50 Tips for Working With Designers by jvmedia


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									50 Tips
for working with

50 Tips for working with designers...
I’ve been working with clients since the early 90’s when, fresh out of art school, I began offering my
talents in a freelance capacity. By 1995 I had added web design to the services and JVM Design
was born. Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of clients that have ranged from corporate
giants to rockstars and from small businesses to independent artists. One thing I can say with absolute
certainty is that every job is unique. I also learned early on that developing a process for working on a
project worked to everyone’s benefit. Even with a solid process in place, I noticed that the same types of
questions, concerns and issues would still crop up now and then. I realized at some point that a
designer must also take on the role of educator. Most clients aren’t design savy and that’s why they come to
us. We’re the professionals and we need to let them know what to expect.

It is our responsibility as designers to make sure our clients understand the basic principals of what we do
for them during a project. This gives them a level of comfort and understanding about their project that will
allow them to answer questions later.

With our years of experience, we’ve learned that the nature of this industry requires this sort of client
education. We know that when you take your car to an auto mechanic, you don’t expect him to go into detail
about how he will fix your car. You just want it fixed. Likewise, you don’t go into the garage and fiddle around
under the hood in an attempt to do his job. And by all means when he gives you the invoice, you pay it! For
some reason, etiquette for doing business with a service provider sometimes gets very flexible in the field of
graphic and web design. This phenomenon was the core idea for this book. My hope is that no matter whether
you’re a client or a designer, after reading these tips the process is a little easier to understand and that the
path to success might be a little smoother.

Sherry Holub, Creative Director, JV Media Design (www.jvmediadesign.com)
Working with a designer should not be
an intimidating experience.

Before the project starts ...

           Never ask a designer to do work for you
           up front or before your hire them. This
           is called working, “on spec” (speculation).
           Remember, a designer is an experienced,
           skilled professional and their time is
           valuable. Asking for a, “quick concept
           to see if I like it” is never appropriate.
           You wouldn’t ask an interior designer to
           just do a room in your home before they
           get hired, so don’t ask it of your graphic
           designer. Do ask for samples of their
           previous work.
Do your homework.

     Before you contact the graphic designer:

     Know who your target audience is for
     the project.

     Who is the website or graphic design
     piece meant to reach?

     What action would you like a viewer to
     take after seeing the finished project?

     The more you know about what your
     needs are, the easier it will be for your
     designer to meet them.
Ask yourself what would make this
project a success.

      Before you talk to a designer, determine
      what the overall goals of the project are.

      For example:
      Do you need to look more professional
      or maybe need to change your image?

      Do you need to sell more?

      Do you need to reach a larger audience
      or increase traffic to your site?

      Having the answers to these types
      of questions will help your designer
      narrow their focus and concentrate their
      efforts on what you really need.
Outlines are a useful tool.

       Try to create an outline for the project.
       In your outline it is helpful to include:

       •	 A brief overview and history of the
          company, your product or service, etc.
       •	 Goals of the project
       •	 Who the target (intended) audience is
       •	 Budget for the project
       •	 Timeline or due date for completion
       •	 Who the main point of contact for the
          project will be

       Having these ideas nailed down not only
       help your design team, but your business
       as well. They will help keep you focused
       on your goals and how to achieve them.
Don’t forget the details.

       If your project is a website with specific
       functionality required, be prepared to
       provide details on how it’s supposed to
       work. You need to visualize it from both
       the perspective of a site user as well as a
       site administrator.

       It is critically important to be able to
       clearly define how your website will
       function when custom programming is
       involved. Imagine yourself sitting down
       and going through the website step
       by step as a user and then write that
       information down. It will help eliminate
       backtracking (and added costs) to add
       functionality later.
Finding the right fit.

       When you’re ready to start looking for
       a designer, review their portfolio and
       get references from past clients. Ask
       questions about their past work that
       you feel might help you make a better
       decision. A good web designer isn’t afraid
       to share references or answer questions.

       If you don’t see exactly what you want
       in a designer’s portfolio, that does not
       mean they’re incapable of creating it.
       Sometimes the best thing you can do is
       let a designer’s creativity show in your
       site as opposed to someone else’s.
Interview the candidates.

      Once you’ve located several designers,
      it’s time to interview them. Contact each
      one and provide all of the details of the
      project. Remember that every designer
      is a little different. Take some time to
      get to know them, their process and by
      all means, ask any questions you like up

      Note: you do not have to meet in person
      to find a great designer. Many designers
      are now experienced with working with
      clients and managing projects remotely.
Look for signs of greatness.

