How to properly brief a graphic designer

It often seems as if graphic designers are against the entire world. Like they're making our projects look terrible on purpose. And why would they charge so much for something they can make in a matter of hours? It's just clicking around and making photos look pretty.

Well, if you want to have a successful cooperation with a graphic designer, there are a few things you need to know. Especially if don't have that much design knowledge or if you (like me) are not a very visual person.

So, first things first. This short guide is applicable only if you're hiring an experienced professional designer. They need to know their stuff. You need to look into their portfolio to see that. But, there's a catch. When you're checking the materials they designed, it's not about whether you think they're pretty. It's about how versatile their design is, how well they adapt to different industries and specific projects. That's far more important.

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They need to be able to truly understand the nature of your work and how to present it in the best way possible. Picking the right graphic designer is a broad topic that deserves its own blog post, so we'll just stick with this basic principle for now.

Another important thing is the understanding. We all know that it takes time to start being in sync with someone you work with. This especially goes for designers because they need to get the feel for your business if you want exceptional results. You are aware of the fact that communication is not as easy as it seems. That is obvious when you're having create a visual output based on your instructions.

Let's dive into the guidelines for a successful cooperation with a graphic designer.

Accept that you're hiring an expert

When you're hiring a professional, you need to be able to sit back and let them do their job. Seriously.

The biggest struggle designers are facing is that a lot of people think their job is very easy so they find it's acceptable to give their opinion every step of the way. Please, don't be one of those people.

You're hiring a person who has devoted at least 4 years of their life to education in that area. And after that they've been doing the same thing for a living. They know what they're doing.

Of course, you need to give them proper instructions in the beginning about what you expect out of the project.

Prepare your expectations

I probably don't need to tell you good service is never cheap. Cheap service is never good. Fast service in the graphic design world is also not cheap.

If you need a solution very fast, keep in mind that design is a creative process that takes time. Also, if you're hiring a freelancer, you're most likely not their only client.

Before you start even looking for a designer, you need to know what your project is exactly. If you're making a poster, are they expected to prepare it for print as well. If it's social media posts, what are the dimensions.

Have the copy ready before you start the cooperation. They can't work without it. No, just adding it later is not an option.

What is your deadline for the project? If you're a part of a team, who needs to be satisfied with the final solution? Make sure that your decision making process isn't messing up the designer's schedule.

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Normally, designers will provide you with at least 3 sketches before they create the final solution. What is the deadline for the sketches and when should the final one be done?

Make sure to always agree upon how many revisions are included in the price. This is a very common source of misunderstanding between designers and their clients.

It's always good to ask the designer to provide you with the original files as well since they can be used further and customized.

Another important thing you need to tell them is how much freedom they have. Are they expected to do something based on very strict guidelines or they have creative freedom.

Prepare the materials

Any designer will need your brand materials - logos, colors, fonts, any guides you might have. If there is other visual material that was made for you earlier, show it to them. Let them know what's good about it and what you'd like changed. It's a great reference for their work.

If you're just starting out and you don't have any of those, the best thing you can do is find examples you like. The more the better. Be very clear - what do you like about each of them, and what you'd rather not have on your design?

How to communicate clearly?

Clear communication starts with you stating your expectations.

In order to do a good job, the designer needs to know enough about your business. What is the message you want to send with the project you're assigning them to do? What is the feeling you want to leave the viewers with? Those are the most important questions you need to answer for them.

When they have sketches ready, there are good and not so good ways to give them feedback. "My wife doesn't really like it" is not a good feedback.

You need to state exactly what's not in accordance with your vision. Is it the colors used? The shapes? Or maybe the composition. Without a clear feedback, they won't be able to change the design according to your needs.

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Listen

After you've given your feedback, what the designer tells you are not excuses. They are explanations of a seasoned professional. Ask them what they think and where they think you should go from there.

You're paying them for their expertise.

This is a two-way lane and should be treated as such.

Here's the recap:

  • Hire a professional
  • Provide them with your "Why?"
  • Give them the materials to work with
  • State clear expectations regarding deadlines and revisions
  • Provide clear feedback
  • Sit back, relax, and let them do their job