As a graphic designer who has a lot of both designer friends and friends running small businesses, I hear horror stories all the time about unhappy clients and frustrated designers. At the bottom of it all, the problems with both parties come about because of poor communication from both sides.
Briefing in your graphic designer for a new project is incredibly important, as it establishes the foundations of the expectations of the project. This is the bar from which all items will then be measured, whether its sticking to a budget or deadline, or overall completion of the project. Either way, skimping on the briefing process is a really quick way to cause yourself a bit of hurt. So here are my top tips to avoid stress between you and your designer.
- Establish a clear deadline for the project.
Whether its an urgent ad, a new website launch or a logo design, all projects should have a deadline. Even if you’re not sure what it is, pick a date that’s about a month in the future and suggest that – this at least establishes a timeline for the designer to work from. There are going to be cases where your designer isn’t going to be able to complete the work for your deadline, and that’s ok. In the instance you can be flexible, be flexible. If you can’t, find another designer – you can even ask the busy designer if they can recommend someone. But by creating a deadline for the project, you afford the designer a way to plan out their lives, and you create a yardstick for the project to be measured against.
- Have a clear budget for the project, and be open about it
This is also so important. As designers, we get caught up in cool ideas for projects – like custom illustration, detailed pattern making and infographics – that you simply might not have the budget for. So nip this in the bud, and establish a budget for the project from the outset.
Your designer should either be able to create something within this budget that is suitable; or the strength of character to come back to you and say, sorry but that’s simply not enough. The budget does need to be open to a certain amount of flexibility, and that is completely dependant on the relationship you have with the designer.
- Show examples of the work you like – they aren’t going to get offended.
Graphic designers are visual people. Give them visual examples. Presumably, before you are going to start on a new project, you have looked at things you would like and have a whole reference list of logos, ads, websites, whatever that you like – Pinterest is a great place to store these.
Pick your top three or five examples and show these to the designer. This gives them a much stronger sense of the style you are looking for than words ever could.
I’ve had clients come to me and say, oh we didn’t think you would want to see what we like, or it would offend you, or that you should already know what we should do. That’s a load. At the end of the day, any project has a million possible outcomes – some more appropriate than others, for sure. By showing examples, you give guidelines for where the designer should start, making sure that we are starting on the right foot.
- Create a top 5 list for them
If you have an idea around the design, whether that’s a colour, a shape, a name, a slogan, a phrase etc. now is the time to air it. If you absolutely must have it in green and purple, with polka dots and stars, then now is the time to air that. If the designer is worth their salt, they will stick to these absolutes and make them work within a style that you are happy with. They might try to question a few things, and that’s ok – some of the best solutions come out of questions. But be firm in what you absolutely must have.
- Build a relationship with your designer – that’s not just behind computer screens
The hardest part about briefing in your graphic designer is how much of your idea and passion gets lost in translation from keyboard to computer screen. The best way to avoid this is sit down with your graphic designer at the start of a project, over a cup of coffee and a laptop, and talk about influences, designs and your business. This makes sure that you have correctly expressed your ideas, by speaking about them verbally and in context, allows you both to really open up about issues or concerns that you have. Creating this open dialogue leads to the best design, and for the building of a great relationship with the designer.
At the end of the day, your graphic designer holds your business in the palm of their hand. And you hold their business in the palm of yours – without you, they have no business. So accepting that both parties are out to be each others best asset is the start to building a strong foundation of trust and can be the beginning of a wonderful relationship.
As an added bonus for my readers, I’ve written a Design Brief template, and that can be yours for FREE! All you have to do is send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send it to you personally.