      A great designer will be interested in you
      and your business as well as the project.
      They will have questions for you too. Try
      to be as prepared as you can to answer

      Once a designer understands the
      project needs, they should be able to
      provide you with a proposal that includes
      an overview, recommendations, timeline
      and a cost breakdown. Once again, if you
      have questions about the proposal or
      job, don’t be afraid to ask. You need to be
      on the same page with your designer.
The proposal, review and Q&A.

      A designer should review the project
      proposal with you and answer your
      questions about it. Designers can some-
      times use lingo or terminology that you
      might not be familiar with. Especially
      when it comes to websites, remember it’s
      for you and your company. You need to
      understand how it works or what will be
      required of you to maintain it.

      A designer should also explain how the
      project will be managed and what the
      timeline will be.
Ready, set, go ... and legalese.

       A professional designer will always have
       you sign an agreement. Make sure to
       read it thoroughly as it is a binding legal
       document that is meant to protect you as
       well as the designer. It should explicitly
       outline all details of the project.

      If you sign the agreement and begin
      working and then determine something
      is missing or want to add additional
      work, the designer may need to modify
      the agreement. At this point you should
      be asked to authorize the changes before
      proceeding so there are no surprises.
This is where the magic happens - sans
smoke and mirrors.

During the project ...

          Congratulations! You have taken the
          step to hire a professional. Now it’s time
          to step back and let them do their job.
          A great designer will listen to you and
          address your concerns throughout the
          project, but don’t stress yourself. There’s
          no need to micromanage. Let go and get
          into the process.
Your involvement is key.

      It may seem like the difficult part is over
      - you’ve throughly outlined your project,
      you’ve hired a great designer and now
      you can sit back on auto-pilot while your
      designer takes the wheel, right? Not so

      You really do need to work with your
      designer during the process. A great and
      successful project is a collaboration. It
      should be one that combines your knowl-
      edge and insight about your business,
      product or service with the designer’s
      expertise and creativity. Thus creating
      the ideal design for your business.
Keeping time.

      Be prepared to give enough time to the
      project. You will be asked for input, to
      provide materials, and to sign off on
      specific milestones. If you’re unavailable
      or unresponsive this will detrimentally
      affect your project and timeline.

     If you know you will be gone for part
     of the project (e.g. vacation) please
     authorize someone to make critical
     decisions and review milestones before
     you leave. If not, your project is liable to
     take a vacation right along with you.
Information goes both ways.

      When your designer has a question
      during the project, be prompt with your
      answer. Any delay on your part can
      negatively impact the overall timeline
      and delay the project’s completion. This
      is out of your designer’s control.

     While working on concept designs,
     please let a designer know up front if
     there is something you absolutely do
     not want to see. Designers aren’t mind
     readers and they do want to make you
     happy. So if you hate purple it’s good to
     let them know that up front.
You should never feel like you’re in the

      If something comes up that you don’t
      understand – from a single term used to
      how something should function on your
      site, speak up! Sometimes a designer has
      no other way of telling if you are not
      clear on something unless you say so.

      There really are no stupid questions.
      Remember that a professional designer
      is there to answer any question and to
      educate when necessary.
A couple of pro tips.

       Whenever possible, use professional or
       stock photography. You can take photos
       on your own, but Photoshop “magic” can
       only do so much.

      When it comes to text for your project,
      hiring a copywriter can also be a great
      move. They are trained and many have
      spent years learning how to write the
      best text to go with a design. If you are
      writing text yourself, please make sure it
      is finalized before you deliver it to your
      designer for placement. Edits could add
      delays or additional costs.
Learn to trust.

       Nine times out of ten when a client has
       asked, “I’d like to see a few more things”,
       they are really saying, “I’ll know it when
       I see it.” We’ve discovered that when this
       happens, a client will often go right back
       to the very first thing and say they like
       that the best.

       You can avoid this by giving appropriate
       feedback up front. Even if you don’t have
       a clear picture in your mind of what the
       finished design should look like, trust
       your designer’s skill and knowledge to
       be able to reach your goals.
Everything you do is part of your brand.

      Design is a big part of your brand. If
      you ask your designer to come up with
      a chicken character that dances across
      your website, this will become part of
      your brand. If you don’t happen to be a
      chicken restaurant with a quirky theme,
      this might not be in your best interests.

