7 tips to help your designer help you

“Help me… help you! Help. Me. Help you.”

I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I can still remember Cuba Gooding Jr.’s face when Tom Cruise angrily delivers this line in the movie Jerry McGuire. Cuba’s expression goes from beyond frustrated to totally amused as Tom’s character begs Cuba’s to help him do his job. (Oooh I found it! You can watch it here.)

OK, getting to my point:

Every service occupation has ways the customer can help the provider do a better job of serving. Graphic design is no different. Your graphic designer will probably not scream at you like Tom Cruise does in the movie, but…

You can help your designer help you.

Here are some tips for working with your graphic designer so the end result is what you’re hoping for and the process is as smooth as possible:

1 – Answer their initial questions the best you can.

When I work with a new client, I usually pepper them with questions about their organization, their customer, as well as the project. I know that I ask a lot of questions, and I realize that the questions can seem tedious, but I ask them so I learn the mark I should be aiming for. My client’s customers are my customers, so I want to be sure I know who they are. My client’s message is my message, so I want to be sure I know what I’m trying to convey.

Click here for some of the types of the questions I ask.

Put in some time at the beginning. Your designer realizes you’re busy, and you probably just want them to take the project and run, but fully answering those questions can save you time and money later.

2 – Say what you want.

I live in Minnesota: the land of 10,000 lakes and 5.5 million “nice” people… meaning most people don’t really say what they want. This can make designing difficult. Even if you don’t really know what you want, you probably have an idea of what you like, or you know the general direction you want to see the project take. Find inspiration on Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy, Google… look for what people in your field are doing for similar projects and show your designer what you like. I love coming up with ideas, and it really helps that process if the client provides some initial basis to start from. If you DO know exactly what you want: describe it clearly and specifically, find and show examples that represent your ideas, and give feedback along the way.

3 – Give specific feedback.

And while we’re on the subject of feedback, remember to give it and use specifics. Let your designer know early and often if you find things that aren’t quite what you’re looking for. Include exactly what it is that needs to change – is it the layout, colors, images, font choice…? Saying “I want it to ‘pop’ more” or “it’s just missing something” is not as helpful as “I would like a brighter color here” or “I’d like to add another image to this page”. Yes, it’s the designer’s job to design, but the options are endless, so your specific feedback really helps guide the direction. It’s also MUCH easier to make changes early in the process than to rework things at the end, so communicating things you want changed along the way saves you time and money.

Of course, everyone likes to hear what we’ve done well – that’s human nature. So, compliment your designer freely when they’re doing good work too! Say the things you like – again, using specifics – so they know they’re heading in the right direction and can keep building from there.

4 – Have your content ready to go.

If your designer is not helping with the writing and editing of the content, have it  cleaned up and finished before you give it to them. The better organized the content is, the less time he/she has to spend figuring out what goes where and how to best make sense of it all.

To make a minor adjustment such as fixing type-o’s or swapping out a photos is of course no big deal and is expected; but once the text is placed on a page, making major changes to it can really affect a design, and big changes to a design costs you (say it with me…) time and money.  Make sure the content you’re providing helps the designer achieve your goal for the project. For example: if you tell your designer you want lots of white space, visuals, and a clean look with minimal text, then you give them lots of text, it’s tough for them to meet your expectations.

5 – Address their needs as quickly as possible.

As with any kind of project, questions can come up during a design project. Maybe I’m missing a logo or maybe there’s something I want to clarify, and sometimes work can’t continue until that question is answered. The timeline is usually a big part of the projects I get hired for, but I can’t meet the deadline if I’m waiting for a response from the client. When the ball is in your court, remember that the designer may have to put your project aside until you lob it back and they can continue working.

6 – Ask questions.

You hire a designer to provide a service for you, and you should ask questions if you’re unsure of something or want clarification. Ask for drafts, updates on progress, or whatever you need to feel comfortable. You’re spending your money, so your expectations need to be met. And like I said before, it’s easier for a designer to correct any issues earlier in the process than have to re-work the design when it’s close to done, so don’t assume you’re on the same page if you’re not sure.

7 – Be open.

Sometimes having someone outside your organization take a look at how you’re presenting yourself can be the best way to find what you’re missing or could improve! Let your designer make suggestions and consider new possibilities you haven’t explored before. Trust this person you’ve hired. I imagine you’ve vetted them and looked at their portfolio – give them room to work and use their creativity and skills for you! An outside viewpoint could be just what you need to change how you connect with your customer.

Almost all of these tips come down to communication. Keep the communication open and frequent with your designer, and you’re much more likely to see the outcome you’re looking for. The end goal for any designer is for you to be happy with what they’ve created for you, and they can only achieve that if you help them.

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How can I be helpful? Do you have questions about working with a designer? Or do you have other suggestions I missed? I’d love to hear from you!

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bicycle gear photo credit: user JarkkoManty on Pixabay.com

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