As every business leader knows, one of the best ways to connect with an audience is through strong visuals. A beautifully designed website, striking advertisements, and an eye-catching logo can come together to create a visual brand identity that appeals to readers, consumers, or clients.
At some point, every business is going to work with a designer to create these visual elements. No matter how the designs are going to be used, there are a few things to keep in mind when working with a designer, whether freelance or in-house, that will help the process go smoothly.
Keep these six tips in mind the next time you need design work done.
1. Ask to See Samples
Before hiring a designer, do some research to make sure that they are capable of the kind of work you're looking for. Most designers have an online portfolio where you can see samples of their past work. If you can't readily find it, ask for samples.
If all of their samples have a similar aesthetic, make sure that it lines up with your brand's. Some designers do a few things really well and some are jacks-of-all-trades. Most designers can adapt their style to the client's to a certain degree, but don't expect a designer to do a complete 180 if their past work is completely different.
2. Set Clear Expectations
Before any work begins, make sure to have a meeting with your designer to discuss expectations. Even if you are working with a designer on staff, it's always a good idea to schedule a quick sit-down to make sure that any questions they may have are out of the way before work starts.
In order for this meeting to go well, there are a couple things you should prepare ahead of time. If the design is going to have copy on it, make sure it is completed and approved by any key stakeholders. Major changes to the copy once the design has been created can throw the whole project off.
The specs and design goals should also be clearly laid out. Again, it is better to give a designer more information up-front than to ask for revisions later. For instance, if you're working on an advertisement, consider that publication or website's specific demographics. Do they skew younger than other places you advertise? How will that affect how you want the ad to look?
3. Praise the Positive
When expectations are not clearly set, there is more room for disappointment. Sometimes, you will inevitably forget to include a key piece of information or your designer may have just missed the mark. In any case, start the feedback process by finding things that you like about the design.
It is easier to revise a design than it is to start anew. If you only focus on things that you dislike, your designer won't have a base from which to start their revisions.
4. Make Your Feedback as Specific as Possible
Tied to the idea of looking for the positive, it's also important to realize what constitutes constructive feedback. "I don't like any of these options" isn't good enough. Again, it will leave you with a designer who doesn't know where to go next.
You don't need to have a design vocabulary or to art direct the entire project, but you should be able to narrow down the elements that you don't like by thinking back to your original goals.
Going along with the advertisement example, your goal was to reach out to a slightly younger demographic by advertising in a specific publication. If the ad design isn't resonating, tie it back to that goal. What is making it feel off? The colors? The imagery? Do they appeal to too young an audience or too old?
This is often extremely difficult for people, so don't feel like you need to provide ways to fix the issue. But the exercise of putting yourself in the shoes of the intended audience and analyzing how they may respond will lead you to more productive feedback.
5. Understand They Can't Do Everything
Throughout the revision process, you might be struck with a brilliant idea that shifts your perspective on the entire design project. Before shooting off an email to your designer, let the idea marinate. Put yourself back in the shoes of the intended audience. You did your research before beginning the design process -- don't think that major revisions deserve less thought.
Also bear in mind that your new, incredible idea may be outside the scope of what you have contracted your designer to create or even beyond their skillset. Remember the expectations that you set early on, and if you're firm in your decision to move forward with this new idea, understand that you may have to re-set those expectations.
6. Allow Them to Be Experts
At the end of the day, you hired a designer for a reason -- they are able to create visual deliverables that you can't. Especially during the revision process, allow that expertise to shine through.
Rather than asking to see one concept in 12 different colors so that you can decide between them, trust your designer to make key decisions like that for you. You're paying them for more than their ability to navigate Photoshop; you're also paying them for their judgment.
With these tips in mind, you'll be ready to head into your next design project with confidence that you will have an excellent end-product as well as a designer who enjoyed the process, too.