4 Tips to Effectively Communicating With Your Graphic Designer


Speaking to a graphic designer sometimes feels like speaking to a surgeon. Unless you have some familiarity with graphic design, you’re going to encounter a lot of obscure jargon and specialized concepts. You may even find yourself feeling confused and slightly overwhelmed by the experience. Don’t!

Like a surgeon, a graphic designer’s primary goal is to help you. But for them to be able to do so, you need to give them a clear idea of what you want. This is often where communication breaks down, as conflicting ideas and a lack of familiarity with the different design mediums (print, web, video, etc) can lead to mistakes on both sides.

Here are a few tips to help you smoothen the process and get your ideas across more-or-less intact. The better the graphic designer understands your requirements, the closer his output will be to your vision.

1) Be Prepared

Don’t fire an email off to your graphic designer the moment inspiration strikes. Developing a brand or a piece of collateral for the first time is nearly as rigorous as developing a product.

Do some research on competitive brands and what they’re doing. What it is that you hope to accomplish with this project? How are you intending to use it, and when will it be rolled out? Are there any images or documents that the graphic designer might find helpful?

Once you have the above information, then you’re ready for the next step: setting up a meeting with your graphic designer.

2) You Can Be Abstract, But Not Vague

Don’t be afraid to speak in abstractions when you talk to your graphic designer. Graphic designers use abstract concepts all the time. Talk about what emotions or impressions you want the customer to experience after viewing the work, and any values or ideas you want the work to convey. A good graphic designer will be able to take those concepts and generate something evocative.

Be wary, however, of being vague. Vague is when you tell your graphic designer that you “want something in green,” or saying that the design should “increase our profit margin xx%”. This is information that, by itself, is useless to the designer and will not help them create a good brand.

3) Invite Discussion

Designing a brand is a partnership, and the best ideas come out of earnest discussions between a graphic designer and a client. Share ideas with each other, and keep an open mind as to what will and what will not work. Your ideas may be obstructed by past derivative works, technical limitations, or the designer’s skill. Your designer’s ideas, on the other hand, might be limited by budget, scope, or a misunderstanding about your business.

Once you’ve found a compromise approach that works for the both of you, the designer may pass you several design studies so that you can have an idea of how the final product will look. This is another part of the discussion phase, where you tweak the design over and over until it finally looks as you’d intended.

4) When You Say Something, Mean It

Designing a brand and other marketing collateral involves a heavy mental and time investment on the part of the graphic designer. The worst possible thing you could do to him is send him down one design path, and then backtrack and ask him to go down another instead.

To help prevent this kind of flip-flopping, go back to tip #1 and do a thorough internal examination (either via meditation or stakeholder meetings) about the project’s objectives and requirements. Consult with your designer as needed, but don’t have him start any piece of work until you’re absolutely sure that it’s the path you want to take.