How to get the best results from working with a designer

Working one on one with a graphic designer to design your brand or bring a project to life is unlike working with most other professionals. It tends to be a lot more collaborative, with the end result depending nearly as much on the client as it does the designer.

We both have jobs that need to be done to make sure the project goes smoothly.

As a designer, it’s my job to understand your brand’s personality and create something that represents you well visually. I do that by asking questions, listening, creating concepts, and listening to your feedback.

I’m bringing my design experience and eye, artistic skill, business sense, and intuition to the table. I could probably create a logo for you with that alone, just by asking your brand name and creating something pretty around it. I make art for myself without client input all the time.

But you aren’t looking for art, you’re looking for a logo. Or a website, or maybe a book cover.

Design has to work. Art does not. - Donald Judd

For me to create something that works for you, meaning a brand/website/whatsit that a) attracts the right people to you and b) represents you well to them, I need you to bring a few things to the table as well.

Here’s the (unfortunate) truth: I can tell a difference in the outcome of a project based on how prepared and involved my client is. I wish that weren’t true - I wish I could say the outcome is solely dependent on my level of expertise. Or maybe I don’t, that’s a lot of pressure. Regardless, it’s not true. I need you to help me make you look good.

My dream projects are those where the client brings me thoughtful answers to my design questionnaire, provides the content I need up front, and gives good feedback. Those projects usually go more smoothly, and the end result feels cohesive and authentic.

I’ve had other projects where I was given the bare minimum of information about the brand, content was delayed for weeks or never sent, and feedback was unhelpful or took an extremely long time. You can imagine the difference in outcome.

But what if you’ve never worked with a designer? I’m guessing most people aren’t asked to provide “useful feedback” on a daily basis, and your accountant or mechanic certainly don’t ask you to describe your brand personality.

I thought it would be helpful to share a few things you can do as a client to make sure you’re getting to most out of working with your designer.

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By the way, I’m just one person, so I’m speaking from my own experience working with clients over the last decade-ish.

I’m also speaking as if you’re working with me, which may or may not be the case. Frankly, it’s just because it’s more fun to write this way, and I run this joint. So let’s preface this by saying your mileage may vary. In general though, these are just good practices for working with any designer.

Now, what exactly do I need from you to make sure our project together is a fantastic success?

Here’s a few things...

I need you to bring me information, for starters.

I know design, but I probably don’t know your business, or your ideal client, or your love of boho chic. It’s my job to ask good questions, and your job to give me concise, clear, informative answers.

Even before that though, I need you to do your research on me.

Read my FAQ page. Look at my portfolio. Check out my Instagram. See if you like my style. Because that is my style. Your project is going to be distinctly you, but if you hire me hoping I’ll do something dramatically different than I’ve done before… well…

Ask me questions instead of assuming.

Be very clear about what you’re expecting to get from the process. If you don’t completely understand something I said - ask me. This time it’s my job to give you concise, clear info, but it’s your job to ask good questions too.

Send me your content, before the project, using my preferred method.

This one sounds simple, but it’s the #struggleisreal of the design world. It applies mostly to web design, but also to little things like your business card. I can design around filler content and swap it out later, but it’s going to look so much better if you can send me your actual about page copy or the contact info you want on your card. So much better. I even have a process for helping you know what you need and get your content together, as do a lot of designers.

Learn to give good feedback

This. Is. So. Big. I wrote a whole post about it actually, you can read that here. The gist is this. Good feedback focuses on what you do and don’t like about a design. Being polite and not telling me what doesn’t work for you is only hurting the end result. My job is to explain the reasons behind my choices - your job is to focus on the problem, not try to come up with a solution. Ask questions. Don’t just go along to get along, but avoid micromanaging. See? Easy peasy.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

I always factor in extra time when I’m scheduling projects because life happens, someone’s kid gets sick when we’re supposed to have a final site walk through, or we forget about a long weekend. I understand that.

What I can’t account for though is clients waiting a really long time to send the feedback I need to move forward, or reply to questions. I usually allow 2-4 business days for feedback, or longer if my client lets me know up front they’ll be slower. Longer than a week though and we really start to lose steam on a project. I have to refresh my memory on what’s been done every time we talk. It becomes a draining experience for both of us, and the project always suffers.

This list isn’t all inclusive… I didn’t include anything about having well written copy or nicely lit photos, which are obviously super important.

But if you bring these five habits into your next design project I can guarantee it will go smoother and have a better outcome!

Do you have any questions about working with a designer that I didn’t answer? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to add them!


Looking for a creative partner to help you elevate your brand and position yourself as a leader? I’d love to see if we’re a good fit!

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Lena ElizerComment