How to work with your graphic designer.

/ August 26, 2020/ Uncategorized/ 0 comments

How to work with your graphic designer. Or how I learned to stop worrying and let the creative weirdo do it.

This was part of my speaking notes for my presentation on The Brandprint Summit held in August 2020. This blog is connected to this presentation here.

So you installed Canva and are scrolling through tons and tons of templates, reds and blues, pretty stock imagery flying past, you find one and proceed to pull it apart, changing the greens to blues and changing the type from Montserrat to all caps Freestyle. It’s because I like the “handwriting style of that font” you convince yourself and publish it to your business page. You sell loans. No one calls, no one messages you, but tons of people like the post. You try again, changing the visual from a forested scene to a meme with the garishiest red you can find. You get tons more likes, but no one calls, no one messages. You get no sales. In fact Facebook bans you for spam. You cry. “But everyone likes my artwork! The visuals look nice! Why is this not working!?”

A Graphic Designer is here to save you.

You need a Graphic Designer. You’ve denied yourself for too long, you need someone who knows at least what color theory is. You also need to get someone with experience and not someone who did a free two hour Udemy course in graphics. You need some skill. For in reality, would you trust a Doctor who’s only training came from reading Grey’s Anatomy at night in 2 hours? Of course not, and a graphic Designer is the same. A professional who knows his business and will know your business.

I get it, you’re afraid of wasting money. These “creatives” you say, they will never understand “my business” I can’t talk to them! They are all crazy and they never understand what I want, they always push back. Also there are so many of them! I could also just go on fiverr and find a good one! What’s the whole point of this? I just want someone to do exactly what I want.

If that’s your answer stop reading now and get yourself a robot. Those don’t exist though, so you’re stuck. So let’s see how we can solve the problem and make it easier for you to get what you want and solve the problem. Together!

Love your Graphic Designer

Firstly, hiring a graphic Designer is getting into a long term relationship. No not THAT kind of relationship. A business relationship where each person respects each other’s contribution and listens to each other’s suggestions. In any relationship the most important thing is Communication and I don’t mean Email and Whatsapp only. You gotta call each other, talk to each other. Meet up once in a while and discuss things.

But before we get into all of that, we need to establish the reason for this relationship: “Money” Money for you, money for him, money for all. The Designer is here to help you make money. You make money he will make money. The famous Ad man George Lois once said in an interview:

“I’ve always had this reputation that I’ve been rough with clients. I have been. I have a big idea, I show it to them, try to sell it to them and I’ve been trying to make them rich when I got to drag them into being rich. It drives you nuts.”

George Lois – Art & Copy

That’s all we’re here for, we provide visual ideas for you to get excited, we may not get it right the first time, but we hope it sparks some inspiration in you, the client, to try something that we know, from experience, will get you results. In this day and age you need a creative conceptualizer. Someone who can look at a problem from a different perspective. Graphic Designers are trained to look at the world differently and we get our inspiration from all around. We look at the world visually. Looking at shape, texture and form. This enables us to think ”outside of the box” and when challenged to do something different, we rise to the occasion. Graphic Designers are here to bring mundane, almost sameness, to life, to excite the viewer. “Creative people rise up cause they can’t do shit without us. We should be in charge!” – Lee Clow. If left up to a client, everything would look like someone elses ad. There are many many stories of clients coming to freelance Designers and saying “I want you to do THIS, and shows the Google, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft logo.” and we ultimately push back. I had a client show me a competitive mascot for another brand and said, “Can you make their cloud look more like our cloud.” This is NOT what we do.

The difference between a Graphic Artist and Graphic Designer

So having said all of this what can you do so engage a Graphic Designer and build a business relationship with them. Easy: Share your interests and goals. Talk about what you like, what you hate and what gets you excited. I’ve had clients not be excited about anything I’m excited about, but after some digging I realised one of them liked to do tables, something I liked to do on occasion. He was a very linear guy. All my designs were boxy and straight, lines and very simple sans serif text. That made him happy. Unfortunately this is not the best way to make his brand ‘exciting” so it was always a struggle to get him to see that the Graphic Designer isn’t designing for him, but for the audience.

