How to get the best out of your Graphic Designer
Over the years, I’ve been through many different types of projects with graphic designers. I’ve seen project managers using various methods in working with graphic designers that either flew or flopped and noticed some consistent factors about anyone’s graphic designer that one can put into play to ensure a greater chance of success. In both retail and in advertising, graphic designers play a huge role in how a business or product is conveyed to the world. It’s important to know how to work with them effectively to ensure any kind of success. Many project managers leap from creative to creative trying to find that one person who “gets” them or what they’re going for.
Most graphic designers I’ve spoken with have agreed that while they’re the creative for the design work laid before them, they’re also quite creative thinkers in other areas of business. Many feel underutilized because they can often give you alternative options that will really increase your return on investment, such as with a/b testing and sales funnel setups. Take the time to talk to your designer about their experience and knowledge as a whole so that you can fully benefit from their experiences.
There are a few different ways to “manage” a graphic designer when hiring them for your project. The first way is to tell them what you want down to the last pixel… overseeing everything from start to finish. During this time you can do frequent reviews and request changes on the fly every time you view. This may seem like a terrific “hands-on” approach that will save everyone time and keep things on track, but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
In order for most designers to be creative, they need a lot of freedom to color outside the lines. There is a huge difference between guidance on preferences and complete control. Project managers who constantly review and request alterations become the designer which relegates the actual designer to the position of being the managers’ hands. If you wanted to create the media your self, you would surely save the expense of hiring an expert in the field and sit down with your sketch pad in the evenings. Which is fantastic! But if you’re hiring a creative, you need to ensure that you get their best work.
So the other less popular method of “managing” a graphic designer is to just let them fly free. When they ask about your preferences in the matters of tone or content, just to throw your hands up and say “I don’t know”. In comparison to the over-attentive approach, this might seem like a great idea but it’s also not the best approach for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s your business. The face of your business should speak about you… not this designer. While creatives love the opportunity to push the envelope with design, no guidance at all may make them feel lost… also, their tastes in your genre may not suit your needs or wants. You might end up with an absolutely gorgeous piece of media that just doesn’t resonate with you.
The very best way to work with a graphic designer is to do your best to get the best of both worlds. You need to be able to guide the person through to the point of receipt of a stunning and relevant creation that pops. In order to pull that off, you’ll need to do your homework. Never hire a creative until you have some idea of what you want. The next time you see an ad on one of your favorite products, think about the work provided by the designer. What would you have changed and why? How would those changes have affected that product, service, or campaign? What if the manager of the Coca-Cola product told the designer to change the red and white colors to something different all the time? What if Intel chose to use a harmonica in their jingle? Changing the goals of your project too often will cause the designer to feel defeated and then progress will sour.
Sit down prior to the hire and go through your competitors’ designs.
- What do you want to accomplish that they’re missing?
- What are some great aspects that you might like to emulate?
- Think about who your ideal audience is. What kind of media do they prefer on a daily basis?
- What sort of tone might appeal to them?
- Browse the most popular media within their demographic and write down some of the more consistent similarities that work.
- Stay away from insisting on a concrete color palette (aside from it matching your brand). Instead, request tones and feels. Most project managers are too shy of color which a good creative can help them to overcome with best design practices.
With all of that information in hand, you can simply guide your creative on the final tone and message that you wish to achieve and then walk away until it’s time for reviews. During the first wave of reviews, keep in mind that you’re not criticizing a finished product. Most times the first design reviews are done on what are called mock-ups, which are similar to something like a digital pencil sketch. It won’t be perfect but will be a preliminary arrangement to give you the idea of where the process is going. Take the opportunity during the first review to repeat your goals with tone and content while leaving room for the designer to be creative around those specifics. You should only request changes on content that you really don’t want and try to let the rest flow. Whenever you do request a change, make sure you explain why and then ask for feedback with an open mind. Your guidance coupled with the designer’s expertise will surely work to refine your finished product to your satisfaction within 3 or 4 review sessions or less. Allowing the designer the freedom to employ their experience and creativity to your ideas and preferences will ensure that you are both successful in your efforts to create something meaningful and profitable.