Nov 10, 2014 • Jessica Jones
You know that design is not your forte, which is why you’ve hired a graphic designer and/or web developer to put together your logo, website, marketing materials, or any other product that will be used to represent your company. You know that these materials may be the first impression that many people get of your company, and you know that it’s important that they look good. You probably even have some ideas of how they should look - but sometimes communicating what you want to a design professional can be difficult. You know what you like, but you don’t speak the language. Let’s try to chip away at that barrier just a bit.
<figcaption id="caption-attachment-2851" class="wp-caption-text">This girl knows how to make it pop. Your designer might be less certain.</figcaption></figure>
“Make it pop.” “Jazz it up.” “I want it to look modern.”
These kinds of statements will make your designer cringe inwardly (and maybe outwardly, if they’re on the phone with you or are particularly bad at keeping a poker face). They’re common sentiments, so what’s so wrong with them?
The problem is that they don’t actually mean anything. When you say “make it pop,” you know what that means to you, but you might as well be saying “make it awesome!” Of course your designer knows that you want your logo to be great, but what they don’t know is what design technique is going to make it look great to you.
What makes a design awesome - or makes it pop - is different for everyone. While you may know what you mean if you ask for something to pop, your designer is going to have a very hard time trying to decipher what you’re asking for. Likewise, while the term “modern” may bring a specific look to your mind, “modern” can actually encompass any number of vastly different design styles - and without more information your designer has to guess which one you’re thinking of.
When you think about how you’re describing what you want, try to determine whether the terms that you’re using are subjective. When your feedback could have numerous possible meanings, it might not be helping as much as you’d like. If you go to a car dealership, you probably aren’t just going to tell the salesperson that you want “something with style.” You may want something with style, but you wouldn’t expect the salesperson to interpret that for you - you’d go in with an idea of what you wanted: car, truck, SUV, two door, four door, type of engine - there are any number of clear, tangible things that you might ask for.
Describing what you want with design can be much more difficult, though - you can’t exactly tell your designer that you want a blue Camry and call it a day. So if you don’t know how to explain what you want, where do you start?
When you can’t figure out how to say it, try showing it. The use of examples can be an incredibly helpful communication tool for both yourself and your designer. Rather than simply saying “I want it to look modern,” find examples of what you consider to be modern. Try to identify elements of the design that you particularly like - the use of color, the whitespace, the bold lines, anything that will help start a dialogue about the tangible design features that are appealing to you.
Of course you’ll want to remember that your graphic designer can’t simply copy something, no matter how much you like it; even if that weren’t an ethical dilemma, it wouldn’t be a good idea. You want your business’s image to be unique and original. But giving concrete examples of what you like will help give your designer a feel for what you’re after, and that kind of communication will be helpful for both of you.
Maybe you really have no idea what you want at all, and you’d like to give your designer free reign to do whatever he or she wants with the design. Most designers would love this kind of opportunity - but most designers will also approach it a bit warily. Many people who give a designer free reign without offering any input on what they would like end up dissatisfied with the results. If you find yourself in this position and have to tell your designer that the result of her free reign just isn’t working for you, be prepared to admit at that point that you need to provide more direction, by way of examples, discussion and feedback, about what it is that you don’t like about what she produced and what could be done differently to make you happy with the product.
If you truly are one of those few people who gives a designer free reign and is then thoroughly pleased with the result of her unbridled creativity, then you’ve probably already earned the appreciation of every designer you’ve ever worked with, and you really didn’t need to bother reading this article!
Designers are like any other provider of services - they want their clients to be happy. Unfortunately the production of something creative can sometimes be a tricky process to navigate. Just remember that communication is the most important thing - if you do your best to give your designer a clear idea of what you want, your designer will do her best to give it to you!