The best way to engage a graphic designer

By Sara Williscroft

We’ve all been there – the client is excited about a new look and feel for your communication piece but you just can’t land the right feel with the graphic designer. How do you engage designers in a way that allows their creativity to flourish but serve your strategic communications plan?

Laurie Griffin, Principal, Griffin Communications, is a strategic communicator with a passion for graphic design. In fact, she is the designer and strategist behind IABC/Calgary’s previous Chapter logo and current Connecting you (i.e. the bridges) brand roll-outs. Here’s her advice on getting the most out of your designer.

1. Collaborate effectively. Know your audience, outcomes and timelines

Your first focus before you start any design job is to bring your designer in on your strategic objectives. Tell them who the audience is, what you want the audience to feel, think and do. Familiarize them with what you know about your audience in context with the communications goals. Are they highly educated? Serious? Business driven? Value-driven? Fun-seeking? Or from a different culture? These all dictate design components. Millennials respond to infographics and photos. Seniors need age-friendly visual standards, such as larger, simple fonts on a plain background.

Then, give them a realistic lead time. It goes back to the old saying, clients want products fast, good and cheap. They can pick two out of those three. But even if you get someone to give a quality product on a tight deadline, will you have the time to go back and forth and review the product with the rest of your team, including other opinionated leaders?

2. Trust your graphic designer

When in doubt, trust your graphic designer. If you are less visually creative, don’t tie them down creatively with design related directions. Strategically, you need to show them the hierarchy of information. What do the readers need to see first, second, then third. What information is key, and what is supporting? This comes back to feel, think and do. Let designers come back to you with something, and THEN react with specific directions.

CMP announcement: After Calgary received it’s first batch of certified Communication Management Professionals, we took the opportunity to use a visual approach for social media to announce that milestone while also illuminating the value of the new certification program. The classic walking bridge personalizes the journey more and provides a sense of anticipation. Click to enlarge.

3. Be specific

Be specific if you need a specific outcome. Point to examples of layouts and products you or your leaders envision. If you don’t have a specific idea in mind, be open to the reality that your directions can be interpreted in many different ways and again, trust your designer. If you say you want something warm and fuzzy, you could get an arm chair or a puppy. Both are vastly different but equally correct.

The more you can align designers with your brand the better – ideally you would have a good visual or brand standards guide. They need access to the right logos, font and colours (e.g. CMYK, RGB, Pantone, etc.) of your organization. If you don’t have a brand standard, fill them in on what they can and can’t do with logos, font, etc. Additionally, familiarize them with the tone and feel of your organization, and what you expect for the product.

Working with a graphic designer can be challenging – but it can also be extremely rewarding.

Honesty and openness right from the beginning lays the ground work from a stellar relationship that can truly move your brand and communications plan forward.

Where strategy and design meet is a two part series. Watch for the next post Using visuals to achieve your goals to be published this month.

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