20 Things We Should Never Say to a Graphic Designer

Graphic designers can be hard to communicate with. That’s the reason we communicate with them on our customer’s behalf.

Having worked with designers for about 25 years, it helps that we know the right kind of questions that will move the project along and create a final product that everyone will be happy with. They expend time and energy to come up with ideas, concept and designs to achieve their goals. Sometimes our customers will ask us to ask our designers questions that bring the project to a crashing halt, with incorrect assumptions about the design process.

“We haven’t finished writing the copy, but can you design a draft?”

You’ll often hear marketing experts say that “Content is king.” A design should be built around the content, not vice versa. Presenting content to its best advantage will always look better and get better results than trying to squeeze all the content into an existing design. Plus, going back and trying to re-arrange the design to fit the copy can be time-consuming for a designer and increases the turn-around time for you or your company. Get the copy as close to its final version as you can before asking to get the designer to get started — it’s better for everyone.

“Can I get you to do something really quick?”

Are you sure it will be quick? Do you know what’s involved? The designer is more than likely happy to accommodate an extra task or an adjustment here and there, but will definitely appreciate my asking how much time it will take (rather than if you just assume it’s a quick fix). Designers are good at giving estimates and will let

you know how much time they need if you ask.

“Can you put it in a format that we can edit?”

We’ve been asked if we can furnish an editable source file. To edit a print file would take specialized graphic design software to open the file. Then, if you can even open the file, you run the risk that making edits to your carefully crafted project will compromise the design if you don’t have any design knowledge yourself. If we need to fix the file, that will incur extra fees. A better option when you want a professional-quality design but will need to make edits regularly, consider a DIY online option, where you can have access to templates created by designers that you can customize or tweak at any time without compromising design quality (they say that, but not sure that’s really true). The files must be saved and/or output in the proper format for printing, and without that knowledge how to do that, you might not like the printed results.

“Can you do lots of different versions? I think I’ll know what I want when I see it.”

We get asked this quite often and our response to the customer is usually not well received. It tends to be something like, “sure, if you are willing to pay for it.” A great analogy goes something like this: Let’s say you’re buying an expensive, tailor-made suit or a fancy, custom dress. Would you say to the seamstress, “Can you make me six versions of the outfit? When I see them, I’ll choose the one I like best and pay for just that one.”  Of course not. Just because graphic design is a digital rather than physical/tangible product doesn’t mean that the designer puts any less time and care into the work. I’ve seen it written, “The design process will go more smoothly for all parties involved if we first spend some time developing a detailed creative brief. The brief helps the designer understand exactly what you’re looking for and are trying to achieve with the design — including information like your intended audience, preferred tone or aesthetic, budget, etc.”

After 25 years in business, we live in the real world. We suggest to customers and prospects that they get online and look around at logos, business cards, brochures, postcards…whatever products we are working on. Whether they see something they like or hate, we suggest they copy/cut/paste into a Word document, noting what they like, love, hate and why.

Don’t ask: “Can you Photoshop a photo…?”

Yes, Photoshop and other advanced design software can do some amazing things. But it can’t do everything; sometimes we receive requests that really are technically impossible for a designer to do. And just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Some of the more extreme or outlandish effects and treatments that are possible are not necessarily the best choice from a design perspective — plus, we’ve all seen Photoshop choices backfire, such as a model with an oddly angled arm or leg or impossibly thin proportions. Instead, we can ask designer to give some feedback and constructive criticism; she/he will usually have a pretty good idea of what will or won’t work for your design.

This is the first installment of a 4 part series. Check back often for more…