This leads me to the second thing to keep in mind when dealing with a Graphic Designer. Both need to understand the audience. When I worked at McCann Erickson way back in the day, Nestle would make it mandatory for client services, marketing, creative and media to meet ever so often to “brainstorm.” This would mean mostly going over facts, figures and accounts. For a Graphic Designer, very boring, incomprehensible stuff, but the way the meetings were structured was that all this info was presented so that the communicators (the writers and Designers) could understand that they were speaking to Mothers 25-45 who live in a certain area. We can visualize the person we are engaging. We know the psychology of the person. If you come to a Graphic person with some vague or “nebulous” feeling he will give you a vague and nebulous design. On the other hand if you drop a 200 page brief on “The psychology of women homeowners who bank with us” (yes this was a document from a bank client) the designer will be just as confused. The two disciplines need to meet half way and communicate,

Communication is key between a creative person and business person. The man who wants to sell more products thinks the best way is by brand recognition The Graphic Designers knows that the best way to sell a steak is by presenting the sizzle. This is where the fights start. The endless jokes about “make the logo bigger.” come from these discrepancies in approaches. Yes the brand is important and brand recall is tantamount, but emotional representation, creative visuals and a “hook” also bring credibility to the brand. So knowing that both have the same objectives in mind, there needs to be compromises. The compromises occur when both give a little ground to achieve victory. The brand can stay, but the visual is more important. In the case of a notice, the brand is important and the visual takes a secondary position. The execution of the project depends a lot on what is being communicated and where.

Why Graphic Designers?

Graphic Designers, can and do bring lots of ideas to the table. They also bring resources and experience. If you think your graphic Designer is a “mouse jockey” you are not spending your money wisely. Use the talent and the abilities that they bring to the table to build your presence. Also tell yourself that you have no real idea how aesthetics work and that you should recognise that there are people who do this for a living. Likewise a Graphic Designer won’t tell you how to make your product or even how to sell your product. You know that better than he does. So there are always set boundaries that each of you makes. In the world of digital media it’s a lot easier now to use data to figure out what the next ad campaign should look like. What the creative target must be. More and more the data tells us what kind of visual is appealing to a market segment on social media and in Google advertising. But your competition is getting the same ideas. You need someone to push the boundaries of the visual so that your message stands out and hooks the customer, viewer, etc.

Throwing a visual at a Facebook ad is easy. Using the right emotional hook to make that ad worth the spend is a lot harder. I remember being in a digital ad meeting for a major bank and the consultant they hired to oversee the ad campaigns sent us “samples” of visuals the algorithm threw up for him to use. All looked exactly the same. All were smiling, happy people showing teeth with a key, or car, or in front of a house. It was not creative, it was frankly very boring. You don’t need a Graphic Designer if this is all you wish to do. But pretty soon your competition is going to be showing the same stuff. Banks are the worst offenders because they fail to think out of the box and are afraid of being ”too creative” But if I go back to George Lois, if you are safe, then what makes you more likely to get more customers than the other person?


Playing it safe is for losers. Take chances, get risky. There are times when your business calls for it.

Graphic designers may look weird, sound weird, share weird social media posts, but they know what they are doing. They understand the power of the visual and the power of the right typeface to communicate the right message to the right people. It’s not a perfect science, nothing is, but if you trust in them and allow them to trust you, you will get fantastic mileage.

Some more reading for you:

If you really want to know how much work it takes to be a great and fantastic graphic designer? Read Phillip B. Megg’s History of Graphic Design. In there you learn the work involved in coming up with great work and the shoulders of giants we stand on.

Here are a few articles online you can read about working well with Graphic Artists and Designers:

Sometimes it’s good to direct the graphic designer in a route you’re comfortable with. We’re not mind readers. We don’t know when you say “Kinda like this but maybe more of that or this.” Get visual examples and show us what you mean. This is one of the most difficult things in any relationship, showing “vulnerability”. You don’t want anyone to know that you don’t know. But if you don’t know how you expect the other person to know. You know?

Ian Reid is the owner and manager of He does brand building for all size and shapes of business, including their online digital presence. Get in contact with him today to discuss your branding efforts.

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