Perhaps you’ve never worked directly with a design team? Or you might be a recent marketing graduate wondering how to engage graphic designers, so you speak a common language?

Tips for getting the best from your design team

You may have experience working with designers and want some insights on improving professional interactions. The following are thoughts from us. These are by no means exhaustive or industry-standard, however, they may spark an idea on where to start.

Details, details and more details

First and foremost, designers are detail-driven. Of course, there are projects where you want an out-there solution. However, it is likely there will be parameters. The design team needs as many specifications as you can find. Make sure when briefing the project to get measurements/spec sheets from external print suppliers. If there is a booking number for an ad, supply this. If there are other vendors involved in the project, let the designer know so they can work cooperatively. If you cannot get details, let the design team know, so they understand what is missing. It’s a rare task with an open-ended budget or time, and to keep everything on track, specifications are necessary.

Second is to explain the context of the project. The more the design team understands about your company, the wider industry, your niche, competitors, or small nuances, the more considered the solutions they will come up with. Designers are by nature curious individuals; they love research and kernels of fascinating information. Discuss current local/national/international events, how is this impacting on where your product/service is performing? Do the sales team have valuable feedback? Is another division working on a project tangentially aligned?

Getting to know you

Inject your personality into discussions. Sure, there are plenty of serious projects/topics however, it is remarkable how the sparking of conversations between client and designer can alight on a strong solution. Loosen up a little and allow the discussion, within reason, to meander. Your enthusiasm for the project will be catching. If you are engaged, this easily translates to the design team. Like team building within a company, an open and friendly professional rapport between client and designer often makes for the best working outcomes.

Don’t worry about being a ‘visual’ person, that’s the designers job. Some clients provide simply a scribble or wire frame. Some projects require a mood board – a collection of images, colours, styling ideas, previous projects – which can be valuable. The thing to remember is that the design team will take care of the visuals. It is unnecessary to spend time creating mock-ups or layout drafts to show the designer. Your time is better spent collecting information and writing the brief / preparing content, depending on the project. We suggest Milanote as an online mood board resource.

Providing information in a practical way

If you are marking up an older/previous project for updating, we suggest using Adobe Acrobat® and making clear notes in a logical progression. Some projects may require markups and a Word® file or Excel® spreadsheet to be supplied. The more concise and organised your markups, the more efficient for all involved.

From the first draft, offer constructive criticism. Avoid generalisations. “I don’t like it” might be your first reaction but the best course of action is to analyse the draft/s against the brief. Check the colours, fonts, images, positioning, prioritising. Narrow down what is working for you and what is not. There are projects where clients need to see various options to figure out what is right, and if this was agreed in the scope, then its ok to say, for example: “I like this here as its working according to the brief. How about we combine it with this other element which is also working”.

Being open to new approaches and ways of working

Occasionally, projects go back to the drawing board. This is ok too; it may be as the client you realise the brief was not quite right. The design team will let you know if this is a change to the agreed scope.

Related to this is to allow the design team space to provide creative input. If the project is too restrictive you are not maximising the skills your design team has. Step back and trust in your briefing and allow them to make suggestions. Its ok to ask the designer questions and have them explain the thinking behind the artwork. Often this will be the quickest way to clear up any queries or work out a plan for refining the layout.

Occasionally, certain projects may end up emotionally charged. This can be the case with branding. Experienced designers understand the impact a brand has on a business and should always be mindful of this. It is important to remember that while some artistic elements may be subjective, graphic design is a commercial practice that uses universal theoretical foundations to ensure enduring and functional results. There is no one set ‘answer’, try to keep an open mind and work cooperatively to ensure the best outcome.