5 Tips for Breaking Down the Barrier Between You and Your Designer
One of my favorite things to do is go to the movies.
Watching a movie at home just doesn’t compare to the experience you get in the theatre. Maybe it’s the ambiance a theatre creates or the nostalgia you get every time you see that Eugene Levy Anti-Smoking PSA come on, but needless to say, I’m a regular.
I recently went to go see the new Avengers movie (great movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.) Seeing the movie made me think how the relationship between Iron Man and Captain America is pretty similar to the relationship between a marketer and a designer.
Both characters have incredible powers and strengths, but have very different personalities and ways of operating. Even though they’re on the same team they occasionally clash and may not always fully understand each other, however, they know they need each other in order to be successful.
As a marketer, think of your relationship with your designer in these terms. You both have a unique set a skills you bring to the table and even though you both play for the same team, at times, it can feel that there’s an invisible barrier separating you; that you’re both speaking a different language.
Here are a few simple tips that anyone can use to start dismantling that barrier and getting yourself aligned with your designer.
1. Show a mutual respect for each other’s job.
Respect is one of the most important things you can give in the workplace. Get your relationship off on the right foot and strive to show mutual respect to your counterparts.
Work on mastering the art of giving and receiving constructive criticism. Instead of approaching a designer and saying “I have some changes to make to your design” work with them and open a dialogue about your suggestions.
Your designer is qualified, experienced, and equipped with the unique knowledge and skills needed to get the job done. Let them be the expert and work with you on your suggestions for the design rather than ordering them to make a change.
2. Be detailed with your feedback.
Everybody has certain pet peeves about things in the workplace. For many designers it’s those vague and misleading phrases we hear all too often. The painful “I like it, but something's missing” or the dreaded “It needs more ‘pop’”.
As someone who's been on the receiving end of these statements, I can safely say they’re some of the most frustrating things to hear and offer no direction to go in terms of a revision.
When it comes to giving feedback try to be specific and give the designer a clear idea to work off of. Is the content hard to read? Does the page feel too busy? Are we using the right imagery? These statements help the designer dissect the design and head towards a better solution.
3. Document a road map for your creative workflow. (Create a process.)
Imagine if R2-D2 had never gotten the Death Star plans to Luke Skywalker. Luke would have never been able to navigate his way around and destroy the Death Star.
The same idea goes for you and your team. How is your team supposed to take an idea from fruition, navigate it through the windy trenches of production, and safely deliver a kickass idea to the client without a road map?
Your entire team needs a documented process of how a project should be handled from start to finish.
In this process, show the order in which items should be completed, designate team member responsibilities, and create timelines for different milestones. This leaves less room for confusion and reduces the risk of something falling between the cracks.
Having a process to follow also helps relieve stress and any tension between teams and keep the project sailing along at a smooth pace.
4. Ask Questions
Designers are a proud breed that love to share their knowledge with others, so take an interest in their craft.
Get involved with your designer and ask them questions about their work or how they came to a certain solution. Showing you care about their work goes back to showing them you respect them and their practice.
Asking questions will also help educate you on design terminology which makes it easier for you when it comes to providing feedback.
If there’s one thing to take away from these tips, it’s that they all revolve around the importance of communication.
Breaking through the communication barrier all starts with HOW you engage with one and other.
For example, a statement like “We need a few changes to this design, it shouldn’t take too long” might sound innocent, but can be interpreted as belittling and downplaying the difficulty of someone's craft. Instead, try asking your designer how long a task might take and work with them on coming up with a fair deadline.
Have regular talks with your designer, check in with them about a current project, see if they have any concerns or any ideas that could help.
Leave the lines of communication open and make them feel that their opinions matter and that you’re working together as a team. Be the Iron Man to their Captain America.
About Joe Rinaldi
Joe has been overseeing and implementing creative strategies for hundreds of brands in a variety of industries for over six years. He has spent the majority of his career working with and mentoring teams of developers and designers, where's he's gained a deep understanding of campaign development, rebranding initiatives, project management, and creative direction. As Creative Lead at IMPACT, Joe is heavily involved in the creative process of client campaigns including ideation, presentation, and execution. His team implements innovative brand experiences and solutions through industry leading design and development. When he unplugs, Joe spends a lot of his time outdoors mountain biking, running, and tending to his Jeep Wrangler.