      A professional designer will research
      and explore your brand and history
      before the project really takes off. If
      after all of that they recommend you
      do not have a chicken mascot, listen to
      them. You’re paying for their expertise,
      so take their opinions under advisement.
Don’t lose sight of the target.

       During the project, always remember
       your target audience and goals. It’s easy
       to lose sight of these and start making
       emotional or personal decisions when it
       comes to your design.

      Change requests are a normal part of
      the design process. Consolidate them.
      Sit with a design awhile and come up
      with a single list of changes. Making one
      list of changes will help you resist the
      urge to send 15 emails, each with one or
      two changes, as soon as you think of or
      notice them.
A note on website programming.

      When it comes to website programming
      and functionality, it’s important to avoid
      making changes to the initial, agreed-
      upon specifications. Especially once the
      project has started. The designer should
      have you review and test milestones of
      the project for usability and function-
      ality. If at any time during the project
      you find something absolutely has to be
      added, notify the designer immediately.
      It most likely will increase the cost and
      timeline to make new additions but if
      it’s unavoidable, it’s best to handle them
      as soon as they come up and before the
      project moves further along. It’s easier
      to fix it now than to backtrack later.
Avoid frustration and make your
designer proud.

Some technical do’s and don’ts ...

          You may have an excellent photo with
          a vertical orientation, but the space it
          needs to fit in on your website is more
          horizontal. Without cutting off massive
          amounts of the image, this simply won’t
          work. Try to work within the approved
          layout and provide images that will fit in
          the spaces properly. Many designers are
          happy to make suggestions on images
          for you.
Space and formats.

      Three pages of text will not fit on a 4” x
      6”postcard. Try to keep in mind the space
      available on your layout and make edits
      before providing the text to your

     Do not use a fax machine to send things
     to your designer. When you provide
     text and images for your project make
     sure they are in an electronic format,
     clearly named, and labeled where they
     should go. This saves time, keeps things
     organized and avoids needless back-and-
     forth questions.
Nobody likes a copy cat (except for
copyright lawyers).

Some notes on copyrights ...

          Never ask your designer to, “just copy
          this website... brochure... logo... etc.”
          Someone else owns the design you are
          interested in copying. Simply changing
          images or text and adding your logo is
          still copying another design. Remember
          you are hiring a professional designer to
          have them come up with a solution that
          is unique to your project and business,
          so don’t try to take someone else’s work.
Google images is not a stock photo

      Never go to Google images, Flickr or
      any other similar website and download
      images for your project. These
      images are not public domain and they
      are owned by other people. Likewise, do
      not copy text from other sites and use
      it for your project (even if you “change”
      some of it). These are both classic
      instances of copyright infringement.

      A professional designer will always
      have language in the agreement about
      who owns the copyright for the finished
      work they provide on your project.
Buyer beware if the price is too good to
be true.

      Avoid using services that offer below
      market value prices on design such as
      logos. Design “contest” sites, logo “farms”
      and similar sources do not guarantee
      that the design you are receiving is free
      from any copyright or trademark in-
      fringement. For all you know, you could
      be purchasing clip or stock art or a copy
      of an existing company’s logo or design.
      Be unique and trust a professional!
Add-ons are extras.

What not to say to your designer ...

          “Can you just add these things on to the
          original price?” Would you ask your auto
          mechanic, “Can you just add those extra
          parts in for the original price?” Once an
          agreement is made and specifications
          defined, it’s bad form to ask if you can
          throw in additional services or requests.
          Many people assume they can just be
          lumped in to the original price, but the
          original agreed upon price included the
          hours for the work you have requested.
          Adding more means more work.
The design process requires input from
both parties.

      “Can you just copy this?” As stated in the
      section on copyrights, resist the urge to
      ever tell a designer to copy something
      from another source. Note: this is not the
      same as when you reference work you
      like. Or explain why something similar
      might work for your project.

      Avoid saying: “I’ll know it when I see it.”
      This is not helpful to anyone involved.
      Do go ahead and share your favorite
      examples of things you like. This will
      help your designer have a better feel for
      what you want and what you need.
Provide solid examples.

      “Can you make the yellow more yellow?”
      This type of statement, and variations
      on it, are also too vague. If you want a
      specific color, provide an exact example
      of that color to your designer up front.
      This saves time and rounds of revisions.

