How to Keep Your Designer Happy – AND Get the Results You Want

 In Client Advice

I think we’ve all seen (or been party to) the negativity surrounding clients and the things they do that drive designers to madness.  However, do they really know HOW to keep their designer happy?  Do they just need some instruction to help make their designer’s life easier and happier, without sacrificing their own needs and ideas?  Yes, there’s a fine line (sometimes) between what a client wants and what is going to drive a creative professional crazy, however, I think it’s just a matter of laying it all out there, so that your client/designer relationship isn’t strained.


1. Specify your parameters BEFORE the project starts.

Nothing (well, almost nothing) is more frustrating to a designer than having are customer ask for a masterpiece without knowing or defining what they are looking for – that is, for example, saying something like “I’d like a new logo, but I don’t know what I want.  Can you create something?”  Absolutely.  Will it be what you’re looking for?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Without having some basic information (colors used, general concept, look, feel, etc.), we can’t meet your needs and thus, you won’t get the results you want.  Always do some brainstorming (you don’t have to know everything) on your end BEFORE employing your designer.  Oh, and the time and iterations it takes to reach the final product will be less and fewer and thus, saving you money.

2. Don’t be wishy-washy.  Conversely, don’t be too rigid either.

Decision making is tough.  It is. However, when it comes to pulling the trigger on something – coming up with a concept, writing content, finalizing a proof, whatever – don’t be afraid to make that decision.  In my years working as a designer, it becomes very frustrating when a customer, 3-4 proofs into a design, decides to go back to the beginning design and forget all the edits and versions made after it.  Frankly, it’s a waste of your time and your designer’s.  Be confident in your decisions, and, if going back to the first proof is the only option, know that you will likely have to pay for the time your designer spent modifying the initial design and understand that there could be some frustration coming back to you from your designer.  Just sayin’.

Conversely, don’t be so rigid as to not leave the designer any room to wiggle.  You hired a creative professional because THEY are the expert in design.  Yes, it’s perfectly ok to have ideas, but you ought to be flexible enough to see where and how your designer interprets them.  He or she could be seeing something you don’t or hadn’t thought of.  Keep an open mind and enjoy the creative process.

3. Don’t assume your designer will work for nothing.

Volumes could be written on this one.  Designers, just like doctors, lawyers…ok, bad example.  Designers are just like you – or anyone out there trying to make a living, doing what they love.  They’ve got to put food on the table (yes, designers eat too!) and support their families.  And, some even employ other designers!  Imagine that!  Point being, if the price tag seems a little high, sometimes it is, remember, it’s probably for good reason.  Quality work that gets results is going to cost more than anything cheap that takes no time to make or buy.  Treat your designer with the respect that you’d expect from your customers.

4. Respond timely with revisions and changes (preferably not Friday at 4:29 PM.)

It’s important to respond to your designer’s changes and modifications that YOU requested as quick as possible.  Now, that’s not that you have to drop everything and jump on it, but at least acknowledge them, perhaps even get a response back to your guy or gal that day.  We’re all busy folks and sometimes the work day gets away from us and we forget.  We do our best to get your work back to you as timely as we can, it’s equally important to get responses from you, either with approvals or with new changes.  Give your designer the courtesy that you’d expect from him or her and they’ll reciprocate.  And, for the love of God, don’t wait and sit on your changes only to submit them on a Friday at the end of the day right before the weekend, expecting to see something back before the close of business.  Always remember courtesy.

5. Group changes to make fewer proof rounds.

There’s pretty much no need of dragging out a project 5-6 rounds of proofing for minor text edits, corrections, punctuation, grammar and the like.  Whatever proofing needs to happen on your end should happen in the first one or two rounds.  And, if you’re designing by committee (God forbid), which is another topic for another time, get the committee together, meet, write down all the changes (eliminate similar or conflicting edits) and submit them in one exchange.  Also, don’t forward a string of emails that your designer will have to comb through to get your edits.  Organized proofing on both the designer’s and client’s part will only help the proofing process and save you money, especially if your designer charges for additional proofing rounds.

6. Allow adequate time for the initial design creation and proofing.

It’s important to realize that everything takes time.  Time for initial design creation, time for proofing, time for communicating with each other – there’s a lot of time that has to be figured into making a design masterpiece.  Give yourself some leeway.  Allow for 5 days (depending on your designer and their workload) for initial designing and proofing.  I even have some clients contact me to see what my workload is prior to giving me a new project, which I like.  It’s always good when a client understands that they are not the only customer we designers have.  And sometimes, emergencies happen and things get urgent, which is understandable.  In those cases, don’t be afraid to see (and be expected to pay) for a rush charge on top of the cost of your design.  Remember, our time is valuable too.  Procrastination is not your friend when time is of the essence.

7. Know what the purpose of your project is – who your target market is.

This is another one of those things that client’s just have to know before contracting a designer.  If you’re selling something, if you’re marketing to a certain group of people, you should be able to communicate that to your designer.  Your target market is the intended demographic, or group of people, that you’re specifically trying to reach through your marketing or design.  Why is this important to your designer?  Well, you wouldn’t design for baby boomers if you’re really trying to reach a millennial, right?  Are those two groups the same?  Not at all.  Always be aware of who your target market is so that you can save time and money with your designer by sending him or her in the right direction from the start.

8. Try to organize and create your own content.

This really goes without saying, but it’s important to state nonetheless.  Your content – your text, images, graphics, etc. – are yours and really should be gathered by you for your designer.  That said, if you need help with those things, plan on paying for a little more than just the design.  For many designers, writing may not be their forté.  If they have to write, or come up with a slogan for you, it may take more of their time than the actual design.  Additionally, searching for images on stock photography websites can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.  Often times, if I need to find images for clients, I give them the stock website that I commonly use and have them search and come up with images and graphics that they like.  Purchasing them (yes, stock photography is rarely ever free) is an extra cost and often gets passed on to the customer – but at least the customer is part of the process and can select the images that best represent their design.  Going back to #6 – this takes additional time and should be factored in to your time.

These are just some of the things that tend to drive designers up a tree.  If you follow some, or any, of these tips above, you should keep your designer’s hair from being pulled out at the root.  You may even find that by being a part of the process, you’ll gain an appreciation for your designer’s expertise and what they do for you.  You’ll probably also notice that by allowing your designer to spend time working efficiently and less stressed, your work will come out better, will get you the results that you want and, perhaps, even save you a little bit of cash.

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