Charmellow : Graphic Design & Letterpress Studio
Real design from a real designer.


Ten Tips for Working with a Graphic Designer


I have worked with all types of clients in my career, some more experienced with the process of design than others. Design is definitely a process, and there are steps and measures that can help everyone get the job done. 


  1. I am going to ask if you have a budget, and your answer should be yes. If you are serious about improving your sales or your perception in the marketplace, you should definitely have a marketing & design budget set aside. It’s the first question I have usually, and the answer is a good indication of how serious of a customer you are. If you say “I don’t have a budget,” that indicates to me that you haven’t given much thought to what you are about to ask me for. If your answer is “Yes, but it’s not very big,” that indicates to me that you have thought about it, and there is money set aside to accomplish something. If you answered “Yes,” and have a number and marketing goals — then we are ready to prioritize what you need right away. 
    Take away: Think about your business goals. Think about how much actual money you may have to throw at some sophisticated design, printing or publishing on the web and longer term campaigns to boost business. These things can and will improve business if handled the right way.

  2. Trust in me. I studied graphic design in school. I’ve spent the last ten years making things look really good for people. I know what I’m doing. I want you to succeed. I only say this part because there are small business owners that are very engaged and involved in the process. This is good! Hovering like a spy drone and micro-managing the design process is not good. Your designer needs time to research, think and create the masterpiece for you. Nothing will be 100% done or perfect on the first try. The design process can be compared to a volleyball game or tennis match. The ball goes back and forth between the players. Your brochure or poster has a volley of its own, but it all starts with trust! Understand that sometime’s the ball’s in my court, and sometimes it’s in yours.
    Take away: I know it’s scary to hire a designer. We are expensive and it’s hard to put your baby in someone else’s hands. Don’t fear, I really do want to make your business better, and I have the skills to do that for you. 
  3. Provide examples of your vision. You know in your mind at least a glimmer of an idea of what you want. I want to know that you hate pink, you had a terrible experience with Helvetica as a child or that you’ve been pinning your ideas to a Pinterest board. Share with me. Grow with me. We can do this, together.
    Take away: No one is a mind reader, and it can be hard to explain your vision. Make it easy on yourself and come prepared with ideas, colors or drawings, if you are feeling confident. (I promise I WILL NOT laugh.)
  4. Email all of the things she has asked for in one email, please. These days, it’s easy to get ahold of people and do business on the fly. As convenient as it is to have your designer at your fingertips, it's NOT convenient to send one photo at a time over email, Facebook messenger, or text message. Do your designer a favor and take the time to gather all the materials she has requested. She is after all, charging you for her time. The more time it takes to organize YOUR content, the more you are probably paying her, and not winning any popularity contests for wasting her time. 
    Take away: Ain’t nobody got time to search through ten inboxes for info. Do your part and gather it and package it in a nice succinct email. 
  5. Respect business hours. It’s true that your designer may be a night owl and working feverishly into the evening hours, but that doesn’t mean she’s available. Creative people work in odd ways, work odd hours and can hole up for hours on end while creating something. Not only are creative people’s working hours important time for them, so is their down time. It’s important to adhere to business hours and not break that boundary. This is especially important if your designer is your friend, don’t abuse your relationship with work related texts on the weekends or after business hours. 
    Take away: Boundaries are a sign of respect. Respect is a two way street. More than likely, it’s not an emergency and can wait until Monday. 
  6. Meet in person with your designer. It’s crucial to have face time with your designer when working together. It can alleviate so many issues that texting and emailing can cause. You should be prepared to meet with your designer to kick off a project, to check in when first rounds of the project are ready, and at least once more towards the end to make sure everything is on target. 
    Take away: Designers are known for their savvy communication skills to the masses as they market your business, but don’t expect her to be a mind reader. Coordinate meetings to stay on track and because —let’s face it — her office is cool and you like hanging out there. 
  7. Give her as specific of feedback as possible. I truly feel that people don’t want to crush my fragile ego sometimes when they are giving feedback on projects. I have been crushed by heros and slayed verbally by worse people than you. The more specific you can be when we are doing revisions the better. I often tell people to start with what they don’t like, it’s usually easier for them to say that than what they like about something. But it’s a double edged sword, because sometimes clients think they are hurting my feelings. You are not. 
    Take away: We are doing business and getting it right is my job, but I need your input.
  8. Run it past your committee. Maybe you are a solo business owner, maybe you have a partner, or maybe you have ten. The best bet is to let these other interested parties see the process and results before you make any final decisions. You are, again, paying your designer for her time, and major last-minute changes to logos, layouts or websites by people that never saw it throughout the design process can be costly if you bring them in too late in the game. 
    Take away: Sure, maybe Doug in Human Resources doesn’t need to see it, but your CFO who owns 49% of your company surely DOES need to see it. And yes, you do need to pay for all of these changes and time accrued. Usually these types of major changes fall outside the original scope of the project. 
  9. You are a business owner, you are an editor. Often your designer wears many hats, happily. Most of the time, she’s doing the job of a copywriter, designer, photo editor, and is looking through it all with a fine toothed comb as an editor of a newspaper would. Ultimately though, you need to be responsible for what goes out the door, too. Help your designer out, be a team player and read over your final final final copies to make sure nothing is spelled wrong, missing or out of place. 
    Take away: Crazy things happen sometimes — we rely on computer technology to work — and sometimes computers do crazy shit. Those edits you thought you made over and over, well they turned out wrong on 30,000 postcards. No one wants to make that discovery. Take the time to read over your final proofs carefully; that is why she sent it, afterall. 
  10. Don’t limit yourself to your own ideas. One of the most frustrating moments for a designer is when they a list of ideas to solve the problem, but the business owner is completely married to a horrible, outdated, copy-cat or lame idea. Yes, a designer can make all of your design dreams come true, but THIS designer has been trained to move far beyond the first idea that comes to mind and create something as unique and tailored to your business as possible. Research, getting to know the business, sketching, development, meetings, fine tuning, computer designing — these are all steps I take to ensure that we are getting to the root of the problem and solving it in a custom way. 
    Take away: Your business is totally different than your competition. Allow your designer to do her thing and solve the problem you came to her with. Most designers will do you a solid and show you your idea in full fruition, but more than likely her idea is different (and maybe better) than yours. That’s good; that’s what you paid her to do. 

Overall, working with a designer is a really nice experience that ultimately saves you time and money. These are just some suggestions of how to maximize the experience to get the most out of it. Got anything to add to this? Post below in the comments!