      “Can you make it pop... or make it edgy...
      or make it modern?” Many people have
      many different ideas of what these words
      might mean in your design, so share the
      specifics with your designer. This will
      eliminate a lot of headaches that come
      with buzzwords.
Remember your audience.

     “Can you make the logo larger?” It’s
     understandable that you’re proud of
     your business, product or service and
     want people to know the name. Keep in
     mind that the name isn’t everything.

     Remember your target audience and
     their needs. Are they looking for a good
     product, service or solution, or are they
     looking for a large logo on a page?

     Sometimes smaller fits the design and
     your audience better.
Use time effectively.

       “We would like to schedule another
       conference call ...” While designers
       aren’t opposed to conference calls,
       especially when working remote, it’s
       best to utilize calls to disseminate
       specific information that might need
       more explanation than an email. Do
       not use conference calls as open “brain
       storm” sessions with a committee of
       people and no outline or boundaries.
       This simply burns up billable hours for
       both your company and the designer.
Be available - or appoint someone else
who can.

      “I’ll be unavailable for 2 weeks but still
      need you to deliver the project on time.”
      If you’re going to be unavailable and
      still expect the project to proceed as
      planned then you must appoint someone
      to be able to make decisions and answer
      questions in your absence or be will-
      ing to trust your designer’s judgment.
      Designers do understand that things
      come up and people take vacations or
      have unexpected circumstances (we’re
      people too!) but if you know you will be
      absent during a critical phase of a
      project then your designer will need
      another point of contact or the project
      timeline will need to be adjusted.
Be articulate.

       “I don’t like it.” When viewing a
       design, it’s best to temper your
       personal opinion with what your
       target audience would respond to. Also,
       think about whether the presented
       design actually does meet the goals and
       needs of the project and whether it is in
       line with your overall brand. We once
       had a client who hated pink, but knew
       that her market gravitated towards it.
       It’s all in what will work for the business.
       If the design does not achieve the goals,
       articulate why it doesn’t and offer
       constructive comments on how it can be
       more in line with those goals.
Make decisions.

      “My (insert person not involved with
      the project here) doesn’t like it.” While
      an outside party can occasionally point
      out a way to improve something or have
      a valuable comment, it is not advisable
      to include many other people in the
      project, especially in a decision-
      making        capacity.    You are the
      expert in your business and on your
      target audience. As the main point of
      contact, it is your responsibility to make

      Note: Input of outside parties IS of
      benefit in instances such as website
Everyone wants to be number one.

      “Can you make my website come up
      number 1 on Google?” Many designers do
      have a search engine optimization (aka
      SEO) company to refer clients to but it’s
      not specifically a web designer’s job to
      help with this type of marketing. Many
      content management systems now have
      some great built-in SEO features as well.
      Still, anyone that tells you they can get
      your website to number 1 is bending
      the truth. SEO is a very complex and
      time-consuming       method of online
      marketing with constantly changing
      rules. Your best bet is to enlist the
      services of a reputable SEO company if
      that is part of your marketing plan.
Some final helpful tips...

       A professional designer is someone with
       experience, specialized training and
       creative abilities. Do not disrespect
       their talent and time by: circumventing
       the design process, going to another
       designer while you’ve already hired one
       to work with (without terminating the
       agreement with the existing designer),
       forcing a designer to use your DIY
       design (you’re paying for a professional
       – use their services!), not paying invoic-
       es on time or trying to avoid paying for
       services rendered. Our industry should
       be no different than any other service
       industry. If the work has been performed,
       payment shouldn’t be questioned.
Designers are not Tech Support.
Designers may work on computers but
understand that they do not set up email
on your computer (or have anything
else to do with the functioning of your
computer), are not responsible for your
web hosting (unless that is stipulated
in the agreement), and can not help you
format your Word, Excel or Power Point
Once you establish a good working
relationship with a great designer, keep

Having the same designer to create all
of your marketing materials will ensure
both visual and message consistency for
your brand.
Ready to start your design or marketing

                We     love    the   creativity    and
                adventure that each project brings to
                the table. We understand that your
                business is your passion just like this
                is ours. Put our talent, expertise and
                experience to work for your business.

                Contact JVM at:

50 Tips for working with designers...

Copyright © 2012 by Sherry Holub for JV Media Design. Edited by Lori Twichell, Jeffrey Smith,
and Jane Gilpatric. Distribute freely with credit and a link to www.jvmediadesign.com.

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