3 Great tips for Working with Designers: A guide for non-creatives
If you’re a freelance graphic designer, or working in house for a company as the resident creative, you know how difficult it can be to work with non-creative people.
If you’re a non-designer, like a product manager, software developer, or part of a sales and marketing staff, you know how hard it can be to work with a graphic designer.
So what’s the problem? Why can’t we all just get along? Often times it comes down to process. If the details of a creative task can’t be communicated properly, both parties wind up unhappy because the design pieces just aren’t fitting together. Here are some tips to help smooth that process over.
Non-designer Tip #1: Don’t design.
Many non-designers think they can easily say, “make that blue” or “make that bigger” as a method to creating good work. This is a major hindrance to the design process. Graphic designers are problem solvers. So, present them with a problem to solve, don’t give them the solution to implement. Why? Because they are much more versed at visual problem solving than you are. Why else? Because design elements are related and must be handled with cohesion in mind. Meaning, if you proceeded with your plan of “making that blue,” it may throw off the balance of the rest of the piece. When it comes to expressive graphic design or user interface design, most non-designers do not think in terms of a system, which ultimately leads to a bifurcated, Frankenstein of a product.
Present the graphic designer with problems to solve. So, instead providing what you think are solutions, such as “make that blue,” say, “we would like something that feels more calm and relaxing.” Because ultimately, you want to satisfy the requirement of “calm and relaxing,” whether it’s blue or not.
Who knows, maybe the answer’s a cool green instead. Let the designer figure it out.
Non-designer Tip #2: Communicate before the project starts.
Creatives work differently than the rest of us. They work differently from each other, too. Before a project starts, it’s important to understand what’s needed in order to output a successful piece or product. Jumping right in to your complicated, unrefined ideas could lead to a longer, more expensive project that will leave you frustrated. As a result, you, the non-designer, start to provide design solutions that you think will solve problems, but just make things worse (see Non-designer Tip #1). The designer is also frustrated. If this is a freelance job, he or she will make whatever you want blue – not because it’s good for the project, but because you insist. He or she just wants to get paid at that point.
Graphic designers need structure. Pretend you don’t know anything about the designer’s process and see what works for them. “What do you need from me to start?” Communicate the generalities first: “I’m looking for a print brochure to be designed, around letter-size, color, maybe 8-16 pages.” Then make sure to communicate the business objectives: “this needs to reinforce our brand;” or “we’re looking to drive traffic to our stores;” or what have you. Never assume the designer knows what your business needs are. These details drive the piece and make them functional.
There are a ton of possible objectives, so we can’t list them all here. But the main point is to get a dialogue going to give your designer some perspective about what your needs are. Only then will you have a chance of them being met.
Non-designer Tip #3: Understand the designer’s value.
Without respect, the first two issues above can’t be resolved. It’s important to understand the value that graphic designers bring. This can be especially difficult for some people. Some positions within the organization may regard design work to be merely “cosmetic” and “embellishments.” In some cases, it can be. But good design is functional. Combined with your well-defined business objectives, good graphic design provides solutions to your business needs under the guise of simply “being pretty.” It extends your brand, allows consumers to trust you, enhances your service through clear communication, and makes the user experience for your product or service exponentially more valuable.
Think about what your business needs are. Then ask the designer how the design satisfies those needs. If it isn’t apparent to you, emphasize those points as problems to be solved.
These are just some beginning pointers when working together, plenty more will be discussed in future articles. Until then, good luck on your next project.
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