Working with a designer can be highly rewarding. It can also be daunting to hand over your brand, identity and essentially your reputation to someone. Holding back and trying to retain too much control can become a limiting factor in the success of any design or marketing effort, that’s why it’s critical to get it right.
Creating the right environment for collaboration and empowering your designer or marketer with the right information and freedom to be creative will ensure your receive the solutions you are looking for. And that’s how you should look at it – you have a problem you need solving, you’ve engaged a professional to provide the solution – make sure you allow them to flourish and deliver their best work to you.
There are many stories of jilted design clients out there. All too often it’s a simple case of not allowing the designer enough scope to provide creative solutions. Engaging an expert and not allowing them to deliver their maximum value is always going to lead to disappointment.
If you’d like to see the best possible outcome for your project, follow these 8 tips for working with creatives.
1. Know your “Why”
Engaging a designer, agency or marketing specialist, the first thing they should want to know is EVERYTHING. What you do, who it servers, why you do it and why your ideal customer should care?
Once that’s out of the way, you should be able to articulate a problem you need to be solved; “we need a logo” or “we need a website” aren’t problems in themselves, they are deliverables.
Consulting a designer should look a lot more like this:
“This is our business, we produce this, and it helps these people. These guys are our major competitors and this is how we are different/better. We need to position ourselves in the market as the best choice for consumers in this niche. We require a brand that will assist in achieving that.”
You still need a logo, but that’s been communicated with a lot more value, detailing how the business is positioned and what you are aiming to achieve.
The deeper you can go the better here, working with an experienced creative, they’ll soak all of this information up, analyse it and come back with creative and strategic solutions to the challenges you face.
2. More is more
Over-deliver on the information. Don’t leave anything out that might have an impact, the chance of a solution falling short is greatly increased if anything is left out of the discussion.
Don’t be vague, be concise and talk business.
Experienced designers will understand the business better than you might expect, they spend a lot of time and energy working to understand them and the issues they face. If they can align a solution perfectly with your business goals, that’s what you call an effective solution!
3. “What” do you need?
Once you have the big picture nailed you should consider what the physical result will be. Is it a logo, a marketing campaign or a combination of things? Start at the finish and work your way back to discover what the deliverables will be.
Consider how this might look like a physical solution but also the business-oriented solutions you are aiming to deliver. Are more sales the goal, or establishing your brand as an authority in the marketplace? Which brands your’s would sit next to on a shelf – even a theoretical shelf if you don’t have a physical retail product.
Develop a clear scope for the project early, is it a logo, a complete brand, a marketing campaign or a physical packaging solution? Combining this information with a well thought out creative brief will help define the project.
4. Be visual – don’t be afraid to show examples.
Use your words, but also show visual examples wherever possible.
Show examples of what you like, the style you think communicates your brand, what you are trying to say and will speak to your audience. This can be a great way to initiate the conversation around the creative direction and how a project might be executed visually.
Don’t limit the inspiration and examples you bring to the table, but be strategic and clear about your reasoning for providing examples. Consider colours and inspiration, most importantly the messaging and how your customers should feel when they see, hear or engage with your brand. Look outside of your industry and consider who your ideal customer is, what type of car do they drive, do they drink beer or wine, go camping on the weekend, or head for the golf course?
“I’ll know it when I see it” is the designer’s version of “death by a thousand cuts!” It can also be a sign of a designer that isn’t asking the right questions, they should be able to lead you on the discovery process as well as you can answer their questions.
5. Be clear and specific when it comes to deliverables
Shifting the goalposts on any project can be unsettling at best and lead to disaster at worst. Agree on the deliverables, budget and be reasonable when it comes to deadlines.
Never set a timeline with statements like “there’s no rush” but setting short turnarounds for projects that warrant a vigorous and thorough investigation, and creative solutions can sell them short. This can apply unnecessary pressure and hamper the quality of the results.
You are investing in your business when you engage a creative professional, don’t hamper the results by setting unreasonable timeframes. You wouldn’t limit your accountant to an hour to complete your end of year tax report, so don’t sell your design projects short with unrealistic deadlines.
Being clear and upfront ensures everyone understands how the project should unfold and what to expect. Negotiating budgets and timelines aren’t fun for anyone but it’s an essential step towards project success.
It is important to remember that deadlines work both ways, and your involvement as a client, providing content, assets and information on time, can have a big impact on the success of a project. Make sure you plan for this and allow time in your schedule, or allocate a member of your team so you can meet your obligations.
Finally provide feedback in a timely manner, if there are any factors that may cause a delay in the project be upfront and keep the lines of communication.
6. Provide high valuable feedback
If you’ve provided a great brief and you’re working with a great creative, the initial concept could be pretty close to the mark, but not even the best designers nail it the first time – every time.
Articulate your feedback, but resist the urge to take over the role as head creative and designer. Remember why you’ve engaged a professional in the first place and don’t short change yourself and limit the potential results by assuming the role yourself.
Highlight what isn’t working and why but try to not provide specific solutions, allow the designer to flex their creativity and fill the role you’ve engaged them to.
You might provide the feedback “we need the layout to feel more feminine” rather than “put a big flower in each corner and make the heading pink.” Empower your creative so they can deliver their best work – it’s to your advantage.
7. Treat the designer as part of your team
To provide authentic solutions, designers need to understand what it is to be a part of your business or organisation. The deeper the understanding your designer has of what you do, how you do it and why, the more empowered they are to develop a solution that resonates with your brand, and your customers.
Treating them as a valued member of your team is a great way to provide this insight.
8. Trust is key to success
Put trust in your designer’s ability and experience to take the problems you need solved and provide you with creative solutions.
New perspectives can bring fresh energy to a business and products, engage with your audience by disrupting – even subtly – the way things are delivered. Demonstrate your point of difference and unique value. Be open-minded and not fixed on an initial idea you may have had before engaging a designer, fresh ideas come from new perspectives.
Enjoy the process and celebrate the results you generate by engaging the right designer or marketing professional.
Finding the right design partner for your business can be a challenge, if you are empowered to be an awesome design client, you’ll know when you find the right fit.