As a marketer, how can you communicate your ideas to your designer? As a designer, how can you communicate your needs to the marketer? How can you make the process more mutually beneficial?
In this podcast episode, Sam Carvalho shares 5 tips on how to improve communication with your designer.
In This Podcast
- Mutual Respect
- Do Research Beforehand into What You Want
- Create a Clear Process
- Be Detailed With Your Feedback
1. Mutual Respect
Work on mastering the art of giving and receiving constructive criticism.
- Work with your designer in such a way that you allow them to utilize their knowledge and skills rather than order them to do what you want them to do.
- You may realize that despite your ideas, their understanding of what you need might actually be the one you’ll like in the end.
2. Do Research Beforehand into What You Want
- You may approach the designer without any idea what you really want. But it would be best and be easier for designers to understand your ideas if you provide samples.
- If you can’t show them anything, a good designer will be ready with samples to help you grasp what you’ll possibly like
- Designers would need all the pertinent information about the project during the initial meeting to determine the styles, quote, timelines, deadline, and other relevant points so some might send a questionnaire asking about the certain details and your ideas.
3. Create a Clear Process
- The designer should create a timeline and document of all the necessary steps and explain why certain steps take a lot of time and money.
- Discuss the deadline and all the other details so you can agree with them and make the necessary adjustments.
- In bigger companies, project management becomes the intermediary between the marketer and designer.
4. Be Detailed With Your Feedback
- Be very clear with the feedback and not be vague about it so that the designer will understand what you want. Elaborate on your comments and be specific, so that it’s easier for the designer to implement.
- For comments that are vague because you’re not sure exactly what you want, give yourself a bit more time to analyze what you really mean so you that can verbalize it to the designer clearly.
- Ask the designer questions and clarify the details you don’t understand because they may have a reason for it. Designers normally have reasons why they made these decisions so it’s better to be able to ask them about it.
Leave the lines of communication open and make them feel that their opinions matter and that you are working together as a team.
- The initial interaction between you and your designer sets the stage for how you communicate with each other during the entire project.
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Meet Sam Carvalho
Sam Carvalho is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, South Africa, with over five years of experience in both design and marketing, with a special interest and experience in the start-up environment.
She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!
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Welcome to the Marketing a Practice podcast with me, Sam Carvalho, where you will discover everything you need to know about marketing and branding your business. To find out more about how I can help you brand your business, visit www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign.
Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me today on the Marketing a Practice podcast. Today I’m going to be talking about how to improve communication with your designer. And in doing research for this episode, I came across several articles about the communication barriers between marketers and designers. And obviously, in this scenario, you will essentially be the marketer and I am obviously the designer. And many of these articles spoke about this issue that occurs and obviously, generally in corporate companies, it will occur between the marketing department and the designing department. And then they obviously gave solutions on how to improve this but it seems to be a well known issue. And I think it occurs in small scale interactions between maybe you and an individual designer as well, so I thought it would be an important topic to cover in my podcast. But I know that sometimes it can feel like you and your designer speak a different language. Obviously, you are more focused on the timeline and the designer may be more focused on the creation process, and all that entails, and neither of you can really understand where the other is coming from. So in today’s podcast, I’m going to cover five ways on how you can improve your communication with your designer, and kind of make the process more mutually beneficial and more easygoing for the both of you.
So first and foremost, is to show mutual respect, and I think this is obviously important in any working environment. But work on mastering the art of giving and receiving constructive criticism. So obviously, this is going to be something that you’re doing quite often when it comes to your designer, unless they get it right from the beginning, but that’s not common. So you’re going to be giving criticism, but make sure that it’s constructive criticism. So always remember that your designer is qualified, experienced, and equipped with the unique knowledge and skills needed to get the job done. So let them be the experts and work with you on your suggestions for this side, rather than ordering them to make a change. So I’ve had a client in the past who I always designed three logo options, and I tried to make them as different as possible to showcase different options and to give you an idea of what can be done, and then we kind of work on getting to the final design from there. And previously, I had someone who I worked with who came off from the start as if they kind of knew more about design than I did, which I kind of just let go and obviously didn’t get too upset about because, you know, people are different and they had an artistic background, so they were obviously coming from that point of view. But through the process, basically went against every suggestion I made, asked for my opinion, which I then gave and then went against that, only to right at the end admit that I was right in the beginning. So after, I don’t know, ten or so changes, said, oh, no, you were actually right. Your initial kind of design and initial thinking was correct. And so we kind of came back to the original one, which was no problem. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand that that is sometimes part of the process and that a lot of the times you just want to see what it would look like differently, even if you come back to the original design. That’s not the problem. But the way that this client went about it, kind of ignoring all my recommendations from the beginning, and just coming across in a very ‘I know better’ way, didn’t make the interaction a pleasant one. So just be sure to show respect from the beginning, to realize that this is a professional that you’re working with, that they obviously know more about the design world than you do – that’s obviously why you are reaching out to them – and so kind of approach it as you’re working with them as opposed to ordering them around. And I know it can be difficult to at times take their opinion, if it’s not in line with yours, but really just think about their advice, and their guidance. And again, it comes from a place of them knowing more about this area. So really just consider making use of it and implementing it. So that’s the first one.
