How to Work Well With Your Graphic Designer

This article is part of a series on working with graphic designers.

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  1. Why Good Design Matters for Your Business
  2. How to Work Well With Your Graphic Designer

Now that you have an understanding of why good design matters for your business hopefully you’ve scoped out some graphic designers, and have one in mind that you might like to work with. In this post, we’ll offer some tips that will help keep you and your designer happy throughout the project.

Let Your Designer Do the Designing

A good designer will have reasons behind his or her choices. Don’t be afraid to ask what they are.

If you’re hiring a graphic designer, you’re probably not one yourself. While you should have every expectation of being happy and excited about the finished product, it’s best to go into the process with a good deal of flexibility.

Choose your designer based on a genuine appreciation of his or her work. If you did this, you should be able to go into the process with a certain about of trust already established, since you can anticipate the quality of the finished product. Don’t forget that a large part of what you’re paying a designer for is sound creative judgement, not just handiness in Photoshop. By giving the designers you work with a fair amount of creative freedom, you’re also giving them the space they need to produce their best and most inspired work.

If your designer made a choice that varies from one of your suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation. A good designer will have a reason behind his or her choices. You might be in love with using a certain font for your logo, but perhaps your designer knows it’s overused and will make you look out of date before you even have a chance to print your new business cards.

Know Who You Are and What You’re Trying To Achieve

Getting clear on your identity will help you be a better leader and get the most out of your designer.

Graphic designers are trained to visually communicate your identity and message to your customers. If you don’t have a handle on who you are as a business and what message you’re actually trying to get out there, you’re not going to get the most out of the design process. The most challenging graphic design projects I’ve had were working with businesses that were still deep in the development stage but didn’t quite realize it. In these situations I’ve ended up doing far more coaching and strategy than actual design—which ultimately wasn’t an effective use of my time or theirs.

Before you hire a designer, take some time to make sure you’re clear on your own internal branding.

  • What’s your business’s ultimate purpose?
  • Do you have a mission statement?
  • What are the values you want to embody both within your team and to your customers?
  • Do you have a vision for what you’d like business to be like a few months after the design project is done?
  • What’s the story that you want to share with your customers?

Taking the time to answer these questions will not only ensure that your designer won’t waste your time and money on designs that simply aren’t you, but it will also help you become a more effective leader in other areas of your business.

Don’t Hesitate to go a Little Crazy on Pinterest

Don’t confuse what you like as an individual with what makes sense for your business.

A great way to make sure you’re communicating effectively with your designer is to make a “mood board” on Pinterest before you even have your first meeting. A picture really is worth a thousand words, so bringing examples of what you want will make your designer extremely happy, and save you money. By helping your designer get to the heart of what you want at the outset of the project, you’re preventing your design budget from being wasted on work that is nothing like what you had in mind.

If you’ve never created a mood board before, don’t be afraid to run wild with it a bit. While searching design-specific sites like Behance can be very helpful, you can also find inspiration from places that don’t seem like they have anything to do with design. When searching for color palettes, I’ve often found inspiration looking through nature photography. It might seem crazy, but even including a song could be helpful if it really demonstrates the tone of your brand. Just make sure you include notes about what it was you liked for each source you include, and don’t confuse what you like as an individual with what you like for your business.

Understand that Small Changes Aren’t Always Quick Changes

Something simple like a font change could require hours, not minutes, of work.

If you’re unfamiliar with the tools graphic designers use in their work (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign), it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time it takes to tweak small things within a design you’re presented with. Sometimes, something simple like a font change could actually require the entire design to be completely redone—taking hours, not minutes.

Being purposeful with your requests for changes is essential. If your designer presents you with three options for a logo, don’t ask to see the one you like the least in 4 different colors and 6 different fonts, just to make sure you really don’t like it. If you have multiple requests, it’s also highly preferable if you can present them to your designer at the same time, so he or she can work as efficiently as possible. Don’t forget: graphic designers, like lots of other freelancers, will tack on extra “aggravation” charges for very difficult clients, so being considerate will save you money.

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Have you had a great experience working with a graphic designer? Or maybe learned an important lesson the hard way? We hope this post has given you some good ideas for how to make your next design experience fun and successful. We love hearing from our readers, so please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!

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