Untangle communication with your designer using these 10 easy rulesThe designer-client relationship is not as complicated as it may seem. The client simply wants a website or marketing collateral that looks good and works to their business’s advantage. The designer wants a finished project they can be proud of that works for their client. The client is knowledgeable about their industry, while the designer has special knowledge about the design industry.
Each party has their own goals and skill sets. If they each come to the table willing to contribute, then the final project will be better than either party could have imagined alone. If you’re a first time client – or just a client looking for a better relationship with your designer – here are ten tips that can help you untangle communication throughout the design process.

1. You’re an Expert in Your Industry

Designers work with all kinds of clients, from interior designers to pizza shops. They may have had the opportunity to work with someone within your industry before, or they may not have. It’s important to represent your industry by informing the web designer about practices that may affect the design and target audience preferences that they may not be aware of.

A great way to help the designer understand your business is to find examples of designs that you feel fit your business, whether from the designer’s own portfolio or from other businesses within your industry. Making suggestions and ensuring that the design aligns with your goals and purpose is important, but make sure you allow the designer to be an ambassador of their own industry.

2. Say “Halt” if You Don’t Understand What’s Happening

If you feel like you’re getting caught up in a whirlwind of designer-speak and jargon, stop and ask questions. In order to be an active participant in the design process, you have to have an idea of what’s going on. Don’t agree to a decision unless you understand it first. And you shouldn’t have to learn to speak another language to have a conversation with your designer.

3. Just Because You’re Not a Designer Doesn’t Mean Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter

You should be approached often with questions or asked for input.  And your designer should be able to help you make decisions based on your target market information, project goals and design preferences.  During creative interactions if you’re not sure what to do ask questions to make sure you understand the designers idea of the end result.  If all else fails ask to see the idea, at the very least get a sketch.

4. Try Not to Over React

If you had a picture in your mind of what you wanted and your initial designs don’t hit the mark try not to over react.  It’s just the first step in your journey.  Ask yourself, “what don’t I like about this design?” If you can clearly identify the problems your designer should be able to fix up the design into something more suitable.  Often times the strongest reactions can have the easiest fixes. The designer is an artist for hire, even if you don’t like the design they are being paid to help you discover a good solution for your company.  If they are resistant and unprofessional from the beginning you may not have chosen a good fit for your company.  Don’t be afraid to walk away and find a better fit.

5. Your Customer is the Most Important Person, Not You and Not Your Designer

Often times in the revisions dance people loose sight of what the true goal is for the marketing piece or website: effectively communicating with your client.  So your opinion may be wrong and the opinion of your designer may be wrong as well if those opinions don’t align with your target audience.  When making a decision take a step back and try to be objective, ask yourself,  “if I were my target market and I had never seen this before what would I think/do/feel?”

If you’re having trouble keeping it neutral ask the opinion of a non-objective third party in your target market. Don’t explain the design first, just plop it down in front of them and say, “what do you think?”  If they give you a response you didn’t expect ask them why, the answer behind the opinion is where the true magic lives. Try not to get too many outside opinions though, that can really mess up the mojo of an ad, you can’t always make everyone happy, but every so often an objective set of eyes can really help.

6. Be a Tourist

Be respectful of the design process.  Generally you won’t need to micromanage the process unless you’re working with an inexperienced crew.  An established design company will have a logical road for you to travel to get the best results.  So the project should feel more like a bus tour than an unplanned road trip.  Ask for a schedule upfront and expect the company you choose to meet their deadlines. The design process can take longer than most people outside of the industry understand, because it involves a lot of concepting, physical design work time and technical responsibilities.  A schedule spanning over a few months, especially when building a website is to be expected and appreciated.  An adequate time frame allows for  flexibility, creativity and breathing room for both parties.

7. Do Your Part

Remember the design schedule is a two way street.  You should expect the designer to meet their deadlines and you should also plan to meet yours.  If you can’t complete your responsibilities make sure let your designer know so they can adjust their schedule to keep your project going.

8. Start at a Good Time for Your Business

Begin your project when you’ll have the ability to dedicate time to your responsibilities.  Tabling a project for too long can be dangerous.  Leaving a project stagnant for long periods of time can lead to confusion on both ends of the contract and large shifts in goals.  If you’re having buyers remorse have a conversation with your designer to decide if you want to continue and revisit why you made the decision to begin with.  If you really can’t complete the project in a reasonable amount of time be honest and let your designer know so they’re not left in the dark.

9. Set Expectations in Advance

The better you can outline your communication expectations the easier they are to meet. If you or your boss require weekly updates, ask for those at the beginning of the project and explain even if substantial progress wasn’t made on the project that week you still require an update.  Inform your designer how you like to communicate, by phone, email or text and who should be involved in each type of conversation.

10. Think of the Process as a Conversation

Remember the three important parties involved in the design process – you, the designer and ultimately your client. So think of it as a conversation. If you aren’t vocal about your goals and opinions from the start to the finish, you won’t walk out of the relationship with the design you need. On the other hand, if you are too vocal and overpowering, you may never see some of the designers ideas. Remember why you hired your designer – because of their industry expertise – and respect their side of the conversation.

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