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How To Work With a Graphic Designer

Posted on April 20, 2011

You're a small business owner and need to hire a designer to create a logo. Or a website. Or a postcard. Or an insert-your-own-creative-project-here.

Before you get started, check out this insider's guide chock-full of valuable tips to make your first experience working with a graphic designer a positive one.

Do… keep an open mind.

99.9% of things that a designer does are for a specific reason. Fonts have a distinct personality. Colors convey emotion. And as much as you like pink polka dots, they're probably not appropriate for your insurance business brochure. Let go of your personal biases and trust your designer – they're the expert and that's why you hired them. You wouldn't tell your plumber how to install a toilet, would you?

Don't… assume. As they say, it makes an ass of you and me.

Clients tend to use phrases like "quick" or "simple" or "easy" to describe projects that end up taking an entire week (or month!) to complete. Yes, technically redrawing a logo takes less than an hour. But what you're forgetting about are the dozens of hours spent brainstorming and sketching rough drafts before a designer ever presents the first concept. Before you assume that a project will only take a few minutes — or cost just a few bucks — ask your designer for a rough estimate and timeline, including a reasonable number of revisions. It's better to have that info upfront than to encounter an unexpectedly high invoice or a missed deadline at the end.

Do… use visual examples to avoid communication failure.

Your idea of "clean and modern" maybe be pretty far off from what your designer thinks of as "clean and modern." Avoid this communication breakdown and use visual examples whenever possible. Your designer isn't going to copy those website examples that you emailed over, but they will give him/her a better idea of what you really mean by "make the social media icons prominent, but not overbearing." After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Don't… use cliché catchphrases.

Avoid using phrases like "make it pop" and "take it to the next level" and  "similar but different." I know they sound like cool marketing buzz words, but they're really pretty vague and useless sayings. Instead, be specific and, per the point above, use visual examples whenever possible.

Do… be prepared and get organized.

You just sent an email to your designer asking for a couple packaging options for your newest product. But did you remember to mention the dimensions of the box? What about a list of the stores where it'll be sold? And did you send over the UPC code that needs to go on the back? Do yourself a favor and get all of this information together upfront. Otherwise, your designer will be hounding you for it later.

Don't… make changes. One. At. A. Time.

Gather your thoughts, get the feedback of your team and THEN send the concept back to the designer for changes. It's way easier (and more cost effective) to make changes in large batches than to take a piecemeal approach.

Update: This article has been translated into Ukranian – enjoy, my European friends!

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Topics: Working With An Agency

Jen Lombardi

Written by Jen Lombardi

Jen Lombardi is the Head Honcho and Creative Genius at Kiwi Creative, a creative marketing studio for B2B technology companies. She has an award-winning background in print design, but is also a marketing maven, wizard of the web, grammar geek and all-around fun person.

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