How to work with a designer

For anyone hoping to get the most out of working with a graphic designer.

Before the project starts

Come Prepared

Depending on your project, a lot of details are needed to make your design possible. If its a logo design, come prepared with examples of style that you like. Share links, images, and pinterest boards explaining the outcome you expect. This is always best done in the early stages to be on the same page with your designer.

If its a web or print project, come prepared with your copy ready. Your headlines, subheadings, and body text will inform the structure of your print piece or web design.

Before the project begins, your designer will need your company logo, style guide (if you have one), photos, and other brand-related design files. If you have a print or web design from the past that you want your designer to stay consistent with, send that over for review.

Pro tip: keeping this all organized in a shared Dropbox folder or Basecamp is the best way to make files easy to reference.

Study good design

In most cases, an appreciation for design and design history is necessary for a thriving business. Especially if your company is an online business, its crucial to know the fundamentals of design.

One of the greatest difficulties in the design process is speaking the same language. You designer will be speaking in design terms. They’ll often take time to explain these, but if you already know, the process will be that much smoother.

The best way to start studying is to pay attention to companies and products around you. Look at Apple, look at Uber. Ask yourself what makes these products great and think deeply about the fundamental similarities.

Follow design leaders on Twitter and read timeless design books. Even if you never want to design a thing in your life, it’s worth it to be well read on design topics. A few books should do the trick.

Try reading these:

  • Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible by Sophie Lovell (about the design lead of Braun for 34 years)
  • Keep it Simple by Hartmut Esslinger (about the early design years of Apple)
  • Biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (not a design book but details Steve’s obsession with great products)

In learning design fundamentals, focus on the principles. Designing logos or interfaces on the computer only require software skills, but good design comes from thoughtful consideration and testing. Learn the principles of design, what gives it value, and you’ll be able to hold your own in any design conversation.

A designer can only produce work as good as the client is willing to let them. Many designers are on the edge of innovation because of their personality and the industry they’ve chosen to focus on. Often, a designer will make forward-thinking design decisions only to be shot down by clients. If you want to make real design progress, you must either fundamentally understand design or give your designer more space to design what’s best.

Set expectations early

As people, we avoid awkward situations at all costs, but in this instance its far better to set explicit expectations upfront. These can be as simple as what date you want the deliverables or as nuanced as how much creative control the designer will have.

Not determining these things upfront (and writing them down), can make for some tense conversations in the future.

Start by writing down your needs. When do you need the design by? How many concepts do you expect to see? How many revisions do you expect? Do you need in-person meetings or will talking on the phone do? Do you expect the designer to make the majority of the design decisions or do you want to creative-direct the project?

These can feel tedious and laborious but they save time and money down the road.

During the project

Ask questions often

If something is confusing or feels off, start by asking questions. Like stated above, design is not arbitrary. It is formed as principles evolve into visual manifestations. Often, designers have a reason for their decisions. Even “taste” is informed by principles.

Design is communication, not taste

When giving feedback or asking for explanations, be sure to talk in terms of communication and stay away from taste at all cost. You may like the way Tesla designs its cars, but its not because Elon personally likes them that way, its because they achieve their function most effectively.

Your logo, print design, or website communicates information to your viewers. It conveys the vibe of your brand, trust, quality, cost efficiency, and many other things. It’s not about what you like, but what best communicates the core values of your company.

All good designers create with communication in mind. Its crucial for you as the client to engage in conversation through lens of communication as person who knows the brand the best. But, one must see it from this perspective and speak the language of the designer to achieve this.

This can feel daunting at first, but it’s not that hard. By reading design books and asking your designer for explanations, you’ll pick up design knowledge in no time.

Ask for updates

Asking for updates can feel like a bother, but sometimes its necessary to keep the project on pace. If you did the hard work of outlining your turnaround expectations upfront, you shouldn’t have to nag your design to meet the deadline. Every good designer will honor their word and hustle to finish when you need it.

Give feedback promptly

Good design takes momentum. When the creative fire is burning, the last thing you want to do is neglect a designer’s feedback request for several days. Promptly replying keeps the design conversation going and enables better collaboration throughout.

Considering design plays a very important role in the success of your business, it’s worth your time to keep your phone at your side for prompt responses when the process calls for it.

After Project

Give a testimonials

Unless they’re a design celebrity, many designers struggle to keep their schedule packed with design work. If you’ve had a good experience with a designer, the best thing you can do is sing your praises both to them and your friends.

Assuring them of a job well done will encourage their efforts and motivate them to work hard for your company in the future. The greater emotional connection you can make with your designer, the better work they will produce for your company.

Telling your friends will not only help the designer get more work, but also for your friends to benefit from your discovery of design talent. Bring your designer more business and they’ll be even more devoted to your cause.

After all, a thriving business is built upon devoted talent. Celebrate them!

Post the work and give credit

As a designer myself, I’ve been interested that photographers get credit every time someone posts their image (even if they get paid) while designers rarely get credit for work.

If it doesn’t distract from the message you’re trying to convey, give your designer a shoutout for a job well done. When posting on social media, tag them and bring them more attention.

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I hope this helps you find and maintain awesome design talent for your business! If you do need help we’ve got a community of great designers at www.designcue.io