experiences. Good experiences – that is from things you happen to do right – can be just as rewarding as learning the hard way. One thing I’ve noticed, in my short time, is how even the seemingly small things can make a difference in the kind of impression you give of yourself as a professional designer. A lot of little things add up, and can even be the deciding factor for some of those potential clients. The details are important. Don’t overlook them. One detail is your bio, and what’s on it. There’s a few things I’ve noticed that designers tend to include or leave out of their bios. One, which I’m going to focus on here, is listing their skills and tools. Is it really necessary? Does it hurt or help? Or does it even matter at all?
Browse through some portfolio sites and you’ll find a great diversity of designers and how they present themselves. A common trend I’ve noticed though is this listing their tools and skills on their bio. We’ve all seen it. A pretty list of adobe applications, with the app icons throwing a dash of color to the page. Or a small list of coding languages they’re proficient in. Again, I ask, is this necessary?
DEPENDS ON YOUR OBJECTIVE
I can see why many designers and developers do this sort of thing. They want to clearly and concisely show what they can do. This is useful to some, especially those looking to be hired by a company or agency. In fact this is something you should include on a resume anyway. Employers looking for a designer actually do want to see those kind of things. They need to know what a designer/developer is proficient in and can handle. Plus they understand what all those icons, apps, languages and other tools mean. But therein lies an important point. Most employers appreciate that kind of thing. And if that’s what you’re shooting for with a portfolio site, than more power to you. But the flip-side of this is the focus toward getting clients.
To those trying to get hired by clients, I think this kind of thing loses it’s usefulness. I apologize if I seem frank, but here’s why: Most clients don’t care about that. It’s plain and simple. Honestly, I’ve described doing something in Illustrator to a client and they’re like, what? What’s that? Clients really don’t understand our tools like we do, and they don’t care to. It’s not hard to see why though. Consider another profession, such as a plumber or a carpenter. Their customers don’t care that they know how to use a hammer, or can work a crescent wrench. They just trust that they know how to do the job and that they’ll get it done. How many ads do you see for those kind of pros listing the tools they know how to use.
It’s just something that’s understood without being said. If you’re a pro, you should be able to do it, period. Now that’s not to say you shouldn’t make clear what it is you do. But no need to go so specific as to list what’s in your toolbox just to impress.
IF NOT TOOLS, THEN WHAT?
Often times, I’m more impressed by designers that can explain their process, their style of design, and clearly communicate what they have to offer – not just technical skill or proficiency in a certain tool. And you can believe that, more often than not, clients probably value that kind of explanation over a list of tools. Another way to simply prove what you’re capable of is to prove what you’ve done. And that has to do with how you actually present your work. Most potential customers don’t care what you can do. They want to see what you’ve done, and how that has practical value for them. They may figure, if you did it once, you could do it again – and maybe for them.
Now, I don’t mean to discourage anyone from doing this. As I mentioned, there are advantages to listing your skills and tools. And you’re the designer. It’s your website. You’re free to do what you wish with it. This is just something I’ve recently picked up on in the design sphere and thought it might be worth mentioning. Whatever the case, I hope this at least makes you think a little more about how you present yourself as a designer. In the business of making others look good, make sure you look good.
Fellow Designers: What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s useful to list tools or not?
Clients: Would you agree with this observation? Does a list of tools offer any value to you?
Please share your comments/thoughts below.