Working in Partnership With Your Graphic Designer

I found the following quote in an article Mike Dunkan for the Wilmington Biz. It got me thinking and inspired me to write about the importantce of having good communication with your graphic designer and allowing him/her to spend the time achieving the best image for your company …

 “Did you know that the Facebook Like button is seen over 22 billion times per day? That it’s the single most viewed design element ever created? And that the designer who led the project spent over 280 hours redesigning this innocuous little button over the course of months?” 280 hours!!!

To a designer, this is totally understandable. Facebook needed this button to be PERFECT! SIMPLE! And a designer’s keyboard doesn’t have a PERFECT GRAPHIC key on it. I wish it did. This button needed to get people to see it, click on it, get used to it, “like it”, make it easy to find, and on and on… you have used it, you know, you liked. If the button had been too small, too complicated, the wrong kind of graphic, people might not have been as apt to click on it as they have been. So hours and hours of changes and focus groups were spent to get it just right.

In an age when everyone has access to graphics and computers, it is tempting to do the graphics yourself, or to think that your secretary, or worse, your kid, may be able to just put it together. Who cares, right? It is just a letter, or a flyer, or a business card. But, branding doesn’t work that way. Sure, it will get the point across, but, what point? What will your clients think of your business? What is the image you are portraying? Will they get the feeling that you are a reputable business, or just a fly by night? Which one is more beneficial to your company?

These are questions you must ask every time anyone in your company sends something out into the world. I have worked for companies who took this to a religion. If you were using their logo on anything, you needed to consult their Branding Style Guide. Some of these were massive. You had to follow the rules to a T.  The sum of all your corporate ID = the image you portray to the public. Simple, right? But, It takes discipline and a consistent attention to detail to make sure that everything has the company branding style: logo, tag line, colors, and that the message is consistent with the company mission, and it all has a simplicity and freshness as if there was no effort to create it all.

And yet, it is that simplicity that is so elusive. It takes years of training to be able to achieve it. Paula Scher, the renown graphic designer/painter, designed the Citi Bank logo in just a few minutes on a napkin during a meeting with the client. When asked by the client how could this be a great logo if it only took a few minutes, she replied “It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.

Hiring a designer

Hiring a graphic designer is a process like finding the perfect running shoes. You will have to try a few on until you find the perfect fit. If you are lucky, this will be an easy process. But, you will only get out of this process what you put into it. The shoes won’t make you run farther or win the race. They will only give give you the confidence to reach the goal line. Your goal is not to find a graphic designer to do one project, but partnering with him/her to craft and nurture your branding. A graphic designer that understands your brand and protects the integrity of this branding as it is used in all media. It should all have a focused, cohesive message. SIMPLE.! Appreciating the exciting, and sometimes frustrating process of design will help you in having better communication with your designer. A designer’s job is to translate your ideas into cohesive designs. The better the communication the better the output.

Mike’s article included a few good tips to help the client have better communication with their graphic designer and I pass them on to you:

  • Remember that your designer is your creative partner. This relationship is effective only if you are honest and open about your needs and vision.
  • Be clear about your ideas and goals, and include as much information as possible. A client’s input on their brand’s perception helps designers better portray their culture and ambitions.
  • Knowing what you like and don’t like gives designers a better sense of what you are looking for. Be prepared to show work that you feel strongly about: the good, the bad and the not-so-great.
  • Stay positive. Don’t be discouraged if the first draft is not exactly what you’d had in mind. Luckily, it’s just that – a first draft. Remember how long that tiny little Facebook Like button took to create?
  • Spend time reviewing the design you’ve been given from your agency or designer. There’s a methodology and purpose behind everything that’s done, and good design will communicate and support this through its aesthetic and attention to detail.
  • When providing direction and giving feedback, be as thorough as possible. Think about color, logo placement, basic layout, page count, document size, use of infographics, and messaging that you will be trying to communicate.
  • Always ask questions. Again, design decisions are extremely nuanced. If we can help you understand our thought process, you’ll not only be more informed, but you will also have high-level feedback that will be useful across the entire project.
  • Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Don’t settle when it comes to design; respectfully communicate your ideas and needs until it’s perfect.