BY Benjamin

February 26, 2020

Many professionals struggle when it comes to communicating with their design team and other creatives, e.g. copywriters, editors, photographers, and content creators. It’s as though people think we’re a hybrid human who speaks some foreign “creative person” language.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that we understand you perfectly when you communicate with us effectively. In fact, you might find we’re not as incompetent as some have dubbed us to be. Especially when design feedback isn’t passive-aggressive. Overall, we’re eager to nail your project brief and very happy to make revisions.

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Here’s a comprehensive list of suggestions gathered from fellow graphic designers on how you can explain what you want (or don’t) in plain English.

Give your design team some love.

Instead of saying…

  • Make it pop! Give direction on what you’d like to ‘pop’ and how you might like it to stand out. Is it a colour palette change? Or to use brighter colours and pump up the font size?
  • It’s not cutting edge enough. Provide some examples of what cutting edge design looks like to you. Remember, visual design is very subjective.
  • Can you whip something up? With all due respect, even whipping cream takes time. There’s an art to stunning and impactful design. If you’d like your designs to look professional and connect with your audience, please respect the creative process. We’re here to add value, not take up your time.
  • I don’t like [insert colour]. Offer us constructive feedback on why not to use a particular colour, e.g. it’s too aggressive, too feminine or dull. This gives us direction on how best to revise.
  • I could’ve done that myself. In that case, may I ask why you engaged our services?
  • This is not what I was thinking. Please tell us what you are thinking. Responding with, ‘I don’t know? You’re the designer’ doesn’t help us understand the vision in your mind. Explain what you don’t like about what you see, and if it’s the whole design (usually it’s only a specific element), refer us to a design that aligns with what you did have in mind.
  • I want you to make it exactly like this, but don’t copy it. [Silence] Read that back to yourself and see if it makes sense.

 The briefing process

  • When starting your design project, you have the opportunity to share your creative ideas and any direction you’d like us to follow. Please don’t turn around after we show you initial concepts and say, ‘This is cool, but I was thinking something more like this’ and proceed to offer creative direction.
  • If you give us a crappy sketch of your great idea, this won’t change the concept and ideation part of our quote. It may be a great idea, but you haven’t saved us time by drawing it yourself. Sorry.

Some hard and fast design industry rules

  • Waterfall feedback is never okay. This is when we receive small bits of feedback delivered across an unnecessary amount of emails or phone calls. Take your time. We’re happy to wait until you consolidate your overall thoughts. #ThankYou
  • 50kb files are never okay to print, and no photoshop filter can change it and make it a higher resolution.
  • Exposure doesn’t put food on the table. If you’re hiring a seasoned designer, it’s likely they don’t need ‘exposure’. I mean, you’re an experienced professional, would you do your job for free?
  • Please don’t solicit professional creative opinion/advice and then tell us we’re wrong or how to design the work. We’re not just winging it in our profession, or else you wouldn’t be engaging our services. 

If you’ve made it to this part of the article, you’re a creative (and get it), or you’ve got a thick skin and are keen to make art with your designer. If that’s you, we’d love to work with you. 

Check out our 55 Knots Graphic Design Subscription, an affordable option for on-demand graphic design. 

PS. If you’re serious about developing premium graphic designs for your audience but aren’t sure how to communicate with your designer, read our article on How To Write A Strong Design Brief.


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Captain of ships and commander to a crew of designers. Benjamin Williams is a creative director with over 20 years of experience working with the world’s largest brands.