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How To Collaborate With Designers

Your next advertising flier, website, product, or app needs a design and it’s time to start meeting with creative professionals to get the project moving. Being involved with the visual design process can be a rewarding experience, but it can be all too easy to get bogged down.

Here are four tips to ensuring your collaboration with your designer is effective, fruitful, and rewarding:

01. Know Your Goals

Designers are problem-solvers. They aren’t only interested in the latest trends or making something look good. Rather, they want to create a visual design that will make your product (flier, website, business card) meet your objectives (sell a product, illicit inquiries, get donations), and they’ll do it by using well-researched strategies. Sure, it’s a gut thing to some extent, but design is more about critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making.

Spend time creating an organized document that clearly communicates your goals before speaking with your designer. Involve any invested stakeholders to ensure their needs are considered up front. A good designer will ask questions to fully understand your audience, what motivates them, and how to best communicate with them – ultimately inspiring them to take the action you want.

02. Gather Feedback Judiciously

When you receive drafts from your designer, it’s a good idea to solicit feedback from stakeholders or other trusted people in your life. That feedback can be incredibly valuable in obtaining an outside perspective and catching things you might not have considered.  However, beware of pitfalls that can impede the collaboration.

1.    Ask specific questions. Not just, “what do you think?” Instead…

a.    Would this design make you want to donate? (Insert your primary goal.)
b.    Can you tell what the main objective is?
c.    What feelings does this evoke?
d.    What is working? Why?
e.    What is not working? Why?

2.    Weigh the value of the feedback. Getting an impression from your mail carrier is fine, but weigh their feedback against your business’s marketing manager. Who has the context, investment, and expertise to provide the most valuable feedback?

3.    Analyze and evaluate the feedback before sending it to your designer! Make decisions about what feedback is the most useful and best informed and distill it for your designer.  It is unproductive and confusing to simply forward emails from those you consulted.

03. Work for Meaningful Revisions

It might feel like more rounds of revision = better value, but unlimited rounds of revision will ultimately hinder focused design and waste time.  Work with your designer to make each revision count.  Do this by considering only the big ideas during early collaboration. Use final revisions to focus on small details.  Whenever possible, provide all feedback at once rather than piecemeal as they come to you.

04. Provide Examples

All great artists use reference, and all great inventors were inspired by things that already work well.  Your designer isn’t cheating when they ask you for visual examples of what you like and don’t like. Your idea of modern might be different from your designer’s idea of modern. There are an infinite number of colors called blue. Eliminate the ambiguity and show your designer exactly what you’re thinking. Visual examples like sketches, screenshots, or print-outs will transform your design communications into a true collaboration.

When we consider the design process a collaboration and work together with designers in a focused, methodical way, our chances of producing a high quality, high value product increase.  The process becomes rewarding, even fun!

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