3 tips for talking to designers. And 1 for talking to everyone.

By July 24, 2014General

The way you speak to a designer can have a big impact on the result of their work. It may make the difference between them giving you their absolute best and them beginning to feel that they can only do exactly what you tell them, even if there may be a better solution. In the subjective world that is design, be careful of dictating, you may be unintentionally stifling the very people you count on to make your efforts successful. If you work with an agency you may not always have direct contact with the graphic designers working on your account, but these tips apply as well to the account executive who is tasked with translating your wishes back to their creative team.

  1. Don’t make us guess – you likely have a fair amount of information available (or at least in your head) about who your audience is and what has historically appealed to that audience. Share. Good design is based on as much relevant information as possible, especially audience, primary message, and branding information. Sure, we’ll always try to make you something visually interesting, brand appropriate and engaging, but we also want the piece to achieve your goals.
  2. Identify the problem, don’t dictate the solution – design is a process and it will likely take some refinement to take an initial concept or layout to a finished product. Your designer needs to know if something isn’t working for you, but it is their job to find the best solution to the problem. For example, if you believe a page looks too empty or has some odd open areas that are disrupting the balance, say so. Don’t tell your designer to “use a bigger font” to fill the space. Typography is an integral part of a design and designers work hard to keep type consistent throughout a piece in order to define content hierarchy. Unless the type is universally too small, arbitrarily making it bigger will disrupt the entire layout, make the piece look unprofessional and, at worst, horsey. Define the problem for your designer: “This page feels empty, is there a way to add additional interest?”
  3. Avoid the following phrases:
    1. “I’ll know it when I see it” – it’s perfectly ok to not instantly fall in love with the first idea we show you (we hope you will, but…). But the quickest way to make your designer feel desperate is to be vague about your response. Take your time and really figure out why you don’t like something. If you can’t find the words, ask your designer (or the account exec) to work through it with you until you’ve identified the problem, that’s their job. You’ll “know it” sooner then if you make us try to read your mind.
    2. “Can you make it pop more?” – Not unless it’s custom bubble wrap. Design is subjective and the word “pop” is more subjective than most words. Try saying “I feel like the contact information isn’t prominent enough, can you work on that?”

And here is one word to remove from your vocabulary when talking to designers, co-workers, your mom, or anyone else: “Just”. As in, “can you just ____________?” The word “just” presumes that the given request is easily accomplished and therefore devalues whatever effort it will take to do the task. It puts people immediately on the defensive, especially if they are already tired or stressed or feeling underappreciated. Simple removing the word “just” from the sentence makes the sentence a request rather than a directive, and it will result in better work and more enthusiastic compliance.

As a designer and a design agency, we take your business challenges personally. We feel great about our work only when it best serves our clients’ needs and meets the project goals. Communicating clearly and remembering that we are all on the same team is the best way to get fantastic work that we can all be proud of.

Author Beth Seitzberg

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