Successful creative projects need successful collaboration between all participants, but your relationship with your graphic designer is an essential dynamic that needs to be cultivated. Here we take a look at what you can do to get the most out of your graphic designer and his or her creative skills.

Find someone who gets you

Yes, you need to start off with a designer who sees the bigger picture; someone who gets you, the way your business works and what it is trying to achieve. Sometimes recommendations from colleagues and friends can push you in the right direction because good designers are often hard to find.

Make sure you like their work

The right attitude and personality is important, but those need to be attached to someone who produces great work. Have you seen the portfolio? Did you like what you saw? This is the standard of work you can expect.

You get what you pay for

Running a business is tough going, and budgets are under pressure and pushed to their limits on a regular basis. Trust me, I know from first hand experience.

Your designer may be an expense, but the value they add to your business profile is priceless.

If you can find someone reasonably priced, who produces great work, that’s pretty remarkable. More often than not, you’ll find that cheap designers produce cheap work, are less experienced or need more time to produce high quality work. All of these shortcomings will require your compensation in managing the projects so weigh up your options wisely.

How do you brief a designer effectively?

A Solid Brief = A Solid End-Product

To be concise: the better the brief, the better the end-product will be.

I like to use an example of an apple to explain this concept: an art teacher asks her class to draw an apple- a seemingly simple task, right?

But, the results from each student, based on their interpretations of what they believe an apple is will vary dramatically between students.

Some apples are red; some are green. Some are drawn with a bite taken out of them. Some are large; others are small. Others may attempt a cubist, prismatic style. Because the students are given creative freedom, they all produce something completely different.

When you are starting a new project make sure you provide your designer with a solid brief. This goes beyond a chat on the phone where you talk through your ideas. It means a set of written instructions that clearly expresses what you want.

Most professional designers have their own briefing methods but the important thing to remember is: the more information you give them, the better your end-product will be.

Break the project down as systematically as possible. Some of the most essential components include:

  • About your business services
  • About your business culture
  • About your target audience (who is your target audience, what does it want and what motivates its behaviour?)
  • Send the style guide along
  • Share examples of past work
  • Include your logos
  • Write a project description: your final copy, a brief for the images you want to use, what kind of style you want the end-product to follow, what you want to achieve from the project.

Make The Most Of Visual Examples

Designers are visually stimulated, so by sharing visual examples of what you are looking for you can communicate more effectively what you hope to achieve.

Speak to your designer about the images you find and explain what you like and dislike about each.

Give Them Technical Information From The Onset

Designers need measurements and specifications from the beginning so include them in the brief. It is difficult to change dimensions once a design has been finalised, and it isn’t a simple matter of clicking a few buttons. It is better to start the process off with the right measurements than try to change them later.

How to give feedback?

Written Feedback Is The Way To Go

Telephone calls have their place, but when you are briefing changes to a designer, writing them down in an email is the most reliable way to explain yourself. This ensures that either party doesn’t miss anything out, plus it gives you a checklist to follow when you receive the updated version of the artwork. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Keep It Simple

Good designers are busy and continually under time pressure, so keep your instructions simple and obvious. You don’t need to elaborate on the why but only on the how. I like using a list of concise bullet points:

  • “Please change the second sentence of the third paragraph to ‘The conference will start at 10am sharp.’”
  • “Please provide me with some alternative font options for the body and sub-headings throughout the document.’”
  • “Please can you provide me with some alternative shapes for around the logo. Something a little softer than the straight-edged square shape.’”

Use Bullet Points

To make sure we’ve made the point here: the best way to provide feedback is using bullet points. And clear, concise instructions. When your designer is under pressure, trawling through long-winded explanations about things will make their toes curl.

Use phrases like “change this to this”

Be clear about where the changes should take place: “In the second sentence of the third paragraph”

Separate Questions From Feedback

If you have questions to ask your designer, keep them separate from your feedback so you don’t cause confusion and waste unnecessary time.

Keep A Project’s Momentum Going

Keep your changes moving quickly – momentum is useful for designers as it helps to keep the creative juices flowing. If you leave your changes for weeks on end, the project can become limp. When you keep the energy flowing and drive the project things will move in the right direction.

How to tell your designer that it’s not right?

Design is subjective, like art where everyone has different tastes and opinions on what works for them. Sometimes your designer will not produce what you were hoping for right off the bat. This means you need to re-brief them to give a better idea of what you want to achieve.

Every designer would like to nail a brief the first tie around but that doesn’t always happen. Rounds of changes are normally factored into the costing so that the designer can refine the project until they get it right.

Give Constructive Feedback

A professional designer will not get defensive if he or she doesn’t get it right the first time. Be honest but not critical when you deliver your feedback. Take a constructive approach and break down the reasons why the end result is not what you wanted:

  • “I want something more creative” could be phrased more effectively as:“The layouts you have provided are great but I was hoping for something a little less structured and less corporate in feel. If you could please incorporate a more artistic font for the headings and integrate the images and text more creatively into the layout, that would be great.”
  • “I don’t like what you have done” could be phrased more effectively as:“Thanks for getting moving with this project but you haven’t really hit the nail on the head with this one. I don’ think that the a) images are right (and say why), b) the ‘feeling’ is right like how I wanted (explain why – I was hoping for more of a – ABCD feel) etc”
    To break it down further you could talk about the: images chosen, fonts, feel/mood, colour palette, adherence to brand guidelines. Finding further visual examples about what you are trying to achieve will also most likely help a ton!

Be honest but not brutal

You can achieve this with careful language selection. You are paying for a service so you are justified in asking for changes, just remember to be nice about it. It can be frustrating when you don’t get what you were hoping for back, but take a deep breath and stay upbeat about the changes rather than throw out a whole lot of negativity. Always be constructive and remember: a happy designer will provide you with better work than one that is feeling stressed and under pressure to perform.

Designs for Sun Studios by Kirsty Ludbrook & Co.