Communicating with your Graphic Designer

A number of clients that have come to me, it’s their first time working with a professional designer. Prior to that point, they had done things pretty much on their own using ready made websites and Microsoft templates for letterhead and business needs. But then their needs changed. They grew to a point where self implementation of these things in addition to their actual daily business dealings was physically almost impossible. And not only that, but they had reached a point where they wanted to use these avenues to grow their business, not just sustain it’s daily needs.

So talking to a designer is a completely new experience! Prior to hiring a designer they spent hours working on something to get it right. Now, the challenge was different. What they are looking for and what they need require discussion outside the confines of their heads.

Who are you and who is your market?

One of the first things I always ask my clients is who they are, and who their market is. It is crucial that you as a business person are able to answer that question. And don’t be afraid to be specific, in fact, BE specific. While we all think we’re targeting “anyone with a checkbook” we aren’t really.

Take AGC for example. My market is primarily local. My prospects are almost entirely businesses – either other larger marketing and design groups that need to bring in a little design muscle to catch up on the current workload, as well as businesses of varying sizes that view branding and design as an important element of their business. They have realized they need assistance with projects ranging from identity and logo design to full overhauls of corporate websites that are dated, non responsive, and tend to have a lot of disorganized content.

So why is being able to answer who you are who your market is important? Well there are some that think graphic design is merely “making things look pretty”. But in truth, that’s just a side effect. Why does it look attractive? Because it encompasses the visual elements of the business, it has appeal to the market, and it’s organized to maximize the vehicle it’s using to reach them.

What design elements (if any) have been established to date?

Do you have a logo, or other branding elements that you’ve been using? How about a color palette that you consider important to your brand marketing? These kinds of things should be communicated to your designer at the outset so plans can either be made to use them, or a strategy can be implemented to modify or improve them without damaging your brand identity with your customers.

And here’s another thing to consider: your logo should be in formats that the designer can use no matter the media. Logos in jpeg, gif or other low resolution formats will work in some situations, but if you’re planning to do a big print job for example, these formats will not be of a quality that will allow for a good end result. So be prepared if your logo is not in one of these formats to pay a little extra to have your design created in an .eps vector format. This format can be sized to infinity and will ensure excellent results no matter the media.

Imagery is another one that sometimes comes up. Please be prepared to tell your designer where you got an image, and whether you have the rights the use it. I once had a client tell me that it was not problem to get some images for their project, I just had to find them on the internet and “right click”. I had to educate my client on the imperative need to be allowed to use the image. Intellectual property rights can be an ugly business and so I encourage clients to be sure they know where the image came from and if they have the rights to use it.

What goals do you have for this project?

Why do I think this is an important consideration? For a couple of reasons. One, it will help with the strategy of what we’re planning to do. For example, if we’re looking to redesign your website, and your goal is to get more donations from users, than we’ll need to make sure that making donations is easy, and that the place to do it is obvious. If we skip this, than we’ve missed the goal for your site entirely. So our strategy for our market and our goals for the project require discussion (preferably at the outset) so as to be successful.

The other reason I ask this question is that I want to make sure that my clients expectation for a project (especially when it’s their first run with a professional designer) are realistic. If what the client hopes to happen is outside the realm of possibility for a project, then it’s doomed to fail. While I wish I had a magic wand and could make things all things happen for my client, if their goal is something like to gain 80% of the market with a one time postcard mailer, they probably aren’t going to be very happy when that doesn’t happen. Since I want the project to be a success for their business, and their view of my part of that being a good one, it’s my job to discuss what we can do and what might be a realistic end result. So I really like to talk about that with my clients.

How might you measure success?

Earlier in this article I mentioned the donations element of a site being a crucial part of a hypothetical website redesign. So our measure of success in this regard will be if people actually do make more donations. Provided we’ve done our jobs of making the process user friendly and easy to find on the website, then this should be our end result. Some just want their site users to be happier during the experience. If it is a niche membership site for example, we want users to be coming back more often and using the site! So we might use surveys or just using website analytics be able to tell that we get return users who spend more time on the site, thereby proving the site (and therefore the membership to the site) invaluable.

There will surely be more questions that will come up to make your project a success. But I feel as though these questions should be at the core of any project, no matter the media, and require some thought by the client to provide to their designer at the outset of a project.