The second one is to do research beforehand into what you want. So I encounter this a lot with clients coming to me and wanting design but not knowing what they want. And I think they kind of expect me to show them what they want, which again, I can do to a certain degree. For example, with my logo design, as I mentioned before, the process that I go through is sending a questionnaire – it’s not a long questionnaire, it’s about ten questions or so – to kind of get them to answer, and to get them thinking what they want from a logo. So whether they want an illustration included, what sort of color scheme are they looking for, what do they want to communicate, who is their target audience, things like that. So that kind of helps if you haven’t done thinking beforehand of what you want, that kind of helps get that thinking going, kind of helps get you the answers that you’re looking for. But other times people will say ah, you know, they want a flyer but they don’t know what they want, like, I must just come up with something, which again is fine. But if we’re talking about improving communication, and improving the process, then that’s not always the best way to go about it.
So, for the designer, the initial meeting is all about gathering the necessary information. So we want to know the intended audience, problems that need to be addressed, and general visual direction, so that we can then determine the concept of project scope, deliverables, and deadlines. So basically, we’re trying to get as much information as we can from the get go. And obviously if you have that information at hand, then that is very helpful and it makes the process a lot easier. And also, we need as much information as possible before we can provide an accurate quote or accurate timings. So it can also be helpful for marketers to bring examples of things that they like and don’t like about other competing brands. That could include things like typography, color, or texture. So again, going back to my logo design process, I actually have included now… I’ve learned, and I’ve included in my requirements, and along with the question, that the client needs to attach at least three examples of logos they like. So that means jumping on Pinterest, or jumping on Google Images, and searching ‘counseling practice’ and seeing what comes up, and then saving logos that you like, and then telling me what you like about those logos. And that helps tremendously in the design process because it immediately gives me a much better idea of your style, and what draws your attention. You may not realize it, but in the three logos that you attached, all of them have a script font, so you obviously like script fonts, and things like that. Or, you know, all of them have a prominent red color, so you obviously like that. So I can actually gain a lot of information from those examples that you attach, and that works across the board. So whether you need a flyer designed, whether you need a website designed, attaching examples of flyers, or of websites that you like is really, really helpful.
Furthermore, it’s vital to set the stage for who is responsible for what parts of the project. Again, this happens more often than you would think. But for example, who is going to write the content? So a lot of the times I’ll have people say, cool, can you design a flyer for me? And I’ll say, great, but you need to send me the content. And they’ll say, oh, you know, just go grab it off the website. Again, I can do this, but it’s not the best way to go about things. And, you know, I don’t know what information you’re wanting to include – is it all information on the website? Is it just information on one page? And it’s also not going to result in the most effective flyer. It would obviously be heaps better if you spent time creating content specifically for that flyer. That’s going to result in a much more impactful flyer than if I’m just grabbing content from all over the place.
So, who is going to write the content? What keywords are important for SEO? Again, this is something that you need to come up with. Who’s responsible for that research? And is there an established brand identity that designers should stick with? So these are again, questions that I ask from the beginning. I’ll often just say, you need to provide the content, you know, you need to do the research that goes into that. And then I’ll say, is there a preferred color scheme? Are there preferred fonts? Otherwise, I will go with what I think is best. But obviously, if you already have a brand style guide, then that is something that you would provide the designer from the get go. So point number two is to do research beforehand into what you want, before contacting your designer.
