The Similarities Between a Car Mechanic & Graphic Designer

car mechanics are like visual professionals A trusted mechanic will keep your car motoring along smoothly. Designers will essentially do the same with your creative materials and/or website.

Working with a designer as a trusted, strategic partner can embark you and your business on a great long-term relationship.

Odd as it may seem, there is indeed are similarities in the two…

Like the mechanic who wants to protect your car, a creative professional wants you and your business to succeed. And the both have processes in place to achieve that.


The Intake Process

In order to get to the source of your current situation, there’s an “intake” process. Both will need to gather initial, relevant information. A mechanic will ask a series of questions about what your car may be doing, noises it’s making etc. A designer will also need to ask a series of questions to get a sense of what your creative concerns may be.

After an assessment – or “looking under the hood” so to speak, they will work to address your particular needs. Then offer solutions or a course of action on how best to proceed.


Your Responsibility…

A car mechanic will likely tell you when you need your next oil change or brakes etc. So a relationship and open line of communication with a creative partner can keep you appraised of what may be a priority and what can wait. “Mission-critical” vs. “Nice-to-have”. It’s an overall healthy strategy.

Your car requires scheduled maintenance such as oil changes, tune-ups and tire rotations for optimal performance. These things are up you. That is if you want your car to continue to run in tip-top shape. Well your website requires ongoing updates. This is necessary for optimal performance and to remain competitive in the online sphere.

Plus if you are running on a platform such as WordPress, very often new version releases contain security updates to protect your site – which is a good thing. And all the more reason to stay on top of matters.

Communication IS part of your responsibility! Again this applies to the mechanic who calls to tell you there is something else he’s noticed with your car that should be addressed. It’s up to YOU to get back to him so that he may proceed with the work. Working with a designer is similar in that if they are working on your project and reach out with questions, it’s up to YOU to respond promptly. Otherwise the project can get “shelved” and put on the back-burner at no fault of the designer.

So just like neglecting your car can have negative impacts, neglecting and ignoring aspects of say your design project or website can have a negative impacts too.


Yes, Graphic Designers and other Visual Professionals ARE Actual Business Owners

A reputable car mechanic’s shop is a licensed business. business open signUnfortunately, in the creative arena the lines get a bit blurred. There is often a misunderstanding that folks don’t recognize that visual professionals ARE actual business owners. That means a business license, paying city taxes (and the dreaded self-employment taxes for sole proprietors).  A mechanic does not work 7 days a week. So we have biz hours too.

Like taking care of your car, creating and maintaining your print and digital assets should be viewed as an investment in your business not an expense. And like the mechanic who keeps you informed of your car’s ongoing needs, working with the right designer/creative professional will guide you and educate you in a similar way – to a successful outcome.


Mechanics Don’t Work for Free –
Designers Don’t Either

You pay your car mechanic for the services he provides. The actual cost obviously varies depending on what he had to fix. He does not work for free – nor do you tell him how much you want to spend. He may be able to incorporate “used parts” at times which can bring the cost down, but there is still labor involved.

So for the record, design professionals do not work for free either. We have set fees for the services we provide – just like any other business. We do our best to work within a given budget, but sometimes this is completely unrealistic on behalf of the client.

Furthermore, the concept that we should work “on a speculative basis” which means “free work to see if you like it first” is ridiculous. You would not ask that of your mechanic would you? He’d likely laugh at you and just hand you the bill!!

Keep in mind…
Really good car mechanics tend to have smaller indie shops. Which can make them more high in demand. That means you may need to wait a bit to get in. This is similar with indie design studios. There can be a wait depending on which projects are currently in the queue. Then again, good things are work waiting for 🙂


eco-conscious graphic designer barbara rogersWritten by Barbara Rogers of Future Primitive Graphics. Graphic Designer and Nature Inspired Art photographer visually enhancing client’s print and digital media. Creatively collaborating with those who genuinely want to make the world a better place.