How To Work With Designers With Authentic Advice From CoSchedule’s Designer
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Writers, editors, managers, and developers. That’s all you need for a great content marketing team right?
Let’s not forget about that one other role….you know, the role that no one really knows how to handle? The one mystical role that speaks their own language and talks too much about color. Yeah, that one, the designers.
While they might dress out of the norm, or talk about things you might care less about, it’s still important to learn how to work with designers since they can be a very valuable member of the team.
As a designer, myself, I love working with non-designers because I can bring my perspective to the problem at hand. But, in order to do that, there are a few things that need to happen.
Here is my best advice on how to work with designers to communicate better than ever, collaborate more efficiently, and publish awesome content.
By the way, designers! That poster might be a fun one to hang at your editor's desk! ;)
1. Communicate Early On
The earlier, the better. Your designer wants to know exactly which problem you’re trying to solve so they can lend their expertise to solving it. But without communication right away, they may end up solving a totally different problem, or not solving anything you'd really like them to work on at all.
The best thing to do is to set up an initial discussion to cover these three points:
- What's the problem? Focus on what the problem is rather than how you want the solution to look. Like any project, there are probably ten different solutions, but it's a matter of picking the one perfect for you. Designers are trained to think through each possibility and find the one that fits your need. Then, and only then, can you start discussing the physical appearance.
- What are your goals and expectations? Instead of talking about how you’d like the solution to look, talk about your goals and expectations instead. What would you like the solution to do for your customers? Maybe you’re trying to increase a certain metric. At CoSchedule, we have three specific goals (growing traffic, email subscribers, and our users), and so we focus each and every design on accomplishing them.
- What are the guidelines? While designers may dream all the way to the moon with possibilities, it's key to know what our guidelines and criteria are for the project. Is there a budget? What about a deadline? Who’s the project lead? Go over all of the details associated with the project itself so your designer delivers the chosen solution at the price and time you’d like. Remember, though, that while guidelines are completely necessary when it comes to the logistics, it's important to leave creative areas open for your designer to explore. Help your designer challenge the status quo and create something better than you’ve ever seen before.
At CoSchedule, we communicate writer to designer by using the comments section in each and every piece of content we publish—blog posts, ebooks, webinars, Twitter chats—which is a project management tool built right into CoSchedule.
This creates a space for the conversation to not only begin, but for it to stay as a reference point as we continue working on the blog. We also manage guidelines and expectations by using tasks and a workflow right in CoSchedule so we always meet our deadlines.
All in all, communication is super important in every team project, and this couldn’t be more true for working with a designer. We want to listen and take your ideas and turn them into a physical result that both accomplishes your goals and looks incredible.
2. Tell Us Your Ideas
Just because you may not be a designer, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have ideas… so share them with us! One of the biggest misconceptions out there, especially between writers and designers, is the idea that designers hate getting examples of other projects that may inspire the one at hand.
While designers surely do hate being asked to copy others' work, or hate getting constrained to "make it just like that", designers can highly benefit from seeing visual examples of what you’re looking for. As creative professionals who live in a world of visual communication, visuals are probably the best thing you can show your designer to illustrate your ideas.
After you’ve discussed the problem at hand, use the communication designers know best by showing images of what you like and don’t like. This will help your designer to understand your initial preferences and style right away.
One way our writers do this at CoSchedule is by using Evernote Web Clipper. Any time they see an article, image, or moment of inspiration, they can use the Clipper and it automatically gets stored in our team Evernote folder which we can access through CoSchedule.
From there, I have full access to not only what they’re seeing, but also the notes or comments they have along with it. When working with designers, feel free to tell us your ideas.
We want the design process to incorporate everyone’s ideas as that’s where creativity comes to life.
3. Understand What We Value
Both these roles are incredibly valuable, but it's important to note that designers have their own area of interest.
Designers value the experience your user goes through when they see your product. Sure, the text they read or the amount of traffic the site gets is important, but overall, we value and care primarily about the user's experience.
Designers care about how the user feels and what they think. What will they remember about the experience?
This means that while you may be data-driven, we’d rather the project be data-influenced. The numbers matter, but creative strategies can’t always be tracked. Understand what designers value, and you’ll better understand the way in which we think about the solution.
A simple way to find out how the user is feeling, is by creating a survey. We’ve used Polldaddy to host multiple surveys and it's a way to get data around how our users experience and feel when using CoSchedule. I personally love statistics and numbers, so you may find that your designer does too, and can start the conversation there.
