Maximizing communication with your graphic designer is the key to getting outstanding results. From kicking off a project with clear parameters to providing concise feedback, the way in which you communicate with your creative specialist will have a big impact on the outcome. Here, then, are five ways to make sure you get the most from your designer.
1. Pick the right designer.
Just like other professions, today's designers are specialists. Some might claim to "do it all," but the odds are, even they have strengths and weaknesses – and will probably admit as much when asked. Some focus on print work, others work mostly in the online realm. Some get really specific, and only design book jackets, real estate web sites, or packaging for baby products.
But every designer has a portfolio. Look through samples of the designer's work. You don't need to find an exact match for what you have in mind, but make sure they're at least in the neighborhood. Does the candidate seem to have a good eye for design and layout? Do they seem to pay attention to details? In simplest terms, do you like their work?
It's also a good idea to have a one-on-one conversation with the designer before you hire them for a project. They should sound excited about the work, and make sure your personalities mesh, especially if the project means you'll be working together for a long while.
2. Know what you want.
Don’t keep your designer guessing. You wouldn’t sit in a salon chair and tell a stylist “I’ll know what I want when I see it.” That’s a recipe for disaster. Every successful creative project starts with a clear objective.
If you know you want a little off the top or just to look younger, a stylist will know what to do with that direction and provide their expert perspective. Similarly, whether you want to resize an existing piece of collateral or attract a new kind of customer, a professional graphic designer will work with you to get you there.
It can take as much time to outgrow a design misstep as it does to grow out a bad cut.
At the beginning of a project, take some time to fill out a brief. A good brief will ask you important questions that pertain to the project’s specs and its strategic goals.
Strategic questions to answer in a qualified brief are:
- Who is the audience?
- What is the key message?
- What action should the audience take as a result of reading/viewing the content?
- Does the project need to coordinate with other pieces?
Be certain you can answer these important nuts-and-bolts questions as well:
- Are you printing this project?
- What is the exact size and format (e.g., 11x17 folded to 8.5 x 11 with .25” bleed)?
- For print projects, will it be full color, spot color(s) or grayscale?
- For digital projects, what file format do you require (PNG, JPG, etc.)?
If you’re unsure about some of these answers, sit down with your creative specialist and hammer out the details before the design process begins. Something as simple as a change in size can cause a serious setback.
Are you inspired by the graphic design for a specific brand? Feel free to include that inspiration with your creative brief, with the understanding that the designer can’t exactly copy that look. When providing reference material, be mindful that many companies (especially smaller operations) may not have the best graphic design.
You can trust a good designer to take this into consideration when making decisions for your brand.
3. Don’t be too helpful.
Leave the actual design to the professional. As tempting as it may be, sketching out a design or whipping something together in Word can create more creative hurdles for us. Professional designers have a formal education and years of experience, and they’ll save you the hassle of troubleshooting common design mistakes.
Sometimes your idea doesn't translate from brain-to-page. Leave it to us.
That being said, if you have an in-house designer who has concerns about your brand, an outside designer should be happy to talk shop and review your brand standards with them.
4. Provide detailed feedback.
When providing design feedback, try to be as specific as possible about your concerns. Printing out and marking up the design with a pen, or making notes on a PDF, can circumvent a lot of confusion compared to sending an email that could be misinterpreted.
Rather than saying “I don’t like it," try to pinpoint the issue or talk it out with your creative specialist. Try to view the design from the perspective of your audience, rather than giving your personal opinion. For example, maybe you’re not personally a fan of the color orange, but does the color resonate with your target demographic?
The design may need to be seen by several members of your team before it’s approved. Consolidate your team’s feedback rather than sending it piecemeal so you can make sure none of it is contradictory and everything is executed at once.
5. Pull the plug if you need to.
If you’re doing everything above and you’re still grappling with your graphic designer, it may be time to seek out a replacement. You don’t need a diva who will back-talk the slightest feedback, or perhaps worse, your friend’s niece who "knows how to use Photoshop." Sometimes starting over with the right designer can be more time-efficient than continuing to struggle with the wrong one.