1. Choose a good designer
But how? A great place to start is to ask your network. This tried and true method gives you the extra advantage of a bit of insight into how reliable a designer is and what they are like to work with. Because having a gorgeous design is useless if none of the deliverables are ever completed.
Choosing a local graphic designer is also a great way to go if you are feeling a bit lost. A bit of common ground can go a long way to sparking a great working relationship. Plus local knowledge is always useful when it comes to small business. And although graphic designers and web designers can easily work remotely, there’s nothing like the face-to-face catch up! Personally I love getting out and meeting up with my local clients in Adelaide and the Hills area.
Graphic design is a collaborative process, so finding a designer you can build a good working relationship with is a fantastic way to get the very best out of the experience.
2. Ask the right questions – both of them and yourself
Establishing good communication is the cornerstone of any great project, and graphic design is no different.
When we hire a professional to do something for us, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of expecting an amazing result, with little or no effort. It’s only natural! But great design comes from great collaborations between graphic designer and client. Because, sure, your designer is an expert on visual communication, websites and design theory. But you are the leading expert on your business.
So what are the right questions? Well, they can vary depending on the job, and a good designer will help guide you through the briefing process. But before you even meet with your designer it can be helpful to ask yourself some basic questions.
Firstly, ‘why am I doing this?’ Or put another way, ‘what is the purpose of this project?’ Having a clear idea of what you want a design project to achieve for you will provide focus and allow you to measure its success.
Another really great thing to ask yourself is ‘who am I doing this for?’ Knowing who your marketing materials are aimed at can help your graphic designer to make informed design decisions that improve the overall success of your project.
Do you find the whole idea of briefing a designer just too much? I have created a free, downloadable Design Brief Worksheet to help you know what questions to ask yourself and your designer throughout the course of a project.
3. Establish the scope of the work
Do this right from the start – before any work is done. This will save so much heartache on both sides. And when both sides are happy, amazing working relationships are born!
Request a detailed estimate from your designer upfront, and make sure it includes a list of the deliverables you will receive at the end of the project. That way if something you need or expect is missing, you can follow it up. If the project is time sensitive, or ongoing with certain milestones, you can ask to have these included in your estimate too.
For long-term or high-value projects, a contract might be appropriate, and your designer should be able to provide this if needed.
My hot tip for clients here is to make sure that you sign off unambiguously on any estimates, contracts or agreements on the scope of work. Complete the sign off form if there is one, or reply to emails with language that makes it clear you approve of the agreement (I mean – don’t just write ‘thanks’!) Oh – and if signing off via email, make sure you have hit ‘reply’ to the email containing the version of the agreement you wish to approve.
A bit of care here keeps you in control of the project, and makes the design process a much more relaxed, fun experience. Just the way it should be!
4. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand
Yep, we designers do talk a bit of jargon sometimes. I admit it. I like to think that because I specialise in graphic design for small business that I am a bit less jargony… but no one is perfect all the time…
Definitely ask your designer to explain anything you don’t understand, be it some jargon on the estimate or why the lead time is what it is. Keeping the lines of communication open means you understand your project better, but it also means nothing falls through the gaps.
This is really important when it comes to design decisions. At the proofing stage, it is absolutely acceptable to ask your designer to explain any aspects of their design that you don’t understand or that aren’t sitting right with you. A professional graphic designer will be able to provide a rationale for each of the decisions they have made during the design process. There’s a chance that what looks odd to you might be engineered to appeal to your target market, or may be a response to the technical limitations of print or web. It never hurts to find out.
If you’re looking to take your design critiquing game next level, check out this amazing article about the 30-60-90 Framework by Kayla J Heffernan.
5. Proof read carefully
As the client, checking the final proof is your responsibility. No matter how thorough a designer is, they can’t know whether things like the phone numbers, email addresses and other data included in your work are correct. So please check carefully.
It is also notoriously difficult to proof your own work. The human brain is very good at correcting errors as it processes information. So the more eyes on your design project before it is published, the better. It is one of the key elements of the client-designer collaboration.
And just like point number 3 – an unambiguous sign-off is a life-saver.
By remembering these 5 easy steps, you will be sourcing, briefing and collaborating with graphic designers like a pro! And having fun doing it.