4. Care About The Details
So now that you’ve had the initial conversation about what the problem is, you’ve presented your ideas, and know a little more about what your designer values, it’s time to talk design.
What I love most about design, is how it can directly impact the user’s experience in a way that influences the user to act.
What the end goal is up to you, but every designer has a few different visual tools they use in order to accomplish this: Color, typography, hierarchy, imagery, etc. This is our bread and butter!
We live and breathe color schemes, the differences between Helvetica and Ariel, and just how to order items on a page. These terms will definitely come up in conversation, so if you’d like a better understanding of a designer’s toolset, check this out.
Although which colors are used and what typefaces are selected may seem like the part that makes the solution ‘pretty’, there’s actually a lot of psychology and decision making behind the scenes that can either make or break the overall design.
Help your designer out by allowing them room to care about these things. Let them explore different styles so that they can deliver the best for your project.
5. Trust Us
If I’m being completely honest, there’s nothing worse than working with a client who doesn’t trust my design decisions.
First, in order to avoid this from happening, make sure the relationship is a good fit from the beginning, and then once it is, please trust your designer. Let your designer take risks, give them space to do their thing, and encourage their creative freedom.
Designers are trained for and are passionate about what they do, so let them do it! If you’ve communicated what needs to be solved, then it's time for the designer to do their magic.
Designers all have their difference preferences about how they work best, whether at a coffee shop, home, or in the office, but wherever it may be, give them space to think about the problem and discover all the ideas and possibilities.
When it comes time for feedback, your designer will reopen the conversation, but for now, trust them to do what they do best.
6. Feedback Is Welcome
The most valuable and scary part of going to art school is the critiques. They often take place one or two times during the design process, and then again at the end.
The critique process is forever engrained in any designer’s memory, and thus when it comes to your project, they not only want feedback, but expect it. Here are four points to help guide your feedback for your designer:
- It’s a process. A design solution isn’t like a vending machine where you put in a quarter and the snack immediately falls into your hands. Design is a step-by-step process that takes time, thought, and skill. Understand that your designer may be needing feedback at stage one long before anything is finalized. At this stage, the design is far from perfect and might still need direction.
- Be honest, but nice. There’s really no value in feedback unless it's coming from an honest mind. However, please remember to be nice. Even if the design is completely opposite of what you expected, there’s a proper way to go about discussing why your designer made their decision, and how to go about fixing it.
- Listen. Let your designer explain their thought process before you jump in. What may seem completely awful at first glance might actually make sense after you hear the designer’s reasoning for that particular design decision. Listening to the designer shows them respect and gives time for stylistic preferences to be shed while design thinking comes to light.
- Tell us why. In the review process, tell us why you don’t like it or why it looks weird. Don’t just express personal preference. Design elements such as color, typefaces, and imagery often have preconceived experiences for each person, and so not only is it important to remember that we aren’t designing for yourself, but rather the user, it's also key to know why that preference exists. It may not apply to the design at hand.
Feedback is incredibly important to the designer and a perfect checkpoint of communication between both parties while the design is still in process. This is a great time to review the problem, ideas, and goals that were initially stated, in order to see how the proposed design fits those criteria.
7. Give Credit
A thank you here and there never hurt anyone, and the same is applicable to working with your designer.
Designers are often the mystical, misunderstood role on the team, so affirming their role not only encourages them, but increases their own confidence in their design process. When confidence is there, the possibilities are endless, making the solution even better.
Encourage them, say thank you, and it’ll go a long way.
So, Are You Ready To Work With A Designer?
Working with designers ultimately comes down to being on the same page. While you may speak a different language and care about different things, there are ways to communicate throughout the design process that will help you both give your best to the final outcome.
Encourage your designer, let them to do their thing, create a space for feedback, and then give them credit once it’s all said and done.
Designers love working with non-designers! Let’s make something great together.
Bonus: What NOT To Say To A Designer...
This one is just for fun! But it's also a super helpful tool to help you communicate clearly and avoid misunderstandings:
- Can you make this pretty for me? Design is about function, not just appearance.
- Can you make this for my presentation later today? Effective design takes time, don’t force us to design poorly.
- Can you make it look like this? Designers have no interest in copying something. Plus, it's illegal.
- Can you photoshop it? Designer’s aren’t just another creative tool, we’re actually interested in solving the problem at hand.
- Can you make it pop? Making it pop means nothing to us. Explain WHY you don’t like it please.
- I’ll know it when I see it. Designers need a specific problem to solve. We aren’t mind readers.
How do you work with your designers? Do you have one in-house or do you work mainly with freelancers, and how is that going?
September 30, 2015