When it comes to designing a project, there are a few key things that you need to keep in mind. Below are five simple steps that will help you work with a designer in the best possible way and get the most out of your project.
By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, setting clear expectations, being communicative throughout the process, and investing time in revisions, you'll be sure to create a design that meets your needs and looks great on paper!
1. Create a detailed design brief
What is a design brief?
A design brief is a document that outlines the needs and goals of a design project. A designer will use this document to understand your goals (both creative goals and business goals) for the project and create a visual solution for you.
It's important for both parties to be on the same page from the beginning, so we'd recommend taking some time before you start working with a designer to create one.
A good design brief will answer questions such as:
- What is the goal of the design?
- Who is the target audience?
- What are the project's main objectives?
- What are your preferences in terms of style and aesthetics?
- What are the project's constraints?
Why do we need to provide the designer with a design brief
The purpose of providing a design brief is two-fold:
First, it helps the designer to better understand what you're looking for. A detailed brief will help increase the chance of the final output being exactly what you want.
Second, apart from creating designs that look good, the designs often have to satisfy the technical requirements of the project. For example, if you want to design a set of seamless patterns to print on fabric, the technical requirements will be very different from designing a set of prints for phone cases.
In these cases, having a detailed design brief can save you a lot of time and effort by ensuring that all the necessary elements are included in the design.
Set clear goals and expectations
In your design brief, it is important to clearly state the scope of the project and what you expect from the designer. This includes everything from the number of designs needed and the file format to the deadline for delivery.
If you don't communicate clearly about these details upfront, it could lead to confusion or a lot of extra time going back and forth down the line.
For example: When we first started working with designers to create patterns for our children's products at Nightingale, we didn't have any detailed briefs, and some designers just delivered the files in whichever format they used to create the designs. Some were in Photoshop (.psd) format, others in Illustrator (.ai), or even in flat images (.png).
When we sent them to the manufacturer, they had to spend an extra week trying to convert the design files to the right format, which meant we lost a lot of valuable time. If we had been clearer about this in our briefs back then, we would have saved ourselves a lot of headaches.
Explain the Why Behind Your Ideas
Every design has a story. It may not always be obvious why you chose a certain theme or colors. To make sure that the end result reflects what you have in mind, it is essential to explain the "why" behind each decision to the designer.
This might mean explaining why you chose a particular color palette instead of another.
Stay organized and track your progress
Design projects can often be delayed for many reasons. To avoid missing deadlines, we recommend breaking up the design process into different sections and tracking your progress.
You should keep a list of tasks, milestones, and deliverables that you want to achieve throughout the project. You can also use tools such as Notion or Trello for this.
We've found that using a Kanban board (in Trello and most of the Project Management tools) allows us to have a good workflow. It also ensures that everyone involved knows where things stand.
Here's a sample design project table that we use for the team
Sharing the design brief
Once you have a good idea of what you want to include in your brief, you can start putting it together.
There are many ways to share a brief with the designer, from putting them all into an email to sharing a Google Docs file. The best way we have found to share the brief easily in a well-formatted document is to use Notion.
There are many reasons why we like Notion over other platforms:
- It is free to set up an account with super generous limits.
- It has a clean, minimal canvas.
- Easily drag and drop files, including images, into the doc and rearrange them effortlessly.
- You can create documents within documents so that you can have a Brand Guideline as one doc, an Audience avatar as another, and both linked to the Design Brief doc.
- Any changes you make are updated instantly, so there is no need to send different “Design brief – revised” versions.
We have put together a Design Brief Template on Notion for you to get started quickly. You just need to hit the three dots to duplicate the template and start filling it out immediately.
2. Understand Their Strengths and Weaknesses
The term “design” has been grossly generalized and applied to almost every graphic-related work.
A quick visit to Behance.net will tell you that there are many different types of designers: Those who specialize in graphics design, illustrators, infographic design, product design, web design, etc.
A lot of them will be able to do a decent job in more than one field, but it doesn't mean that they're good in all of those areas.
Just because graphic designers can create images for social media does not mean that they are a good fit to create product designs or know how to prepare a tech pack.
It's important for both parties to be on the same page from the beginning, so we'd recommend taking some time before you start working with a designer to learn as much as you can about their experience.
It would be extremely risky to ask someone who specializes in designing kitchen appliances to design patterns for your fabric. A designer who has a lot of experience with social media graphic design might still struggle when asked to create graphics for your Facebook ad campaigns because there are other skill sets involved. The key is understanding what type of design they're good at and avoiding any tasks that are beyond their expertise.
Designers have different specialization. Check their portfolios for what they do best.
3. Give Them The Creative Freedom They Need
It's important to remember that designers are creative people, and they need to be able to iterate on their ideas. If you want the best results from your designer, give them the freedom to come up with something they can take ownership of. This will make it easier for them to express themselves and collaborate effectively.
Listen to what they say and exchange ideas. Try not to tell designers how they should do their work. Instead, ask them for reasons why particular designs they suggest might be better than others. Once you understand the thought process behind it, it becomes easier to give feedback.
The process of working with a designer is more collaborative than you might think. As a client, having the opportunity to ask for revisions and make decisions is important. It is part of the reason why hiring a designer can seem intimidating: It is definitely not a one-and-done thing! The revision process is crucial in making sure that your design looks professional and reflects your brand correctly.
Before giving the feedback, find out the thought process behind the design.
If you are not sure what or how to give feedback, we recommend asking the designer about the initial draft: how did they come up with the visual design? What was the thought process behind it? This way, you can understand the work better, and any questions you might have would come naturally.
The most successful designers know how valuable each step of this process is, so by taking the time to work with them through every stage—and providing feedback throughout—your project will evolve into something even better than initially envisioned by either party involved!
5. Feedback: Invest time in the revision process
Once you receive your first draft, it is time for feedback.
The process of working with a designer is more collaborative than you might think. As a client, having the opportunity to ask for revisions and make decisions is important. It is definitely not a one-and-done thing! The revision process is crucial in making sure that your design looks professional and reflects your brand correctly.
If you find yourself struggling to give feedback or don’t know where to start, we recommend asking the designer about the initial draft: how did they come up with the design? What was the thought process behind it? This way, you can understand the work better, and any questions you might have would come naturally.
Here is a list of questions you can ask:
Is the design cohesive with your brand?
Does it reflect who you are and what you do?
Would someone who has never heard of your business be able to tell that this is a design that is relevant to your product? If not, consider giving feedback on how to make it more relevant.
Great designers always know how valuable each step of this process is, so by taking the time to work with them through every stage—and providing feedback throughout—your project will evolve into something even better than initially envisioned by either party involved! Most importantly, this process also allows you to review the work carefully and eliminate as many potential mistakes or details you don't want in the final design before going into production.
Remember, it is way more costly to fix a final product than to improve a design in progress.
Simple ways you can work with designers
80% of the work is in the preparation
As explained above, since collaboration is a key part of working with designers, you will want to make sure that everyone involved in the collaboration is on board with the same vision.
Designers are no mind readers, so having a clear idea of what must be in the final design, the freedom they can have, and what should not be included will go a long way to help you avoid any potential confusion that might happen in the collaboration process. That is also why you should spend as much time as possible on creating a detailed brief to make sure your product vision is clearly transferred to the designer, giving them the best chance of success.