Feb 11, 2015

How to Effectively Communicate with Designers

Let the torture begin

Conversations between communicators and designers can be a bit frustrating. You either don’t have a clear idea of what you want the visual to look like. Or, maybe you know exactly what you want, but are having trouble getting that result.

Let’s break down a couple of typical conversations that happen during the design process, and how you can help avoid the disconnect.

You say: “I’ll know it when I see it.”

Designer hears: “Create something, and then I’ll know it’s not what I wanted.”

Avoid being the butt of design jokes like these: “Hilarious, Beautifully-Designed Posters of Creatives’ Clients’ Worst Feedback

Providing Clear Creative Direction

Would you ask an architect to go build a house for you without giving him any additional input? Sure, someone magically building your dream house without needing anything from you would be fantastic. But if they don’t know you need 5 bedrooms, at least 2.5 baths and an attached 3-car garage, it’s a pretty sure bet you won’t be moving in anytime soon.

Here’s the thing: Designers solve problems. They want to help you solve your problems. Help them out by clearly defining the problem you want them to solve. What specific outcomes are you hoping to achieve from the visual(s)? Prioritize those outcomes.

You should be able to provide design specs. For printed materials define the page size, color format, bleed restrictions and preferred file type. For online graphics, provide pixel dimensions, preferred file type and file size restrictions. If you are planning to use the visual in additional formats, be sure your designer is aware. There may be additional things she can do during the process to make those later adjustments easier.

You say: “Make it edgy.”

Designer hears: “Make it look cool… or something.” Then scratches head.

An excerpt from full infographic:  “What clients really mean when they talk to a web designer”

An excerpt from full infographic:
What clients really mean when they talk to a web designer

Communicating the Look & Feel

Be careful not to use generic terms such as edgy, techy, cool, trendy, colorful, etc. These terms can vary from person to person and do not provide enough detailed direction.

Take some time to search for visuals that capture some of that “edgy, techy, cool” style. The more examples you can bring to the table, the better your designer will understand and be able to meet your needs. Be as specific as you can about what you like in each example – the font, the graphics, filter, tone, functionality, etc.

You say: “Something’s not working, but I’m not sure what.”

Designer hears: “I still don’t know what I want, continue to read my mind.”

Worst creative critics

An excerpt from Tom Fishburne’s “The 8 Types of Bad Creative Critics

Offering Constructive Feedback

As a general rule, most design projects will involve a few rounds of revisions. Designers should be prepared to receive your honest feedback. To make this process more productive, cost-effective and generally less painful for all, you’ll need to pinpoint any problems you see in the design work.

First, review the design as a whole. Notice which part grabs your attention first and how your eye then flows over the image. Make a list of words that describe your initial reaction. Even if you don’t think the look is quite right yet, does the layout structure accomplish your goals?

Next, analyze each design element individually – the font, color scheme, lines, etc. Do they convey the tone you wanted to achieve? What about each do you think might block the desired outcome?

Finally, be sure to carefully review the copy for errors. Even if you sent perfect text, errors could have been accidently introduced during the design process. Don’t waste time on additional rounds of revisions for things that could have been addressed sooner.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The greatest thing to remember is that your designer is your ally. She wants the final visual to be just as creative, exciting and effective as you do. If you put in the effort to more effectively communicating your objectives, vision and feedback, you’ll be seeing visuals that are better aligned to your goals in less time.

Author Jamie Heckler is the Senior Creative Manager at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter @jamieheckle

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