Good design isn’t easy. Creating something unique, eye-catching and strategic takes time, skill and understanding. Above all, a great working relationship between client and designer is essential, but it really depends on three crucial elements: clear communication, direction and a positive, enthusiastic attitude.
1. Be definitive
Be clear and constructive in communicating your project brief. Your designer will appreciate any direction they can use as a starting point. A positive attitude is naturally infectious and helps to increase motivation and shared excitement for the project.
A good designer wants to nail their brief every time, however they are not mind readers. Getting clear instructions from you as early as possible will help produce a better creative result. Don’t be afraid to jump right in to make sure all of your requirements are outlined and confirmed before your designer spends a lengthy amount of time on a project. There’s nothing more frustrating to a designer than to receive very little guidance in the brief, only to get this feedback on the first draft: “Yeah, that’s really not the direction we wanted to go in.” Followed by crickets.
It’s better to speak up early on if your gut instinct is telling you a job is going off-course or if you think more clarification is necessary. Ask questions and provide as much detail as you can to avoid wasting time for both parties. Be specific about areas you know need extra attention and provide style guides that must be adhered to.
2. Don't micro-manage your designer
Sometimes people can get really attached to their initial ideas when providing a project brief. Whilst preciousness is understandable, this can make it difficult to be open-minded to other great ideas. Designers are naturally very intuitive people and are generally good at picking up on your vibe. So try to remain open, professional and clear.
In parallel, designers are very good at picking up any potential weaknesses in the design quickly once feedback has been given and they are able to see through your eyes. Remember that as professionals, they have experienced constructive criticism and feedback on their work for years! Being approachable about the shortcomings of one solution can actually be the path to ending up with a really strong design, one that you may not have considered yourself otherwise.
3. Communicate as much as possible and also listen
If you are able to pick up the phone, speak in person or video call rather than emailing then I highly recommend it. Words by themselves have the ability to conjure up a mirage of images from person-to-person and can be open to misinterpretation. Clear verbal communication is key and can highlight further questions and discussion.
Remember, your designer also has a wealth of professional expertise and will naturally offer you insights and education in marketing and branding. Taking this opportunity to listen and learn from one another will definitely improve and develop your rapport.
4. Provide examples and confirm the direction
Providing examples in the same vein of your project can really help give the designer an idea of the style you envisage. For instance, you could provide some links to examples that you like, provide a link to a Pinterest board or even provide some information on what you absolutely don’t want.
Additionally, designers tend to be visual thinkers, so you’ll be speaking their language by giving them a starting point of what you like and what you don’t. Don't forget, visuals give the designer an understanding of the tone you want to set. Trust a good designer to improve upon your vision for the best possible outcome.
5. Be constructive in your criticism
Negativity can thwart creativity. Most designers who have been in the industry for some time learn to develop pretty thick skin when it comes to the criticism of their work. However, it is important to remember that they are human. To avoid being in your designer’s ‘bad client’ books, try to ease into criticism by focusing on areas that can be improved, rather than by only being negative about mistakes.
Being unnecessarily vicious about the designer’s judgement will be sure to get your designer off-side from the get-go, so using some tactful language before shooting off that nasty email will result in a more positive and pro-active response. Try to refer to your own preferences rather than making general statements when pointing out criticisms. And don’t expect a finished piece on the first draft! Your input is very valuable and a good designer will appreciate valid suggestions. A big tip is to study each design element to understand which area might be blocking your desired outcome.
6. Know what you want
Get technical in your brief and give lots of context. Be sure to include every detail about the size, resolution, format, file types, colours, fonts etc. Giving context will help your designer understand exactly where this piece will be seen by the audience. Keep in mind ideas that will work on a billboard, won’t have the same effect on a Facebook ad. Your designer will then be able to assess the information and discuss different layouts for different applications.
Nutting out the different elements before actioning the project and being clear about what you want will save you money in the long run. It will also show your designer you took time to prepare what needs to be done, which shows a respect for their craft. This also means being decisive about your feedback and keeping revisions to a minimum for both your wallet and your designer's sanity. Designers are problem solvers. You can help them out by defining the outcome you need to achieve from the visual and copy.
7. Be realistic
Set clear expectations on what is required in the time frame required. At times, the desire for perfection can interrupt the end goal of the project. Try to view the project from the perspective of your target audience. Design is subjective and there is no ‘right’ solution. Being realistic about your time frame and recognising good design, even if it is not the exact replica of your original vision, will help you to deliver a successful outcome.
Working with graphic designers can be easy, fun, educational and very rewarding when your communication is clear. Therefore expectation for both parties is transparent right from the get-go.