People get frustrated with the designers they work with because they feel misunderstood or ignored. This can happen even if the designer meets deadlines and takes notes. Clients can feel like designers do something completely opposite of what they ask for. At the same time, designers often feel like their clients make ridiculous requests that are impossible to meet. Misunderstanding is a big problem on both sides of the table.

Part of the problem is language.

All industries have arcane terms. Everyone has their own language, jargon, and conventional wisdom. I’ve worked in healthcare, publishing, and engineering, to name a few industries. They all have different protocols and procedures that are considered normal in one and outlandish in another. Regardless of your industry, you can become so entrenched in that way of thinking that you have a hard time seeing things any other way.

For example, designers at ad agencies typically bill time in 15-minute increments. Engineering firms bill time in 30-minute increments, and the thought of billing in 15-minute increments is absurd. I’ve even designed at places where time didn’t get billed at all.

We designers have our own language, covering everything from typography to printing processes to content delivery systems to file types, programming languages, click-through-rates, key performance indicators, color theory, marketing psychology, and aesthetic theory. Yes, it’s a lot. And yes, we think about that stuff all the time, often without realizing it.

Keep in mind that your designer wants you to be happy.

Remember that everyone has the same end goal. Your designer wants you to win. Your designer isn’t out to get you (unless you’re a jerk.) But sometimes you get frustrated when you think you’re talking about the same thing, but you’re not. Is it possible to meet in the middle and find some sort of agreement? I think so…

The trick is to find common ground by communicating clearly.

If you understand your own business objectives and can communicate them clearly, you and your designer should be on the same page. A good designer can translate your business goals into design objectives. There’s a lot of subjectivity to design, but there are a lot of concrete goals as well. Having clear objectives makes for strong design that works as intended.

A solid exploratory or discovery session reveals the direction of your business and your understanding of it. You might find that the solution you came to the designer for in the first place might be the wrong solution, or only part of it. Sometimes we need a little guidance to see with perspective. Creatives bring that unique perspective to the table.

Remember that the difference between a good designer and an okay designer is in how they follow the creative brief.

A good designer will capture the spirit of what you ask for and go beyond it. A lesser designer will give you exactly what you’re looking for and simply follow directions. Set your designer up for great work by allowing them to push boundaries and not just to follow directions. Expecting a creative to simply follow directions is a surefire way to burn them out.

To Sum Things Up…

It’s not uncommon to feel like you and designer have a hard time communicating. After all, you both see things differently, and can offer each other a lot to reach common ground by setting clear objectives. If you can do that, everyone will have something they are proud to put their name on, and that’s what matters in the end.

Photo by Hugo Jehanne on Unsplash

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