Associate Director of Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K
April 16th, 2015
After I graduated college, I went on a Eurotrip.
As expected there were moments of culture clash, especially with the various language barriers. What I didn’t expect was to struggle with the language barrier in -- of all places -- England.
Long story short, I asked a man in a restaurant where I could find a trash can. He stared at me like I had three heads for about two whole minutes and then I realized I should’ve said “litter.” (How could I be so silly?)
Words are a funny thing. Even within the same language, they can have different connotations or meanings depending on where you are, who you are, or in the business world, what industry you are in.
If you aren’t familiar with design or development, effectively communicating with your creative team may sometimes feel like a huge culture clash, but it doesn’t have to be.
To get you started off in the right direction, here are few key things you should strike from your design lexicon right now.
1. “Make it Pop!”
Nothing grinds a designer’s gears more than being asked to make something “pop” -- or “sing”, or be “sexy”, or “edgy”.
While these may seem like descriptive and tangible ways to express what you’d like to see from a design, they are actually extremely vague and subjective.
(For example, to me, “Pop” is an awesome hit song by the greatest boy band of all time, NSYNC, but I’m guessing that’s not what most people mean, right?)
By asking a designer to make something “sexy” or “edgy”, you are creating a grey area between the look you want and what actually needs to be done to achieve it
What Can You Do? Speak to your designer in terms that are definitive and action-oriented. Instead of saying “pop”, refer to a specific aspect of the design such as:
Use of Space
By offering these details and getting more granular with your constructive criticism, the designer will not only better understand what should be done, but you will also be more likely to achieve it in a shorter amount of time.
2. “It shouldn’t take too long…”
Would you tell a doctor how long heart surgery should take? Or an engineer how long it should take them to put together an airplane engine?
Every craft has its processes and timelines, including design.
Assuming that a change to a designer’s work won’t or “shouldn’t” take very long, is not only insensitive of these intricacies, but it can come off as belittling the designer’s time or even effort.
What Can You Do? Instead of telling your designer how long something should take, let them know early on when you need the finished product by, or even ask them how long it usually takes them to complete a project like that at hand.
Like asking for a design to “pop”, saying that something is “missing” is vague and unconstructive. A designer needs to know specifically what is lacking in the design before they can make the necessary changes.
What Can You Do? Sit down with the first draft of your design and ask yourself specifically what you believe is missing.
More importantly, ask yourself why it’s needed. Does the design not convey the emotion you had in mind without it? Is the design not achieving your goal?
Even if you cannot say distinctly what aspect of the design needs alternation, being able to answer these questions will help you better articulate to your designer what your goals are and from there, they can offer their insight.
4. “I pulled in [Insert Name] for feedback…”
An outside perspective can be a good thing, especially when you’re feeling “stuck” or uninspired, but like in any collaborative process, there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen in design.
If not fully informed on a project or the process in place, bringing in someone for outside feedback can be a long and frustrating experience.
With more people come more chances of losing sight of the original strategic goals of the project in favor of personal opinions, and the more opinions in consideration, the longer it usually takes to come to a final decision.
What Can You Do? If a project requires the insight or approval of a specific person, make sure that he or she is involved in the process from the get-go (or at least regularly updated on the progress being made.)
Nothing is worse than finishing up a project then having it shot down by the decision maker because it is not what they wanted.
5. “Send me the file; I can make the change myself”
You hired a designer for a reason. They are the expert in visual communication. They have the experience and technical skill, and they will work tirelessly to put forth the best work for your brand to achieve your goal.
Saying you’ll make changes to their design on your own, creates the impression that you do not trust them or do not think that they are capable of executing your vision.
Though your intentions may be good or for the sake of time, it is not uncommon for a designer to take this type of comment as a personal remark on their skill.
What Can You Do? Trust your designer and be specific. If you are direct and clear when articulating your vision, your designer will have no trouble creating what you have in mind.
To make this easier, learn their lingo. If you can express what you’d like to see using even basic design language, the process will be that much smoother.
6. “Can you make it look like… [Insert Another Brand/Company]”
Every designer has his or her own style and more importantly, so does every brand.
Asking your designer to recreate the look of another designer or brand can lead to inconsistency and may even confuse your audience about what to expect from your company.
(Think of how thrown you would be if Apple suddenly released a GoDaddy style commercial… Yikes.)
Being inspired by or paying homage to an iconic or known style can be powerful (the internet meme has already taught us this), but it should never be done at the expense of your own brand identity.
What Can You Do? At the beginning of your relationship, make sure that your designer is familiar with your brand, voice, and established style guide.
With this knowledge in hand, a professional will be more equipped to take inspiration from other sources and adapt them in a way that still works with your company’s brand.
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