10 Tips on Collaborating With A Designer

April 28, 2014

I have spent four years thus far working with creative individuals to build their web presence. I have worked with two different design firms and, as of last year, I have gone solo in brand styling and designing for small businesses and creatives. Every day I am grateful for this other hat that I wear because it truly is creative and inspiring work.

If there is one thing that I have come to know over the soon-to-be five years, it is the do’s and do not’s of this creative process. While inspiring and exciting, it can be grueling and taxing as you try and hone in on who you are, what your vision is and what your brand will become. I thought I would share just a few simple tips I have collected in case you might be preparing to head down this road in finding a brand stylist and designer who you connect with.

10 Tips on Collaborating with a Designer #Branding #Design

Take a minute and grab a paper and pen…

Tip #1. Know who you are and own it.

If there is one reason your project will stop dead in it’s tracks it’s this reason. A brand stylist can help you curate your ideas and really refine your vision and your brand, but we can’t tell you who you are. Knowing what you like, what your personal style is – all of these things are extremely helpful throughout the process. Those who do not have a grip on this or do not have confidence in this area will question what the designer does the entire project. This makes it very hard for the designer to really develop a good design and makes the client feel that they made a bad decision.

Tip #2. Trust.

You have taken the leap into investing in someone to do what you have not been able to. There are times that you will need to remind yourself of this fact and trust that your designer knows what they are talking about. Sometimes when you are in the thick of everything, you don’t have the outside perspective of what is working and what isn’t. There is a reason you went and sought help. Let the process work for you.

Tip #3. Either give up the reins or send a list.

As designers, this is a big frustration when it comes to working with our clients. There are three types of people – those who know exactly what they want and which image needs to go where throughout the design and will tell me exactly so. Then there are those who want the designer to decide what works best and give up complete control. The third type? The third type will respond with “whatever you think looks best” when asked about a particular space needing imagery and, upon seeing what the designer has chosen, comes back with “can you remove the image you chose with (fill in the blank). This KILLS the process. Instead of spending my time on other elements and digging deep into the creative aspect, I have just done one piece of the job twice all while wasting my time and yours.

Be the first or second type of person. Don’t be the third.

Tip #4. Be patient.

While I truly love deadlines and believe there is no better way to work, there are times during a collaboration that I need more time simply for the sake of feeling the creative process. There have been times that I have gathered, sketched and prepped a round of logos only to make the client wait another day or two because I had more ideas come to me at the last minute and wanted to make sure they were included. Remember, that working with a designer means you are working with an artist. We still need the flexibility to keep ourselves open to inspiration.

Tip #5. Speak up!

You hired a professional and in being a professional, your designer will not take anything personally. At least they shouldn’t. If there is something you truly do not like and do not connect with, say something. Knowing what you don’t like is just as important as knowing what you do like (see tip #1) and will only help that much more in the collaboration.

Tip #6. Mind your manners.

Remember that you probably aren’t the only client your designer is working with. And remember that your designer is probably organized enough that they run off of a timeline for each project. One of the hardest things is when a client takes three weeks to respond and, once they do, get upset that their email hasn’t been answered within a few hours. And haven’t all of us running a service type business dealt with that type of client at one point or another? Not fun.

Like a lot of freelance artists, I am the only one to communicate with and answer emails. While I wish I could answer every email within just a few hours, it’s just not possible. And when a client has taken awhile to respond, I move on to the next thing on my list to ensure that I don’t fall behind in other areas. Mind your manners. Respond promptly so that your designer can keep up the pace with your project and keep both of you on the timeline. Remember, you probably stated a date in the beginning of when you want your project to launch. You are a big piece in making that happen.

Tip #7. Pay your invoices.

Unfortunately, there is a growing problem in the freelance industry and it’s unpaid work. For a not-so-funny look at this trend, check out The World’s Longest Invoice. Remember, your designer has bills to pay just like you do. They have a projected monthly outlook on what is coming in the door and when you are late on paying your invoice or don’t get to it at all, it’s stressful for your designer and they are possibly sitting on an unpaid bill or two. Side note, I have been blessed with clients who understand this and haven’t had too much experience in this situation fortunately.

Tip #8. Stop looking.

Once you and your designer have decided on a vision for your brand and have jumped into the creative and building process, stop looking. Stop browsing websites and stop watching what others are doing. You need to function in tunnel vision. Your designer needs to be able to create something unique and one-of-a-kind so that you can stand out in a saturated market. When clients come back with “look at so-and-so’s website” or “can we do that?” it makes it very hard. Us designers have to make sure that we aren’t cloning ideas as well as making sure we are working along with the projected timeline. If you continually change your mind because of what else you are seeing or what others are doing, your project becomes stuck and uninspired. Settle down into the zone and allow your project to develop and become what it is supposed to be.

Tip #9. Be open to different ideas.

It’s hard because sometimes you know exactly what you want. However, allowing yourself to be open to new ideas will bring something amazing that you never expected maybe. And there is such a thing as being too rigid. While we want to make sure every aspect is exuding the vision and message, don’t micro-manage your designer to death. Just as you are inspired by what you do, your designer will be inspired by the vision and project. Allow them the freedom to let you know their thoughts on certain aspects of the project. You never know, it might be something you never even thought of, but makes absolute sense and helps refine the brand even more.

Tip #10. Enjoy it.

This process is such an amazing and rewarding experience. Watching your brand evolve and seeing your growth is something to enjoy. Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t let your insecurities get the best of you. Remember why you are doing what you are doing and what made you take the next step.

For more information on my process and to check out my recent collaborations, click here.

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  1. Laura Kathryn

    April 28th, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Such a great post!!

  2. Jeanine Rose

    April 28th, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    I have to say I LOVE my new brand. I do hope however that I was not that #3 kind of person…I knew what I wanted but also trusted you to make decisions for the website..although I did make you switch photos!! Geez…I’m a #3 ugh lol. Oh well…it’s done though 🙂 Thank you again!!!

  3. Kara Layne

    April 28th, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks, Miss Laura!

    Miss Jeanine – you are crazy. No way you were a #3! I was so honored to work with you. Such a talent and getting to watch all that you are doing is amazing. THANK YOU for trusting me to help you in your vision 😉 Big hugs!

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