Getting Beyond “I’ll Know It When I See It”: How To Work With a Designer

Ensure your experience working with a creative partner is positive and productive

Translating your business objectives into effective marketing collateral can be a real challenge. It’s even trickier to articulate. The layout and design of your communications and messaging have a deep impact on who you reach and how they perceive your brand. It can also impact profits. However, constant shifts in technology, consumer preferences, industry trends, and skills of the workforce can further complicate the process. Establishing expectations and a common language in the beginning can lead to a fruitful experience for all parties involved.

Here are some tips for working with a designer.

Be Purposeful

End goals for marketing collateral vary from business to business and project to project. But, at the root, there’s always a purpose, even if it’s as broad as “marketing is something we probably should do” or “we have extra budget, so we thought we’d try an email campaign.” It helps if the purpose is strategic. Solving a common customer pain point, highlighting an underselling product or service, or adding more email subscribers are excellent motivations for marketing. Understanding the end goal isn’t the same thing as knowing what it will look like, however. When creative inspiration is aligned to strong business objectives, messaging is elevated. 

Be Honest

As the point person in charge of a marketing project, you have your own unique knowledge base and set of skills. Maybe you were a career marketer who transitioned into a position “on the other side of the desk.” Or maybe you’re a seasoned project manager with a solid track record of delivering on time and on budget. Communicate your experience level when you’re working with a designer. If you don’t know the difference between the “awareness” or “consideration” part of a sales funnel (or what the heck a sales funnel is), there’s no shame in saying so. On the other hand, if you’ve gained real insight into your customer based on success with A/B testing emails, your designer will love to hear all about it! 

Be Prepared

If your company has newly established branding guidelines, provide them. If they exist but are outdated, provide them anyway and talk over what is no longer relevant with the designer. If you have no guidelines, discuss the best way to establish guidelines for the project at hand (including proper logo usage, font, color schemes and how to incorporate any existing assets). Share any inspiration, preferences, pet peeves or other opinions. There is an ironic paradox that the more information a designer is provided, the more original they can be in their creative interpretation. 

Be Specific

It is perfectly reasonable to be disappointed by or dislike the work presented to you. But while your gut feeling may be “this just doesn’t wow me” or “I was hoping for something different,” these feelings are ultimately unhelpful. This doesn’t mean you need to cushion your true feelings to avoid hurting the designer’s feelings. Instead, translate your impressions into specific, actionable language. It helps if this conversation stems from initial conversations with a designer.

Be Empowered

Here are some common considerations to help guide communications with your designer: 

  • Overall look – Learn to articulate a direction such as “clean and modern with lots of white space,” “vibrant with a lot of color and imagery,” or “the text is very important; how can we break it up to make it more readable?” 
  • Execution – Despite the best of intentions, projects can go off track. You can say, “This doesn’t reflect what we’ve discussed (or what was in the creative brief). Can we take some time to review that together?”
  • Adjustments – When talking over specifics, consider elements such as imagery (size, placement, reflective of your target audience), color (levels of brightness, amount, combinations), text (size, font, space), and iconography (readability, size). 

Working with an outsourced partner for your design needs can ease your workload, reduce your stress and help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Man in brown sweater and black hat looks at laptop in preparation for working with a designer


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