How to Keep Your Designer Happy

Have you had trouble in the past working with designers? Expensive, irritable, and flaky, right? Not necessarily. Here are six insider tips to make your next creative project go smoother and to get the best work out of the creative you hired. Spoiler alert: it all involves being reasonable and keeping them happy!

1. Make Money Easy

As a designer, I don’t like to talk about money. That’s what bankers and investors and financial advisors talk about. I talk about design concepts, ideas, process, work…but I hate talking about money. Be up-front with your budget and timeline. Don’t drop off the map when the invoice is due. Don’t haggle. Don’t request a bunch of revisions right at the end of the project to extend the time you have to pay. Make sure you have your budget defined and set aside before the project starts. Don’t send my invoice through your whole corporate rigamarole and tell me vaguely that “it’ll be taken care of” without an expected payment date. If there are payment schedules for your company that you need to work around, please be upfront about them. Get checks ready to send out in advance if you can. Allocate the budget before you sign the contract.

Also remember that you get what you pay for. Would you trust a $500 used car? Hell no! Would you trust it if they guy selling it said he was a student doing it “for his portfolio?” So why would you trust a $50 logo? Why would you trust anybody working for less than $100 an hour with the look and feel of your business? If you don’t have the money to do it right, you best have the money to do it again.

2. Be Consistent

You don’t have to have a great artistic vision or anything, but do be consistent. This means being consistent in terms of what the end product is going to be, as well as keeping down the number of people communicating with your designer. Committees are where good design goes to die. Get pre-approval for the project if possible. Take committee input at the beginning of the project. Make sure there’s only one or two points of contact for your designer and that they’re saying the same thing. See to it that everyone is on the right page and you speak to your designer with a unified voice and clear vision.

Flip-flopping is for sandals, not clients. If you have two competing ideas for a project, that’s fine. We can work with both, up to a certain point. But at some point, both parties need to commit to a direction and finish the project.

3. Be Reasonable

Our work isn’t immediate. Design doesn’t just manifest itself on our screens so we can sell it to you. Designers have to work long hours to make things look and work right. When you ask for a revision, take into account how much work you’re asking for—it’s always more than you think you are. Websites are a complex and often fragile assortments of pictures, code, and documents and any little adjustment has the potential for derailing the whole project. In print design, space doesn’t just create itself, and it doesn’t just disappear either. When you add elements and text to a print piece, adjustments need to be made and it has to be somewhat redesigned. Illustrations, depending on the medium, can be very difficult to edit, often requiring extensive photoshopping or even just remaking the piece from scratch.

I’m not saying that revisions are bad, designer-client communication and collaboration is a beautiful thing. But I am saying to be conscious of the ramifications of any edits you request and remember that it can take time to complete them. Also remember that you’re on their list of clients and you may not be at the top right now. How do you make sure your designer is working your your stuff?

4. Check in, but don’t be Intrusive

Unless you’re actively engaged in an email discussion with your designer, you should check in once every two or three days at the most. Sometimes problems need to percolate in our minds before the most elegant solution presents itself. In most cases, your designer will contact you in a timely fashion because they want to move the project along and collect the other half of payment before rent is due. If you find your designer’s response time to be sluggish, consider your latest communication with them, and feel free to check in if you haven’t been annoying, intrusive, or needy. Keep your expectations reasonable, especially with how long things take.

5. Listen to Your Designer

I’m a shitty carpenter. I built a bookshelf once, but it very nearly outlasted my patience. Don’t ask me about how to build a house, and by all means ignore my advice on the subject if I give it. There are people out there who specialize in these things and they’re paid well to do so. I specialize in design. Ask me questions about design and branding. Ask my opinion about your current logo. And when you do, listen. Every project comes with options, but only one is the best option and the designer always knows which one it is. If you’re in doubt, ask us and trust our response.

6. Act like you’re excited about the work we’re doing for you.

You don’t have to live and breathe design—we do that already— but you should at least act excited to see us and about the work we’re about to do for you. In a very real sense, the reputation of your business is in our hands and you should pay attention and be a contributing part of the experience. Remember that real wealth is in things, ideas, and love. Wealth is not money, so think less about the money you’re spending and more about what you’re getting for it and how it can last you for years if used properly.

If you’re thinking of putting these tips into practice, why not

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