6 Easy Steps to Great Design for Your Small Business
How can you get the best creative work for your business?
Being in the design field for over 30 years, I have learned who makes a great client. With these tips, I hope to educate you on the best ways to work with a graphic designer or, really, any creative.
1. Hire a professional graphic designer/brand strategist/marketing communications expert
In 2019, we can create many small business marketing tools on our own using templates. Stock photography and logo designs, email outlines, etc. Why does a small business need to spend hard-earned profits on outside creative help? If you want your business to stand out in a crowded field, you need to differentiate its brand. What makes your business special? YOU! If you use standard templates and tools, you will sound generic, look generic, and fade into the noise made by every other business in your space. Design created by a professional designer who gets to know YOU and your business will stand out in the marketplace because it reflects the founder/owner/sole employee. The design will graphically translate your core value proposition.
2. Inform your designer
Have a clear, defined marketing plan. The more information you provide, the better the designer will be prepared and will deliver on-target work. What is your brand? Who is your ideal customer? Who will be the main audience for this piece? What is the final usage of this piece? Write your marketing strategy in a creative brief. There are many examples online or your designer can give you her own specific one.
If you don’t have a brand strategy, find a designer who can help you with this process.
Be upfront about your budget immediately. A designer needs to know what they can spend and how they would need to think about the production or reevaluate the complexity and scope of your project.
Be clear on the type of communication you want. You don’t have to know exactly what the physical piece will look like, but think about if this piece will be an email newsletter, website, brochure, poster, etc. I had a client who was a large east coast zoo. They wanted a poster for their annual dinner that brought together financial and society titans. I asked them why they wanted a poster that would, at best, be thrown away if even taken after the event. Knowing the target audience, I designed a brochure instead. They were able to use this piece about their worldwide conservation efforts not only for the event, but for other purposes.
3. Collaborate with your designer
Your designer wants to collaborate with you, but remember that the designer is the design expert. Nothing is worse than having your client show you a drawing on a napkin that he did that morning. Let the designer come up with the ideas and then you evaluate them. If you are convinced of your idea, encourage the designer to attempt a version based on this concept. Show other design work you like. Gather design pieces that have characteristics that you would like to have. The designer can see what direction to go in and design within your boundaries.
Remember, this relationship is a collaboration. Have the designer get to know you and your organization. Together, you will create a unique representation of your company.
4. Trust your designer
She knows what to do. You hired this designer because you liked the work in her portfolio or work done for business associates. If you explain your plan clearly and with detail, the designer should produce what you want.
Do tell them what results you want from the project. Don’t tell them random likes/dislikes such as “I don’t like red.” You never know what is going to work in the design as well as what will reinforce your strategy. If red can work with the direction in your marketing plan, don’t eliminate it. The details and subtleties should have a strategy behind them.
I had a client who asked me to design a logo for his company with colors to match his car. Based on a version that he quickly dismissed, we agreed that these colors were not going to work with his corporate identity. I listened to him and did what he asked, but I also was able to persuade him to go in a different direction by reminding him of his strategic objectives and not his whims.
5. Be honest with your designer
Be upfront and honest about what you expect. A list of your expectations after each session will keep both you and the designer on track. At the start make sure that your designer understands the scope of the project. If you have hard deadlines, enforce those dates. At the end of each meeting, review the deliverables and date for the next meeting. Sometimes details get confusing. Objectives and goals should always be clear.
While you collaborate with your designer, don’t be afraid to give constructive criticism, but also share when you are happy with the results. You’ll get more effective design that way and a good working relationship.
6. Remember that designers love white space
Blocks of copy are converted into readable type. Typography is what truly separates the mediocre designers from the great ones. If you can say your piece looks beautiful, it is because the designer knew how to transform information into flowing, well-spaced letterforms that integrate with the page and images. Remember white space frees up the layout and gives the eye a place to rest. It’s as important, if more subtle, than the pictures and the words.
Everyone has an opinion about what looks good. Don’t let your design opinions lead to overly prescriptive directions. Remember, graphic designers are highly trained professionals. Utilize their expertise just like you would your accountant, attorney, or IT manager.
Ruth-Anne Siegel, SiegelStudio, Chapter 122
Ruth-Anne Siegel is the owner of SiegelStudio, a graphic design and branding agency based in Palo Alto. With extensive experience in all facets of graphic design, her most recent work has focused on branding strategy, logo design, and marketing collateral from pixel to print for start-ups and small businesses. You can view her work at www.siegelstudio.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org