5 things to know about making great designers [for clients]
by Vusi Sindane
If you have ever hired a designer you will know that it can get frustrating trying to articulate your requirements. This is especially true in new relationships with designers.
What is the problem though?
Perhaps we should take a step back and ask what makes a great designer and what the benefits of working with one are. Design is subjective. The difference between a good designer and new-comer is consistency. Good designers consistently solve problems with their designs. New designers just go for it hoping to produce something that looks great without really appreciating certain thought processes and solving key communication objectives.
Note I’ve just spoken about good designers. Great designers on the other hand are made by great clients. With experience I can point out a few things that I think clients can do to make great designers:
- Spend a few minutes learning how to write a brief: The creative process begins with an idea. Over time the idea takes different forms in the thought process until one decides to execute it. This means the bearer of the idea is the best person to write about it! Your designer may be trained to extract certain points and polish the brief, but truth be told, you (the client) must take a few days, weeks or even months researching and writing about your idea in detail.
- Talk about the design process: As a designer, I’ve often worked with clients who deliberately reduced the amount of information they gave me in order to “avoid stifling my creative flow” , so they said. Believing that designers are telepathic or have super powers is a mistake. The design process is actually scientific and every good designer has one. Talk about it with your designer and make sure you have an understanding of how things will unfold. This will really help manage expectations and prevent tension.
- Be part of the design process: Making a fire is very difficult compared to keeping it running. When you take a week or two to get back to your designer, you are killing the creative fire and asking the designer to start it again. If you are too busy, just write a message to your designer acknowledging the work and let them know you will get back to them in a few days. Keep the fire burning, make comments and definitely make suggestions.
- Pay your designer: As clients we tend to look for the most cost effective solution when confronted with a problem, this is a good thing. Be that as it may, the cheapest designer will give you just that, a cheap solution that doesn’t communicate your ideas effectively. The first thing you should do is make a budget. Thereafter, look through your designer’s portfolio to see if they are capable of translating your idea into great work. Tell your designer what your budget is to avoid spending too much time on unnecessary mind games. If your budget is is too small, your designer will tell you and won’t waste your time by giving you second grade work.
- Learn how to critique a design: As a designer gets better and better, their design process becomes more and more scientific. They focus more on solving real business problems and avoid shooting in the dark to hopefully produce something that just looks good (even though it doesn’t solve the problem). Over time, good designers become one with many guiding principles that help them produce consistently great work. It is important for you (the client) to know a thing or two about these principles which will also help you critique the work. This will also help you communicate more efficiently and help you tell the identify problems and techniques for solving them through design.
My father always coaxed me into helping him to fix his cars. I never understood why because my reasoning was that there are people who were trained to do it. In hindsight, I know exactly what the problem is when my car starts coughing. I know what it takes and what it would cost to fix it. That way I can maximise what I get from the people I who fix my car. Why not do the same with designers?
Below are some resources you may find useful: