7 Tips For Working With A Graphic Designer

You’re working on a major piece of advertising or marketing for your firm (a brochure, an informational guide, an annual report, a website, etc.) and have decided to hire a graphic designer to make it look the best it can be. You’ve looked at a few designers’ portfolios and settled on the one whose style is most suited to the message you want to get across. Before you call them in for that first meeting, here are a few things to keep in mind to make working with your designer efficient, creative, and fun.

#1: Know Your Audience

Before you start a project, before you even pick up the phone to call a designer, ask yourself who the audience is for the finished piece. “Everyone” would be ideal, but it’s not a good enough answer. While a professionally designed graphic work will have broad appeal, a designer needs to know whom the message is for; quality requires specificity. To help you narrow down who your audience is, consider the following questions:

Who is your ideal viewer or viewers, the people we most want to see and be affected by the piece?
What concerns does the ideal viewer have? What do they want and hope for? What keeps them up at night?
What benefit will your ideal viewer get from using your product or service?
What do you want those ideal viewers to do after seeing the piece? Are they to buy something? Contact someone? Go to your website? Carefully define the precise action you want people to take after viewing the finished piece
What environment will they be seeing this project? Will it be hanging in a staff lunch room? In a magazine? On a poster on a busy street? Will it be distributed as a brochure?

This last set of questions is especially important as it dictates a lot of the design of the final piece. A brochure or informational booklet needs to hold attention, while a poster or magazine ad needs to grab it.

#2: Know The Size Of Your Project

Your designer has a rough knowledge of how long it takes them to complete a project of a given size from initial meeting through brainstorming and making the first proof, all the way to final publication. To give you a good estimate on cost, however, they need to know how big the project will be. Is it a three-panel brochure or a ten-page website? Is it a forty-page annual report or a single large format poster?

Most designers prefer to work by flat rate, where they quote you a price for the entire job rather than billing hourly. Expanding the size of the project midway through will require the designer to make another estimate. This will both frustrate the designer, who had scheduled working for you among their other clients, and raise your costs as they have to make a new invoice, billing for all time invested up to that point in addition to the increased length of the job.

#3: Agree To Delivery Format

In your initial discussions with your designer agree to the format for delivery. It is no good for the designer to submit you the image files in a certain format if you don’t have the ability to open them. While it is not time consuming to convert files between formats it is still annoying.

#4: Agree On A Delivery Time

Is this a one-week, two-week, or longer project? Be sure to have worked out when you need the completed piece, and make it one of the first things you discuss with your designer. If you’re hiring a freelancer (one not employed by an agency) they will have other clients needing their time and expertise. Agree upon definite deadlines for delivering the first proofs, any desired revisions, and the final proof copy (see also #7).

#5: Answer All Your Designers Questions

This is very important but often overlooked. Your designer will have a set of questions they ask at the start of every new contract. They are experienced, and have tailored their questions to match their design process and make everything run smoothly. Make sure that you answer each question – if you’re not sure how to answer then ask for their help; they’ll be glad to give it.

#6: Have The Text/Copy Ready

Whether it’s a slogan for business card or the text for an annual report, make sure that you have the text taken care of before finalizing the project. Your designer is passionate about visual presentation – they are not a writer, editor, or proofreader.

If you would prefer to save time and effort by having someone else write and/or edit the text, ask your graphic designer if they know a freelance commercial writer. A professional designer will often have a partnership with a professional writer whose skills they rely upon both for their own communications and to help their clients. Asking your graphic designer saves you both time and ensures that you will find a writer who can work in harmony with your designer.

#7: Remember That Quality Takes Time

Last but not least, remember the quality takes time. Your designer can, if pressed, slap together a logo or design for you but neither of you will be happy with the results, and your audiences will definitely be unimpressed. Budget time as well as money for your designer, and give them the opportunity to experiment with different designs to find the perfect look for your finished product.

Roxane Brisson is a professional freelance graphic designer and owner of Roxane Brisson Design.

Written by: Michael Flood
Michael Flood Writing Services
michael@michael-flood.com


7 responses

  • Hey there! I know this is somewhat off-topic but I had to
    ask. Does building a well-established blog such as yours require a large
    amount of work? I’m completely new to writing a blog but I do write in my journal daily. I’d like to start a
    blog so I will be able to share my personal experience
    and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips
    for brand new aspiring blog owners. Appreciate it!

    • Hi Andre,

      Thanks for commenting/connecting and my apologies for the delay. I am new to blogging myself actually! So I can’t really offer many tips, except that to start I recommend making sure grammar and delivery is clean (which is why I started with a professional writer writing my ideas down for me – Michael Flood). I find when I read others’ posts I find spelling mistakes and poor grammar a real turn-off and discredits them a bit. I hope to get into it more myself, especially when work slows down a bit.

      Other than than I think it’s great you already write daily so you’re probably going to sail right into the blogging world!

  • Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and i own a
    similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam responses?
    If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you
    can advise? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.

    • Hello,
      I wasn’t getting too much spam until today for some reason! I will ask my web designer friend about that, as I am not sure how to avoid or prevent it. Good luck to both of us!

    • Hi Aubrey,

      One of the best plugins out there is Akismet (it can be free). On the website you will find detailed instructions: http://www.akismet.com/ If you already have a hundreds of possibly spam comments and don’t feel like going through each one, look for TrollGuard plugin. It does ok filtering through the comments.

      Best of luck!

  • Hi there are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m
    trying to get started and create my own.
    Do you need any html coding knowledge to make your own
    blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

    • Hi Susannah,

      I had a web designer work on this WordPress site for me, as I focus my skills in print work. She then showed me how to change a few things around in my portfolio. I’m not sure if html is required. I think WordPress has templates that don’t need that, but I’d ask their support desk. Good luck! 🙂


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