Whether you’ve ever worked with a graphic designer before or not, as a business owner, the idea of trying to communicate with a designer can be intimidating if not downright puzzling.
When a designer is called in on a project, typically the first step is to gather the initial information necessary to get a clear idea of what you need. This helps define the specifics, deliverables, and scope of the project. It also helps the designer provide estimates for the project. This is called the Designer’s Brief.
Whenever I encounter new or potential clients who have never worked with a graphic designer before, I always like to put them at ease. Granted, there is a lot of specialized terminology and knowledge that goes along with being a designer, but I certainly don’t require my clients to know all that stuff. It’s my job to come up with creative solutions for them, and also to handle all the “nuts-and-bolts” that go into producing the results they need and the deliverables they require to effectively reach their market and audience.
I consider my clients to be the *experts* in their own fields, and I do my best to learn from them what I need to know about their company or organization, products and services so as to be able to deliver solid solutions in the form of visual communications. Essentially, my clients are my “primary source” for information about what they do or what they’re offering. Beyond that, I do advise them regarding the marketing aspects of the visual materials that I create for them, and often make recommendations as to what I think will be effective and impactful.
So for those who’ve engaged designers before as well as the “design client newbie,” here are a few of the top questions I’m going to ask you if you come to me in need of design work —
Do you already know if you want specific kinds of items, or are you looking for help with discovering or deciding among the many different kinds of available marketing materials or methods that will serve your needs?
Sometimes a potential client will know what they need to communicate, but they’re looking to me to help with the how. This is where knowledge and creativity step in, whether that’s in the form of asking questions to gather further information, or by brainstorming with you. The goal is to advise you about methods and ideas for making that communication work to achieve the results that you want.
If you know specifically what you’re looking for, i.e. a web site, a direct mail piece, a brochure, a trade show booth, packaging, or all of the above — tell me about that.
Do you have a deadline? If there is a specific deadline involved, I need to know that right away so we can gauge the effort and perhaps come up with a projects timeline to make sure I deliver what you need on time. Don’t assume that you already know how long it will take to do a task or to go through the production phase after the designs are approved.
Do you already have a logo? If not, we need to address that separately, and logo development is an entire process unto itself. If you have one, but you don’t have it in the form of an electronic file (ideally vector art), we can take care of that situation also.
Do you have a brand standards or guidelines document? If so, I’ll ask you to provide that to me so that I can be certain to hew to those standards in what I design for you.
Do you have existing marketing materials in print or on a website that we need to consider? Sometimes a website or existing printed materials need to be coordinated with the materials I’ll be designing for you. I can design print to coordinate with existing web, or vice-versa, as needed. Consistency is a key element of brand. If it’s an entirely new look you seek, we can also achieve that!
Do you have any documentation or backgrounding materials that I can study regarding your brand? If not, I’ll ask you to describe to me in your own words the personality, mission, and aspirations of your company. If you need a brand, or a fresh new perspective on your existing brand, we can explore that as well.
What are you looking to achieve with the designs I’ll be creating for you? Is it promotion of the business in general (capabilities), or of a specific product or service offering?
Who is your audience? Describe to me the audience you are trying to reach. Describe your ideal prospect, client, or customer: Age, gender, “niche,” cultural aspects, or other considerations that will help me know how best to communicate with them.
What is the geography of your market? Is it local, regional, international?
What can you tell me about your competition and how you want to stand out and differentiate yourself from them? Do you have comparable or competitors’ marketing materials that we can take a look at?
Are there any particular colors that you want to see, or that you particularly like? Are there any colors that you don’t want to see or that you particularly dislike? If you’re open to advice on use of color, I’ll be glad to help with that.
It is with these and other questions that I bring my clients through the design process and the creation of visual materials for their businesses. It’s my job to guide you through the project you have in mind, providing not only creativity and solutions, but also advice along the way. The key to any collaborative effort is communication, so never hesitate to ask, ask, ask! Keeping the channels of communication open and clear is the best recipe for success.
Here’s a roughly 27-minute interview: “Getting the Best ROI with a Professional Designer,” on True Business Ownership with Rita Coco.
To “cut to the chase” on the top 10 best ways to prepare to work with a designer, go to the 17:00 minute mark.