What have I learned in my 10+ years as a professional graphic designer? Communication is king. Making it look pretty is only 10% of the job. Keep it simple (unless the message demands complexity). Always respect your audience. Listening is the most important part of the briefing process. Information can be beautiful. Design is not rocket science, but it can make a world of difference in how you are perceived. And perception, as Terry Goodkind observed, is everything.
Want to see some real life examples? Take a look around the site.
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