From time to time, all businesses need some sort of graphic design. This may range from logo and branding to a simple sell-sheet or flyer. If you’re not a designer, here are some helpful tips to working with a designer and the design process.
Respect the Designer’s Knowledge and Experience
You hire a designer for a reason. If you could do it yourself, you would. So, just as you don’t tell your IT guy how to fix your computer problems, trying to micro-manage your designer results in a poor design outcome. As designers, we do our best to interpret your requests and give you what you both want and need. Sometimes what you want and what you need differ, so when you choose one over the other an ambiguous outcome often results.
We know which colors work well together and what shapes, design elements, fonts and typefaces work for specific situations. We know what makes all parts of the design work together.
What we don’t know is what you mean when you say things like “make it pop” or “give it swag” or “jazz it up.” So, if you have something specific in mind, provide us with a visual example. We want to be on the same page as you, but you have to help us get there.
Understanding the Designer’s Motivation
Graphic designers operate as problem solvers or solution providers. That means she works best when you present her with a “problem to solve” not your “solution to implement.” As a visual problem solver, your designer sees your elements and begins puzzling them to make them fit into the size, shape, or number of pages you want. His brain works on creating cohesive color schemes that trigger certain emotions or evoke specific feelings while keeping the elements in proper relation to one another.
When you, the non-designer client, specify a design change (“make that bigger,” “move it over here,” “make it red”) without giving the “problem to solve” (“it needs to emphasize this” or “I want it to feel like this”), your well-intentioned change may unbalance the overall design leading to a lack of cohesion. We’ll always give you what you ask for, since you’re the client, but it may have unintended results.
Graphic designers work from structure. They start with the type (brochure, flyer, landing page, banner ad), size, shape and purpose (create new customers, communicate a new product, share a brand) of your piece. They gather the elements you want included (images, text, logos) and begin working them into a theme or design.
You can help this process by providing:
- All elements and images: Give your designer the highest quality version you have of the images or elements you want in your final piece. If your final product is a print piece, do not give us a low-resolution image you grabbed off the Web. It will not print correctly and you’ll be dissatisfied with the outcome.
- Well-Prepared Text: The text you provide should be well written, fully edited and completely proofread. Graphic Designers see in visual imagery, so if you have misspelled words, fragmented sentences, grammatical errors and the like, your designer may not even see them. Do not expect your designer to be a proofreader. That would be like asking your doctor to fix your car.
- Permission to use images and text. We make every effort to abide by copyright and intellectual property laws. If you provide us with materials that you do not have permission to use, any resultant fees or fines are your responsibility, so make sure you have the proper permissions.
Changes and Edits
Respect your graphic designer’s time. When your designer offers you a concept or first proof, take the time to review it completely. If there are errors in text, image use, etc. give those changes at the same time that your offer feedback on the graphic design. Each time a designer re-opens a file to make a minor edit or correction takes away valuable time. Redesigning a page and then having text reflow because you later made text changes results in unnecessary time and frustration, and can derail your project.
It is the client’s responsibility to review the final proof for errors. In fact, according to graphic design best practices, once a proof is accepted by the client as ready to print or publish, the client’s approval makes him liable for any costs due to errors or omissions. For that reason, the client should have another set of eyes (not the designer’s) look at the piece—not to give design advice or feedback, but to check for:
- Incorrect days, dates, times, telephone numbers, addresses or website addresses
- Missing Information
While some designers require a sophisticated contract, others prefer a less daunting method. Depending on the client/designer relationship, an e-mailed, texted or verbal “okay to print” or “okay to publish” is considered an official request to deliver the project to the printer or publish to a website.
When you get your proofs, check the entire proof for accuracy before you indicate that it is approved for print or for file transfer. This is particularly true if your project is a “redesign” (uses a previous design as a template) or is a rush job (less than 72 hour turn-around). Remember, incorrect dates, dollar amounts, or telephone numbers and misspelled company or product names can become an embarrassing and costly print experience.
Remember that creating your design is a partnership between you and your designer. We believe understanding us and the design process better helps you get the design outcome you’re hoping for— which is all we really want.