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Creating clear communication between designer and client

March 1st, 2007 / By: / Graphics

Opening the lines of communication between client and designer leads to unlimited creative possibilities.

Bold. Exciting. Elegant. Innovative. Corporate. Hip. A client may use any or all of these words when communicating a project to a designer. But what does the designer hear? The client may think bold means make it red, but a designer would think about changing the typeface, the illustration style, and yes, even the color. You can save a lot of time, frustration, and money if you realize that you and your designer think differently and keep your communication lines open.

How do you as a client effectively communicate with a designer so you are both on the same page when it comes to the design of your project? First, realize that a designer does more than just make something pretty. The designer’s goal is to visually interpret (communicate) your message to the audience whether it be a brochure, a banner, or a building wrap. The information you provide is critical to the success of that message.

Briefing a designer

So you’ve hired a designer and you’re ready to begin your project. What happens next? Most designers need to understand the big picture before they can create a design that really fits your needs. They’ll want to know everything about your company, your product, your competition, your market, current market trends, your marketing plans, and how this project fits into it—even what colors you like and don’t like. The more information you can give a designer the better.

A good place to start is the design brief, a written document that explains the project in detail. Then everyone has the same information. Make sure you include the basics such as answers to questions like the following:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the project?
  • Where or how is the project going to be used?
  • When is the project due?
  • Why is this project important?

Of course, you’ll also need information about the budget, contact person, the approval process, and other details. The next step is to discuss the project in-depth with the designer.

Show and tell

Once you’ve taken care of the basics, it’s time to get down to business. There are many things a designer considers before coming up with the right solution. The designer needs to get a feel for your needs, understand where you’ve been graphically, and where you want to go. He or she also needs to know that what you say is what you mean. If you want a retro design, do you want 60s, 70s, or 80s retro? If you say you want a clean, dynamic yet thoughtful design what exactly does that mean?

One way bridge the gap between client and designer language barrier is to show examples of things you like or, just as important, don’t like. Copies of your current materials are a must. You can also gather ideas from magazines, websites, or other sources. These examples will give you a visual place to begin your dialogue and hopefully give you a common ground on which to build your relationship. Once you’ve established a common vocabulary (or can communicate comfortably), you’ll be able to open yourselves up to endless creative opportunities that will benefit both you and the designer.

Marti Naughton, sMart desigN, is a freelance designer based in North St. Paul, Minn., smartdesign.mac@mac.com

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