I was talking to a potential client today who is tearing her hair out because she’s had a new website designed which she knows isn’t quite hitting the mark, but she can’t quite put her finger on why.
After a brief conversation we identified the issues: insipid stock photography; clunky use of fonts; and a less than inspiring layout.
“To be fair to the designer,” she said, “I wasn’t really quite sure what I was looking for, so I probably haven’t given him a very good brief.”
“That’s not your job!” I wanted to scream.
This poor lady was beating herself up because she’d failed to choose the right stock photos and failed to tell her designer exactly what she wanted. As a result, the design work was less than impressive.
Your job as a client is to give your designer the answers to the questions they ask you. I sincerely believe it’s not your job to tell them what you want and where, just get them to “construct” your vision. If you do that, you’ll get back, at best, what you wanted. You probably won’t get what your business needs.
So what do you really need?
When I meet with a client on any project we don’t discuss colours, fonts or layouts. I ask the client about their objectives, business and clients. We talk about goals for this piece of marketing literature and we get to grips with the messages they want to communicate. We might also talk about brand identity (if they have one) and about the impression they want to create.
At no point do I expect the client to tell me how they want the piece of design to look. And I actively discourage any client from creating a mockup.
What’s the point? You work with a creative, insightful and intuitive designer to add value to your business. You shouldn’t be expected to provide a steer on the design – that’s what you’re paying us for. Sure you need to give a decent brief – but it’s down to the designer (or account manager in my company) to ask insightful questions and draw the right information out of you.
You know what results your business needs. And if you can relay that information to a graphic designer you trust, they will be able to provide you with the collateral you need to achieve that result.
Now I appreciate that this level of design doesn’t come cheap. But it’s worth investing in for peace of mind, the value it’ll add to your business and the fact that you can get on with doing what you do best and leave the design work to the experts.
So next time you brief a designer, listen carefully to the questions they ask you. Do they reassure you that they really understand your needs and really care about the result you’re looking for or are they just trying to please you by giving you what you want?
Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing