I am now in week 3 of my first retail position, and let me tell you this: It’s quite a different creature than freelancing in Graphic Design. However, with the differences, there are still similarities that can help me grow as a designer while I’m on the retail job. Here is what I’ve learned so far:
With retail, there are different things to remember, more people I work with on a daily basis, and different situations that come up than if I were making a design for someone. I have a paycheck I receive weekly, and I work with multiple people a day who want to buy merchandise and leave, while also sometimes needing help in finding the perfect product for their needs. As a freelance Graphic Designer, however, the paycheck comes when the job comes, and I do a lot of my own branding and advertisement. I also need to learn about book keeping, what a livable wage would be for myself, and how to keep a timesheet so I can show my client I’m not being lazy on their dollar. While there are many differences between the freelance and retail, there are also some similarities, including simply needing to sell the product.
The biggest part of retail that I have noticed, of course, is selling. I need to sell the product so that the store makes money, and thus everyone within the store still has a job they can come to. To sell the products, I need to know what they are, how they work, and which would be the best for the given situation. The more I know about the product, and the more confident I am with the customer being happy with their purchase, the more likely the product will sell. It’s the same thing with design. I can design anything I want and see if it’ll sell itself, but I need to be able to sell my own product as well. I need to explain to my client that this design is what they need because it makes sense with the company, and then explain why. Is it the colors that are used? The unity that can be seen between other pamphlets that have been published and this one? The message that is coming across to those who view the pamphlet? Why is this design the best for the company? My client wants to know about my product. So, I need to be able to explain it to them and sell it.
I won’t pretend to know everything about designing and retail, but I will say that they are not really that different. With the need to sell in both mediums and the need to help multiple people at the same time, learning how to work in a retail environment will help me grow as a designer, especially while I help many clients at once with numerous tasks. Looking at the different ways companies brand within the store and how they are set-up are also extremely useful when I start working on packaging. Then I can remember what I liked and didn’t like about different techniques and see if I can do anything better within my designs later on. I’m trying to find chances to grow as a designer everywhere. Retail happens to be quite the hot spot for now.
If you’re a retail person as well as a designer, then I urge you to look around as well. See what you like and hate. Think about how you could possibly make your logos or packages better based on what you’ve learned. Above all else, learn how to talk to people and gain a working relationship with them. This is a learning opportunity that can help your career a great deal as you grow. Keep on learning!