Working with graphic designers for the first time can be intimidating. You’re essentially handing over your entire brand identity and reputation to a complete stranger – but risky as it sounds, it’s the smartest thing you can do from a business perspective, writes Miriam van Heusden, founder and director of marketing platform, Maralytics.
As long as you know how to properly collaborate with your graphic designer, your final product will deliver beyond your wildest expectations.
But don’t forget: this is a creative field, so things work a little differently.
Six things your graphic designer wants you to know
Just put your attention to these things and you’ll get the best possible product for your time, energy and money.
1. Show, don’t tell
Practically every client wants a design that ‘pops’. But what does that mean? You might be thinking, ‘I’ll know it when I see it’, and your designer is probably in the same boat. So why not show instead of tell?
Rather than using words, show your graphic designer what you want with visual examples. Collect samples of your desired style from other logos, websites, ads, signs, t-shirts, business cards and more. A picture is worth a thousand words, and visuals also give your designer a chance to catch all of the artistic nuances and techniques that you like, so they can incorporate them into your project.
You don’t have to stop at closely related examples either. Branch out and get creative. Show a designer your favourite Van Gogh painting as inspiration for your logo, or an 18th-century newspaper clipping to demonstrate what font you want on your website.
If the designer can see what you want, it’s often more useful than a verbal explanation.
If you have time, consider building a mood board filled with images, colours, icons and typography to portray what you’re looking for. Mood boards are a great way to start solidifying a visual style.
2. Figure out your needs first
There are two types of clients: those who know what they want and those who don’t. Guess which one ends up satisfied more often?
The better you understand what you want, the better your designer can give it to you. That includes both the creative end (visual style, colour scheme, subject matter) as well as the business end (your target market, your destination, your main takeaway). Naturally, you’ll want to leave a lot of the creative decisions up to the designer (that’s why you’re hiring them!), but there are some business and branding choices they just can’t make for you.
Also, make sure you nail down the scope of the project early. If you want an adaptable logo or a series of projects instead of just one, figure that out sooner rather than later.
You can communicate a lot of these preliminary details with a well-constructed creative brief, which is the basic outline of a project.
3. Start by agreeing on details
While you and your designer search for common ground in the creative aspects, don’t neglect the concrete details. Neither party really enjoys these kinds of nitty-gritty negotiations, but they’re worth bringing up. Deadlines, schedules, revisions, deliverables, payment … You can avoid so many problems by addressing these at the start rather than the end of your project.
It’s important to set reasonable timeframes for projects, since short deadlines can be a recipe for disaster.
Getting definitive answers enables a more efficient design process; one where you don’t get caught up halfway through, arguing about money.
That holds true for the minor details as well. Things like the final file format might not seem important, but if overlooked, they could lead to annoying or even disastrous consequences.
4. Phrase feedback as problems, not solutions
Even the best designers don’t always get it right the first time. Most projects involve at least one round of feedback, but if you don’t articulate your criticism well, you’re looking at two, three, four or more rounds before you’re happy with the results.
One tip to move this process along quickly is to phrase your feedback as problems, not solutions. In other words, clearly describe what’s bothering you, but don’t direct how to fix it.
Your designer is an expert in design. By telling them what to do, not only do you ignore their expertise, but you also cut off the opportunity of them thinking up a solution that’s even better than yours. When it comes time for feedback, point out what you need, but don’t make the revisions for them.
Usually, over-explaining is a bad thing, but when it comes to abstract concepts, every little bit helps. In addition to showing them visual examples, give them as much background as possible.
Avoid using vague terms, and err on the side of explaining too much than too little. In addition to project parameters and creative styles, also share with your designer your motives and business goals.
Let them know:
- What is the intended outcome of this particular project?
- How does it fit into your business as a whole?
Professional designers understand this area better than you think, and knowing these details can help them think up even more effective design solutions.
6. Keep an open mind
When you hire a graphic designer, you’re not just paying for their artistic skill; you’re also paying for their knowledge and expertise. When they say a new idea is better than an old idea, keep an open mind.
It’s common for clients to have a fixed vision of what they want in their head, and they hire designers simply to bring that idea to life. But graphic design is a robust and intricate discipline, and chances are the designer knows something about your vision that you don’t. The idea in your head may not be as feasible as you think; or even more likely, your designer’s idea might actually check off more boxes than the original.
Trust your designer’s ability.
Of course your insight is valuable, but it’s better to blend your ideas with those of an expert than to stubbornly cling to a second-rate concept. What your designer brings you may not be how you pictured it. But that might be a good thing!
The more the client knows, the better the flow is. There is no magic that can make the process easier, other than patience from both sides and some guidance from designers to overcome the barriers.
A little trust goes a long way
It is necessary, but difficult to do with someone you’ve never worked with before. But once you know how to better work with graphic designers, you’ll be ready for a creative collaboration you can trust to deliver results that bring your ideas to life.
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