Everyone knows what the process is like to order and pay for dinner or bills but somehow the design process is a notion that remains mysterious and a bit scary. As much as it is exciting to hire a designer; the details of how things are priced, how credible the designers are and what they do exactly can be confusing and hard to approach.
Unlike a lot of more common services, the design process can be different for every client and nobody can guarantee the final outcome from the get-go. The designer can guarantee that he will provide a great service and designs that fit the brief, but ultimately the process is also highly dependent on the client.
This delicate process justifies the importance of service in the design discipline. The designer is responsible for guiding the client in the process. This requires a set of unique skills as well as experience and when you pay for a premium design service, that’s exactly where the added value is… in the service. It’s not like when you buy a coffee. The service might be terrible but it doesn’t necessarily affect the quality of your coffee. With design the two are highly dependent: bad service can affect the final design outcome in a number of ways.
1. Choosing a Designer: The First Daunting Step
Like a lot of exciting things, hiring a Designer can be a bit scary… Ah, the fear of the unknown! The work we do, whilst commercial in essence, often triggers emotional responses from clients and is designed to trigger emotions in target audiences. The tailored process is also daunting in that you fail to understand exactly how things are developed and what the final result will be.
If something is close to your heart and you are weary of the outcome, it makes a lot of sense to invest in added value, don’t you think? We see a lot of business owners go for the cheaper options when it comes to design, leading to a lot of disappointment and wasted time/money. So the first tip here is to look for an established design service or a designer with a solid CV and portfolio if you want to save yourself time and achieve strategic results.
A few Don'ts
Don’t ask an experienced designer to submit a design just to consider if you will hire them. Established designers have a portfolio that provides more than enough skill credentials.
Don’t choose a designer based on price. The focus should be on the design outcome (portfolio) and the ease of process (experience).
Don’t hire an experienced designer if you think you know better. You have already drawn the design yourself on paper and just want it reproduced for professional use (no need to waste your money on professional advice if you know better, this is especially true for logo design).
2. Briefing for an Effective Process: Be Humble
It sounds strange to mention humility in this context but after years of designing I firmly believe that the best outcomes are produced in an environment where both designer and client respect each other and are transparent.
Knowing how to accept criticism is one of the Jedi skills a designer must master to evolve and produce better work. This is of course true in many other situations in life but critical for any creative worker. What we do is not an exact science after all. That being said, the balance is fine between accepting criticism and knowing when to push the client in the right direction.
When you hire a good designer you are paying for their expertise. The results will only be better for your business if you know when to trust your designer. When you go to your doctor, you give them your symptoms and trust them to do what they do best. You don’t take over and tell the Doctor what to do. That would be taking more risks because you are much less knowledgeable than your Doctor is in this area. Let that rule apply to other suppliers you invest in, especially the ones that provide a highly skilled service.
A few Don'ts
Don’t treat your business graphics like commissioned art. If you are hiring a designer for your business, they are designing to please your target audience, not yourself as a business owner.
Don’t think you know better on everything. If you are hiring a professional, all you need to do is provide them with your knowledge of the business and its customers (that’s what you know better). Trust your designer to guide the design process from there and allow for their suggestions.
Don’t give project instructions over the phone. Call as much as you want to explain things clearly but send instructions on email throughout the design process. This not only avoids misunderstandings, but also protects both client and designer from any litigations should the process go wrong.
3. The Design Process is Like a Relationship: Communication is Key
When I said that design triggers emotional responses I was touching the tip of the iceberg. The design process itself is an emotional process, especially for the client (because they are close to their own brand). For this process to be smooth and efficient, both designer and client need to be honest and engage in discussions without reservations.
On the importance of experience as added value, young designers can tend to shy away from being upfront with client when the design process needs to be stirred in a specific direction. Dealing with clients can be daunting as a young designer. They sometimes fail to understand how the lack of guidance can impact the final outcome.
Clients on the other hand can sometimes over-react if the first draft is not what they expected even if it answers the brief. Again, design is an inexact science and a collaborative process. There is no need to over-react unless the design is sub-standard. If everyone can submit criticism and suggestions without getting hostile, I can assure you the results will be affected for the better.
A few Don'ts
Don’t dictate, make suggestions. This goes for both designer and client. Design is a highly collaborative process.
Don’t assume what the designer’s reaction might be when you give feedback. Business is business in this regard – be polite and say what you think honestly.
Don’t think you know it all because it is your business. Know when to take suggestions from your branding professional.
Don’t over-react if the first draft doesn’t meet your expectations (unless it is sub-standard). Designers are not mind readers and design is not an exact science. A design can answer a brief without being “liked” – just communicate honestly.
Conclusion: ‘Assume’ makes an A** of U and Me
The biggest no-no from any perspective in the design practice is assumption. Whether it is designer or client, assuming anything will only serve to compromise the design process.
The designer shouldn’t assume they know better when it comes to the client’s business and vice versa. They should be able to listen in the briefing stages and be open to criticism when it comes to how the design relates to the client’s branding and target audience.
From a client’s perspective, we have already covered the consequences of assuming. The same boundaries apply in respecting the designer’s skill and knowledge, accepting suggestions even if you don’t implement them.
Remember that the creative process is not an exact science so there is no need to over-react if the first draft if not to your liking – communication is key.