The third way to improve communication with your designer is to create a clear process. And this is where it becomes more the designer’s job. So in this process, the designer should show the order in which items should be completed, and create timelines for different milestones. This then leaves less room for confusion and reduces the risk of something falling between the cracks. So it’s pretty much a discussion between the two of you. Obviously, I usually ask the client if they have a specific deadline in mind. If they do, then I mention whether or not I’m able to abide by that deadline based on how much work I’m dealing with at the moment. If I am, then that’s great, we’ve obviously figured that out together. If not, then I will kind of outline how long I think it’s going to take me and why it’s going to take this long. So there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into breaking down the marketer’s ideas and figuring out what will be the most beneficial for them, and understanding that process can help it go more smoothly. So I think this is where designers are often at fault because they won’t necessarily communicate that from the beginning. And obviously, marketers require that, and need to know the breakdown, and need to know how much time it’s all going to take.
So designers should fully lay out and document what the whole project entails, and explain why certain parts of the process take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. And obviously, in bigger corporations, this is where project managers will come in, and they will be the intermediate between the designer and between the marketer. But when it’s just you and the designer kind of dealing one on one, then that becomes the designer’s job. And so if you are currently working with a designer, if you’ve worked with a designer in the past who’s been very vague with this sort of thing, then it’s definitely something that you can demand and you definitely… well, not demand, going back to point one of mutual respect, but it’s definitely something that you can require of them, is to give you that breakdown and to manage your expectations. And I always try to under promise and over deliver. So I’ll always kind of say that it’s going to take longer than what it actually does, because then you can surprise the client by delivering the goods earlier than what they expected. So designers need to work on being more specific and explain the full process in detail to help marketers understand it all. Being clear and expressing exactly what the project entails will help both parties to get on the same page from the get go. So that’s number three, is to create a clear process.
Number four is to be detailed with your feedback. So again, it jumps back to the marketer’s boat, or court, or what have you. A pet peeve for a designer is the vague and misleading phrases we hear too often. For example, ‘I like it, but something’s missing’, or the dreaded ‘it needs more pop’. So I can attest to this, that it is the worst reading this in an email, especially if that’s all the feedback that there is. When it comes to giving feedback, you really need to try and be specific and give the designer a clear idea to work off of. And obviously, if your initial kind of reaction to the design is that it needs more pop, don’t communicate that to the designer – rather take another day or two to sit with it, and to try and figure out why you feel like it needs more pop. So what about it needs more pop? Is it the color? Is it the illustration? Is it the font? Really try and be more specific. If you’re unsure about certain elements but aren’t positive about how to approach them, then start by asking questions. So, good designers understand that they need to make justifiable and defensible decisions. Chatting with the designer about their intent in handling a design in a particular way can often shed light on what seems like a tension point. So, asking the designer, why did you go with that font? If you’re not really liking the font, but you’re not sure why, ask them why they decided to use that. So this is kind of touching on point one, where we said it’s about mutual respect, and it’s about working together. So there must be a reason as to why the designer designed that logo, and thought that it fitted well with your brand and with what you want to communicate. So instead of just being like, I don’t like it, change it, ask them why they went with it. By talking through the reasoning behind the design, chances are the designer and marketer will come up with revisions together. And I must say, when I’ve had clients do this in the past it’s been really cool, and it’s felt like we are working on this as a team, and it just makes it all a lot better, and makes the end product a lot more satisfying.
So the last point, which kind of sums up the other four points, is to communicate. If there’s one thing to take away from these tips is that they all revolve around the importance of communication. Breaking through the communication barrier all starts with how you engage with one another. So again, your initial interaction with your designer kind of sets the stage for how the rest of the process is going to go. For example, a statement like ‘we need a few changes to this design, it shouldn’t take too long’ might sound innocent, but can be interpreted as belittling and downplaying the difficulty of someone’s craft. Instead, try asking your designer how long a task might take, and work with them on coming up with a fair deadline. So that again incorporates point three where we spoke about creating a clear process. Leave the lines of communication open and make them feel that their opinions matter, and that you’re working together as a team.
So that’s it, guys. That’s five ways to improve the communication with your designer. I hope it helps. And I hope you guys enjoy the rest of the day, and the rest of your week. And I will catch up with you next time.
Thanks for listening to the Marketing a Practice podcast. If you need help with branding your business, whether it be a new logo, rebrand, or you simply want to have a print file designed, head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign. Finally, please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes if you like what you’ve heard. Talk to you soon.
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