Of all the projects I have worked on over the years, I’ve noticed some common threads among the projects that were most successful. Below I’ll share five tips that will help your next design project be all that it can be.

##1. Don’t Wait Until Last Minute!

It’s an unfortunate reality: sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Time can get away from us and next thing you know, that project you have been putting off is now becoming quite urgent. It happens. However, it’s important to understand that rushing will often dampen the creative process. Take the bull by the horns and get the project started early. Allow ample time for designers and writers to brainstorm, create layouts, make revisions, proofread, get team approvals and send artwork out for final production.

When jobs are rushed, it is more than just creativity that suffers. Rushing will increase the chances for mistakes to occur or details to be overlooked. Also, some companies might charge an additional rush fee if they may need to pay employees overtime to meet your deadline.

##2. Input = Output

Give your designer the background they need to approach the project from a strategic angle. Key details your designer will need to know include:

  • Who is your target audience and how will you be reaching them?
  • What is the main selling point? (If you bold everything, nothing will stand out.)
  • What are the supporting selling points?
  • What do you want your audience to do? (Make a purchase? Contact you?)
  • What have you tried in the past?

For more information on project input, see Molly’s article: The Key to a Successful Campaign is in Your Briefs.

##3. Don’t Design by Committee.

You are always welcome to gather outside feedback on your project, but be selective about which changes you choose to make. Ask yourself “Does this campaign/design convey our message effectively?” and “Does the designer’s work represent my brand appropriately?”

If you make every single person’s changes, the end result will be a diluted outcome. You are likely to lose all of the project’s original flavor and impact. It is kind of like transforming your Chunky Monkey ice cream into standard Vanilla. Remember that even the best campaigns are bound to have a few critics; especially from people who are outside your target demographic or don’t understand your campaign goals. Have a two-way dialog with your designer to determine which changes will truly strengthen your ad.

##4. Write It Down.

Verbal communication is still great, but written communication solidifies key points and often helps clarify direction. Written instruction is especially important for very large projects where it’s imperative to maintain more structure and organization.

Whether you print out the layout and mark your changes directly on the paper copy, prefer to write a list, or, if the designer’s layout is in PDF format, mark up the layout digitally, it’s important to spell out your thoughts.

##5. The Problem vs. The Solution.

Last but not least, remember that a large part of a designer’s job is problem solving. If there is something you think can be improved, tell your designer why you think it needs improvement so that they can help you find the best solution.

For example, think about the dynamics of a doctor and patient relationship. The patient starts by telling the doctor what their symptoms are. The doctor offers suggestions for curing those symptoms. Together the patient and doctor determine which treatment plan is best.

Here is another example that is more related to design. One of the fonts on your project is difficult to read. What do you tell your designer?

A. Change the font to Comic Sans instead.

B. I would like to see some additional layouts.

C. I am having trouble with the legibility of that font.

Did you pick C? This tells the designer why you wanted the font changed, not how to change it. This feedback allows the designer to either fix the existing font, or choose an alternate font that still lends itself to the overall concept/composition. This is NOT to say that a client can’t offer suggestions for solutions. The main point is for both designer and client to keep an open mind. When the client shares their reasoning with their designer, it will help the designer make better design choices and understand the client’s goals better.