Dec 15, 2022

Technology

How To Communicate Better With Your Designer, Design Team Or Agency.

How To Communicate Better With Your Designer, Design Team Or Agency.

How To Communicate Better With Your Designer, Design Team Or Agency.

How To Communicate Better With Your Designer, Design Team Or Agency.

5 mins read

Part 1: Understanding The Design Process

Most designers go through this or a similar process when creating something:


The brief: This is where a designer learns about the problem that needs to be solved, why it's important, what constraints exist around the creation of the solution (timelines, resources, technical constraints, etc.), and looks for any references you might have on how the output should look like. If you're dealing with a senior-level designer, they can help you create your brief by asking the right questions. The less experience the designer has, the more information you'll have to provide.


Research / Mood boarding / Ideation: After a designer has all the information they need, they'll get to put together some ideas. Depending on the project, they'll either be looking at existing internal resources or looking around the web to find ideas they could build upon or both. This is why it is important to provide some examples or references of what you like or be as clear as possible. If a designer has this, then they're guided in the direction they should go in. Ideally, your designer should share their references with you as well and explain what direction(s) they want to go in and why. Experienced designers will create something called mood boards. At this point in the design process, changing direction is a low-cost activity. Iterations can be quicker, and there's a lot more clarity.

Here's an example to make illustrate the point above 👇🏾

You’re creating some marketing materials and you told your designer you wanted something “FUN”. Based on the designer’s own context and style his interpretation of fun will be different from yours. Even if it seems he understands your verbal description of the word FUN, you are still likely to be misaligned on this. Especially if you’ve not been working together for a while.

At this research stage, he will bring you a mood board that will show you his interpretation of fun. This is where true alignment is achieved. You can see what he thinks fun looks like and either give him the go-ahead or steer him in a different direction. Skipping this process can lead to a lot of misalignment.

The Creation: Once the designer/design team has some ideas and direction (visual/otherwise) set, they're ready to start work on the solution. There isn't much to say here beyond that. More experienced designers will find ways to bring you along on the project, providing feedback that you can parse and respond to. If you’re dealing with a less experienced designer, be sure to let them know you want regular feedback. A weekly cadence is generally good.


Review & Iteration: At this point, the designer has some output that they believe is close to the brief. They'll show this to you or your team and get some feedback. If you both were communicating effectively throughout the process, this process shouldn't be too tedious. You agreed on a clear direction together and have been in constant communication about the development of that direction. If you or other relevant stakeholders haven’t been involved in the process at all, then there’ll be a lot of surprises here. Which tends to be the case for most projects.


Handoff: Once the design deliverables have been signed off on, a designer/design team will prepare them for handoff. This stage is simple but also very crucial. You may see something in a presentation that you like and think it can be made available right away. In some cases, that’s possible. But in others, the deliverables will have to be prepared and shared in a way that makes them easy to use.


Part 2: Your Communication Tools

For each stage of the design process, I'll discuss what inputs you need to give as the business leader/founder/manager/project owner:


The brief: Provide as much information as you can to the designer/team by answering the following questions:

  • What is the business problem you're trying to solve?

  • How does this design solution solve that problem?

  • Are there existing solutions you already like and will like to model or build upon?

  • Are there any special preferences that need to be considered? This could be directly related to the design or the business side of things.

  • Are there any other stakeholders involved in approving the deliverables? If so, how much authority do they have?

  • How much time do you have to create this solution?

  • What resources are available to be allocated to this project?

  • Is there a hard deadline?

  • Who will be using the project deliverables? Where and how will the deliverables be used?

Your goal here is to ensure that your designer/design team thoroughly understands the task at hand. DO NOT assume that they already know. Err on the side of oversharing.


Research / Mood board / Ideation: Share as many references as possible. Visual or otherwise. If there's a color you like, share it. Is there a logo you've seen somewhere that you like? Share it! Is there another app/website/brand that does a similar thing that you prefer, share it. These things can be shared in different formats. e.g., links, images, screenshots, screen recordings, etc. This is also a good place to share sketches of specific ideas that may be in your head.

For each thing that is shared, answer the following questions:

  • What do you like about it?

  • What do you think could be adopted from it?

  • How does it fit into the vision of what you want to create?

Negative references are also important. Sharing things you don't like will help your designer/design team have more clarity on what to avoid.

One other major hurdle some founders face is finding visual references to express what their vision is for the thing that they’re trying to do. So here’s a list of places you can go on the internet to find visual references for your designer/design team.

  • Dribbble - Find examples of both real and conceptual design work spanning brand, marketing & product design

  • Behance - Discover all kinds of design work from brands to photography, illustrations, product, UI, etc.

  • Lapa - real-world landing pages

  • Awwwards - all kinds of websites and landing page

  • Mobbin - Screenshots and flows from the world’s leading mobile products

  • Pinterest - You can find literally anything on Pinterest. Branding, marketing, presentations, photos, videos, etc.

There are a lot more of these platforms but knowing your way around the 6 mentioned above will give you enough ammunition to communicate your ideas visually.

Bonus points

  1. You can also find and hire designers through the first two of these channels (Dribble & Behance)

  2. Your designer or design team will think you’re the best boss/client ever if you know your way around these platforms/tools


The Creation: Your number one job here is to leave your designer/design team alone. If you've done a good job in the first two stages of the design process, then your design team/designer has all the resources they need to execute. Frequently/regularly interrupting them will break their flow and frustrate them. Resist the urge to interrupt your designer because you're unsure of their progress. Establishing a regular review cadence will help curb your impatience.

Another reason you should leave your team alone is that you may not be able to understand unfinished creative ideas. When you interrupt at a point where the deliverable is not all the way done, you will be judging work prematurely. This is one of the quickest ways to kill your team’s morale and creative flow.


Review: The entire process stacks. So if you do 1,2 and 3 right, the review should not be a problem.

Here are the things to focus on in the review stage Recap the core goal/objective(s) and ensure you're judging the work accordingly.

  • Be clear on what you don't like and what you like.

  • Be clear on what is a preference and what is a business case if you dislike something.

  • Use the desired outcome or objective as the yardstick.

  • Be kind; your designer/design team spent time and energy working on the deliverables. Acknowledge their effort even if you don't like it.

  • Be honest; you may have had a change in preference since the project started or had some new insight that has changed how you're assessing the deliverable.

  • Be realistic; if you're doing a review close to a deadline, it will not be realistic for your team/designer to rework something that took them days/weeks to do in 24hrs.

  • Provide clear next steps: I want you to change directions, tweak things a little, etc. Tell the design team how you'd like to tweak their output, and they'll advise.

Above all respect and listen to your designer/team; your designer/team has insights you may not have. They are technicians and can offer great guidance if you invite them to do so. If you disrespect them, they’re likely to throw their hands up and let you have your way. And that is a waste.


Handoff: Be clear on how you want to use the deliverables. Communicate who else will be having access to the deliverables and make sure to communicate their own requirements.


Design is a team sport. You (the founder/business owner) will provide business context, knowledge & guidance. Your designer/team will provide technical know-how and guidance in creative direction.


If you approach it like this, you'll have a much better relationship with your designers/design team and will increase your chances of producing great results together.


PS: I assumed you're a founder/business leader dealing directly with a designer/small design team. If you have a lead designer, then they will be doing this collaboratively with you. Some of the information here also applies to senior designers working with a team or freelancers working collaboratively with other freelancers.

Part 1: Understanding The Design Process

Most designers go through this or a similar process when creating something:


The brief: This is where a designer learns about the problem that needs to be solved, why it's important, what constraints exist around the creation of the solution (timelines, resources, technical constraints, etc.), and looks for any references you might have on how the output should look like. If you're dealing with a senior-level designer, they can help you create your brief by asking the right questions. The less experience the designer has, the more information you'll have to provide.


Research / Mood boarding / Ideation: After a designer has all the information they need, they'll get to put together some ideas. Depending on the project, they'll either be looking at existing internal resources or looking around the web to find ideas they could build upon or both. This is why it is important to provide some examples or references of what you like or be as clear as possible. If a designer has this, then they're guided in the direction they should go in. Ideally, your designer should share their references with you as well and explain what direction(s) they want to go in and why. Experienced designers will create something called mood boards. At this point in the design process, changing direction is a low-cost activity. Iterations can be quicker, and there's a lot more clarity.

Here's an example to make illustrate the point above 👇🏾

You’re creating some marketing materials and you told your designer you wanted something “FUN”. Based on the designer’s own context and style his interpretation of fun will be different from yours. Even if it seems he understands your verbal description of the word FUN, you are still likely to be misaligned on this. Especially if you’ve not been working together for a while.

At this research stage, he will bring you a mood board that will show you his interpretation of fun. This is where true alignment is achieved. You can see what he thinks fun looks like and either give him the go-ahead or steer him in a different direction. Skipping this process can lead to a lot of misalignment.

The Creation: Once the designer/design team has some ideas and direction (visual/otherwise) set, they're ready to start work on the solution. There isn't much to say here beyond that. More experienced designers will find ways to bring you along on the project, providing feedback that you can parse and respond to. If you’re dealing with a less experienced designer, be sure to let them know you want regular feedback. A weekly cadence is generally good.


Review & Iteration: At this point, the designer has some output that they believe is close to the brief. They'll show this to you or your team and get some feedback. If you both were communicating effectively throughout the process, this process shouldn't be too tedious. You agreed on a clear direction together and have been in constant communication about the development of that direction. If you or other relevant stakeholders haven’t been involved in the process at all, then there’ll be a lot of surprises here. Which tends to be the case for most projects.


Handoff: Once the design deliverables have been signed off on, a designer/design team will prepare them for handoff. This stage is simple but also very crucial. You may see something in a presentation that you like and think it can be made available right away. In some cases, that’s possible. But in others, the deliverables will have to be prepared and shared in a way that makes them easy to use.


Part 2: Your Communication Tools

For each stage of the design process, I'll discuss what inputs you need to give as the business leader/founder/manager/project owner:


The brief: Provide as much information as you can to the designer/team by answering the following questions:

  • What is the business problem you're trying to solve?

  • How does this design solution solve that problem?

  • Are there existing solutions you already like and will like to model or build upon?

  • Are there any special preferences that need to be considered? This could be directly related to the design or the business side of things.

  • Are there any other stakeholders involved in approving the deliverables? If so, how much authority do they have?

  • How much time do you have to create this solution?

  • What resources are available to be allocated to this project?

  • Is there a hard deadline?

  • Who will be using the project deliverables? Where and how will the deliverables be used?

Your goal here is to ensure that your designer/design team thoroughly understands the task at hand. DO NOT assume that they already know. Err on the side of oversharing.


Research / Mood board / Ideation: Share as many references as possible. Visual or otherwise. If there's a color you like, share it. Is there a logo you've seen somewhere that you like? Share it! Is there another app/website/brand that does a similar thing that you prefer, share it. These things can be shared in different formats. e.g., links, images, screenshots, screen recordings, etc. This is also a good place to share sketches of specific ideas that may be in your head.

For each thing that is shared, answer the following questions:

  • What do you like about it?

  • What do you think could be adopted from it?

  • How does it fit into the vision of what you want to create?

Negative references are also important. Sharing things you don't like will help your designer/design team have more clarity on what to avoid.

One other major hurdle some founders face is finding visual references to express what their vision is for the thing that they’re trying to do. So here’s a list of places you can go on the internet to find visual references for your designer/design team.

  • Dribbble - Find examples of both real and conceptual design work spanning brand, marketing & product design

  • Behance - Discover all kinds of design work from brands to photography, illustrations, product, UI, etc.

  • Lapa - real-world landing pages

  • Awwwards - all kinds of websites and landing page

  • Mobbin - Screenshots and flows from the world’s leading mobile products

  • Pinterest - You can find literally anything on Pinterest. Branding, marketing, presentations, photos, videos, etc.

There are a lot more of these platforms but knowing your way around the 6 mentioned above will give you enough ammunition to communicate your ideas visually.

Bonus points

  1. You can also find and hire designers through the first two of these channels (Dribble & Behance)

  2. Your designer or design team will think you’re the best boss/client ever if you know your way around these platforms/tools


The Creation: Your number one job here is to leave your designer/design team alone. If you've done a good job in the first two stages of the design process, then your design team/designer has all the resources they need to execute. Frequently/regularly interrupting them will break their flow and frustrate them. Resist the urge to interrupt your designer because you're unsure of their progress. Establishing a regular review cadence will help curb your impatience.

Another reason you should leave your team alone is that you may not be able to understand unfinished creative ideas. When you interrupt at a point where the deliverable is not all the way done, you will be judging work prematurely. This is one of the quickest ways to kill your team’s morale and creative flow.


Review: The entire process stacks. So if you do 1,2 and 3 right, the review should not be a problem.

Here are the things to focus on in the review stage Recap the core goal/objective(s) and ensure you're judging the work accordingly.

  • Be clear on what you don't like and what you like.

  • Be clear on what is a preference and what is a business case if you dislike something.

  • Use the desired outcome or objective as the yardstick.

  • Be kind; your designer/design team spent time and energy working on the deliverables. Acknowledge their effort even if you don't like it.

  • Be honest; you may have had a change in preference since the project started or had some new insight that has changed how you're assessing the deliverable.

  • Be realistic; if you're doing a review close to a deadline, it will not be realistic for your team/designer to rework something that took them days/weeks to do in 24hrs.

  • Provide clear next steps: I want you to change directions, tweak things a little, etc. Tell the design team how you'd like to tweak their output, and they'll advise.

Above all respect and listen to your designer/team; your designer/team has insights you may not have. They are technicians and can offer great guidance if you invite them to do so. If you disrespect them, they’re likely to throw their hands up and let you have your way. And that is a waste.


Handoff: Be clear on how you want to use the deliverables. Communicate who else will be having access to the deliverables and make sure to communicate their own requirements.


Design is a team sport. You (the founder/business owner) will provide business context, knowledge & guidance. Your designer/team will provide technical know-how and guidance in creative direction.


If you approach it like this, you'll have a much better relationship with your designers/design team and will increase your chances of producing great results together.


PS: I assumed you're a founder/business leader dealing directly with a designer/small design team. If you have a lead designer, then they will be doing this collaboratively with you. Some of the information here also applies to senior designers working with a team or freelancers working collaboratively with other freelancers.

Let’s work together

Let’s work together

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Leverage the speed of

specialised design teams without all the grunt work.

Keep Exploring...

Copyright 2023

Keep Exploring...

Copyright 2023

Keep Exploring...

Copyright 2023

Strategy

Creative

Media

Labs

Technology

Socials

Email

info@gmail.com

Let's talk

Socials

Email

info@gmail.com

Strategy

Creative

Media

Labs

Technology

Socials

Email

info@gmail.com