How to work with a graphic designer: Common myths and questions answered

If you’ve never worked with a graphic designer before, you might wonder where to start.

You might have lots of questions;
Do I need a graphic designer or can I do it myself?
Will a graphic designer guide me through the unfamiliar process of design?
How can you tell if you and your designer are a good match before you work together?
How much will it cost? Will there be a budget blowout that I can't afford?
How much do I get to have a say in what the design looks like?

Read on to learn some tips on how to get the best results when working with a designer, and some common myths about graphic design.

A big myth is that graphic designers just design pretty pictures, which is not the case. Graphic designers are very interested in content. It’s not just about pretty pictures, but a good designer can help you with creating and organising your content to improve communication and readability for your audience. Good copy writing, typesetting and content are all part of good design, along with a visual aesthetic and style that reflects what your project is about and speaks to your target audience. Graphic designers understand business; they want to help you communicate about your product or service to others.

Can I Afford Graphic Design?
How long will it take you to do what you need yourself? and what is your time worth? Do you have the software you need to do the job well? Will the file be set up to print ok? Graphic designers are professional and fast. If you are busy running your own business chances are it will cost you more to do it yourself than pay a professional, and the end results will be very different.

I spend a lot of time fixing files that don't work and correcting bad design when it would have been cheaper to have a professional do the job in the first place. And not only will a good designer give you much better results, but a lot of valuable marketing support along the way. Good design is a good investment for your project and goes along way beyond just looking pretty.

If you are concerned about budget. Ask your designer for a fixed project price so there is no budget blowout. Often design is much cheaper than you think even through it will look a million dollars.

Be as Organised as you can Before You Meet with Your Designer
Getting together as much of your content as you can and being clear about  your needs beforehand will save you time and money. A good designer will support you with the rest but being as organised as you can will see you off to a great start. Bring examples of things you like and things you don't. This gives the designer a better understanding, we all have different visual communication and what looks "bright" or "exciting" to one person may be very different to another. Concrete examples are good. It also helps your designer to see if they are the right person to undertake your brief. We all have strengths and weaknesses and a good designer knows if they are a good fit for the job or not.

Don't Expect Perfection on the First Draft
There's a reason it's called "a first draft." It's a starting point. Think of it as the first step on the path to a finished piece. This is where your input is crucial, and a good designer will appreciate your suggestions and constructive criticism. The designer won't wish to waste your budget on refining concepts that are going to be rejected, so first concepts are just to float idea's so that the good ones can be refined and less valuable ones discarded.

Consider the Components
There are five main components to graphic design. Commenting on them individually when giving feedback can be very helpful in narrowing down what you'd like to see in the finished piece. Sometimes, as the client, it can be hard to know exactly what you do and don't like about the design work. But just saying "I don't like it" isn't going to be very constructive. So breaking the design down into its components can make it easier for you to identify what you do and don't like and it also makes it more constructive if you do say "I don't like...the colors." Here the five main components of graphic design:
    •    Color
    •    Fonts
    •    Images
    •    Layout
    •    Overall Aesthetic

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
You are paying the designer for a creative process and experienced advice, but you're the boss. If something they selected confuses you, ask them to explain it. There are no wrong questions and it's valuable to keep clear communication even when it's negative. A good designer does not take criticism personally, they will work with you to solve the problem.

Don't be Too Controlling
Designers want to hear your needs and value your input. But it's worth allowing  space for the graphic designers input and creativity. One dynamic that can happen is when the client starts to direct every little design change and start to micro manage the designer. The designer slowly gets excluded from the creative process and at some point they may eventually give up artistic input altogether. When this happens the job can start to slide down a very precarious path.

Be open to the designers experience and advise, that is what you are paying them for. Be prepared to take a risk, avoid cliches and consider unusual and creative possibilities.

Good design is versatile and can be used across a multitude of applications.
Good design will reflect your project or businesses values as well as be relevant to those you are communicating with.
Good design is well crafted, so for example a logo should work at both a tiny size on a business card or packaging as well as huge on some signage in both digital media and print.
Good design is a invaluable asset to your business, to communicate about who you are and what you do in our highly visual world.