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Things You Should Never Say to a Graphic Designer – But Probably Do

There were a total of 20 things you should never say to a graphic designer on author Janie Kliever's original list. I selected the ones that resonated most for me. And I'm deeply thankful to Janie for being able explain how to best take care of your designer....

Don’t say: “We haven’t finished writing the copy, but can you design a draft?”

Why? You’ll often hear marketing experts say that “Content is king.” A design should be built around the content, not vice versa. Presenting content to its best advantage will always look better and get better results than trying to squeeze all the content into an existing design. Plus, going back and trying to re-arrange the design to fit the copy can be time-consuming for a designer and increases the turn-around time for you or your company. Next time? Get the copy as close to its final version as you can before asking your designer to get started — it’s better for everyone.

Don’t say: “Can I get you to do something really quick?”

Why? Are you sure it will be quick? Do you know what’s involved? Your designer is more than likely happy to accommodate an extra task or an adjustment here and there, but will definitely appreciate your consideration in asking how much time it will take (rather than if you just assume it’s a quick fix). Designers are good at giving estimates and will let you know how much time they need if you ask.

Don’t say: “Can you put it in a format that we can edit?”

Why? If you request an editable source file, you’ll likely need specialized design software and risk changing your carefully crafted project for the worse if you don’t have any design knowledge yourself. If you want a professional-quality design but will need to make edits regularly, you might consider a DIY option like Canva, where you can have access to templates created by designers that you can customize or tweak at anytime without compromising design quality.

Don’t say: “Can I make just one more change? I promise it’s the last one.”

Why? You know and your designer knows that there will probably be other changes after this one. After all, you’ve asked for multiple tweaks already. So let’s just be upfront about it and nicely, apologetically say something like: “I’m so sorry to keep taking up your time like this, but I found another change I’d like to make. Can you change this [word / font / graphic / color]? Feel free to add the extra time for these edits to your invoice.” Graphic designers are short on time just like you are, and although they do want to help you make sure the design fits your needs, they also appreciate the acknowledgement that their time is valuable. So next time, try compiling a list of all the changes you’d like to make and hand them over to the designer to do all at once, which is more efficient for everyone.

Don’t say: “Can you have this done by tomorrow?”

Why? Graphic design isn’t an instant process that is done with a few clicks of a mouse. Every project will have its own process and time requirements. Realistically, some designs can be whipped out in a day, while others will take much, much longer. It completely depends on the project (and the designer’s creative process). If you’ve found a designer you’d like to hire, let him or her know about your time constraints and ask for a realistic estimate on how long the design will take.

Don’t say: “Once you’re done with the design, I can have unlimited revisions, right?”

Why? Many designers put a limit or a fee structure on revisions because a project can theoretically never end — there’s always something new to try or another small adjustment to make. You can expect to go through a few rounds of revisions with your design; that’s normal, and most designers are happy to work with you to get your project as close to “perfect” as possible…within reason. Remember, even small changes take time to make, and the more changes you request, the longer the project’s turnaround time.

Don’t say: “You’re the expert here. Can’t you just do your creative magic?”

Why? Well… yes and no. Designers are (or should be) experts at creating beautiful, functional designs from the guidance and parameters you provide. But, as we’ve mentioned in previous points, having something to go on in the first place makes the process much smoother: a detailed creative brief is ideal, but even something as simple as providing some examples of designs you do and don’t like can be very helpful. Jeff Sholl at Propoint Graphics puts it this way:

“‘You’re the expert here’ basically says: we [the clients] defer to your judgment to read our minds and give us something we didn’t even know we wanted. That is a lot of pressure to lay on a graphic designer….The bigger issue is the amount of freedom it gives the designer. This phrase gives us unlimited freedom to try to tell the story that you know best. We can deliver Picasso, but if you were looking for Rembrandt there’s gonna be an issue.”

Designers can put all their creative energies into creating an interesting, effective design, but only you know what you want, so it’s ultimately up to you to communicate that.

Don’t say: “How about we just go back to your original concept?”

Why? Designers are designers because they have the artistic and technical ability to do their job well. Sometimes instead of asking for multiple iterations of a design concept, it’s best to trust your designer. After you explain what you need, let the designer come up with the best design she can. Then, take a good, hard look at the design — maybe take a couple days to mull it over, or run it by a trusted third-party who has some knowledge of design or your industry — and make sure any changes you request are necessary and explainable. Don’t waste your designer’s time with endless experimentation when the initial design is exactly what you asked for.

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