Why is Graphic Design So Subjective?
Graphic design is a subjective process and there is no set-in-stone “right-way” to go about it. It is a process of understanding, having realistic expectations, patience and excellent communication that will go a long way towards a successful outcome. Every small business needs to work with a graphic designer from time to time to create marketing materials and if it’s not managed well it can be very time consuming. From personally working extensively on both sides of the fence, here are some tips I have come up with to help make things flow smoother and give the client insight into how they can contribute to a successful outcome.
- Be Realistic When Establishing Time Frames:
Be clear on when you need things completed a certain way on the first draft, the final proof and the print-ready piece. Please understand that some things in “design-land” can be more time-consuming than you may think. For example, it only takes a second to say, “clean up the background,” but it could take the designer hours to do it depending on the image. There are a lot of specialized skills and knowledge that goes into a professionally-designed piece.
- Provide Examples:
Providing examples that you like is probably the single best way to fast track the design process. A picture really is worth a thousand words. You may not think that this is your job but it’s important to understand that the graphic design process is a collaboration and the clearer you can communicate your vision the better. The designer will still come up with original work, but examples give a great starting point. If you don’t have anything specific in mind then let the designer be free! As long as they have a clear understanding of your brand you’ll come out gloriously in the end.
- Don’t Expect Perfection on the First Draft:
There is a reason it’s called a “first draft.” It’s a starting point. This is where your input is crucial and any talented designer will appreciate your suggestions and constructive criticism.
- Avoid Generalized Feedback:
Unfortunately, there is nothing very constructive about “make it pop.” What exactly does that even mean? And what is a “wow factor?” Specific examples or descriptions are much more useful and appreciated far more than vague descriptors. It is one thing to give the designer some creative freedom, but it is quite another to expect them to read your mind.
- Consider the Components:
There are five (5) main components to graphic design … colour, fonts, images, layout and overall aesthetic. Commenting on them individually when giving feedback can be very helpful in narrowing down what you would like to see in the finished piece. Sometimes, as the client, it can be hard to know exactly what you do and don’t like about the design. But just saying “I don’t like it” isn’t going to be very constructive. If you’re truly uncertain of what it is your not liking, then start with the main ideas you have that are holding the design back and work from there.
- Don’t be a Control Freak:
Always allow space for the designer’s input and creativity. One dynamic that can happen if the client is very particular or if they lose faith, is that they start to micro manage. The designer slowly gets excluded from the creative process and at some point, they may eventually give up artistic input altogether. A good designer will know how to remedy this. But if you feel this is happening the best thing to do is take a step back, get some altitude, talk it out and then try to clarify exactly what you want to get the project back on track.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions:
You, as the client, are paying for a creative process and point of view, but you are still the boss. If the image they selected confuses you then ask them to explain it. If it confused you it may confuse your audience as well. But also keep an open mind when the designer is explaining their rationale for said choice as it might make more sense than you saw in the beginning.
- Know When to Say “When”:
Things will never be perfect. It is easy to obsess and lose perspective when you are too close to something. So take a step back, take a deep breath and try to view things from the point of your target audience.
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