Here is a great article by a client/friend, Janis Burenga, of the Bailiwick Company about how to work with a graphic designer. Thanks to Janis and the Bailiwick team for the great advice and allowing us to post it.

How to Get the Most for Your Money from Your Graphic Designer

By Janis Burenga

As professional marketers, we work with many different graphic designers based on their individual strengths matched to the client project. Most of our clients – as marketers themselves – are well aware of the “rules of engagement” and have learned to rein in impulses that can lead to high costs. From time-to-time, however, we will work with a client unaccustomed to working with a graphic designer. Invariably inexperience leads to unnecessary cost.

If you’re new to working with a graphic designer, here are some basic tips to help you get the best design value for your money.

1.    Finalize copy before handing it over to the design team.

Designers charge by the hour, so once they have your material, every tweak to the copy costs money. You may need to edit copy to better suit the design layout, but if you enter into the design phase with final revisions behind you, you’ll save money.

2.    Try to make changes in clumps.

You’ll absolutely want to make changes. But do so all in a single session, if possible. Every time you “Make the logo bigger on page 4” or “Make a page break before that subhead,” the designer must assemble the digital files, style sheets, scans, photos and fonts that make up your piece and open everything onscreen to make changes. Each time you do this, the designer is incurring hourly charges to accommodate you. Changes are fine; piecemeal changes are more costly.

3.    Be specific about what you’re seeking in a design.

Design is a very subjective thing. Giving a designer directions like “Make it look hot” or asserting “I’ll know it when I see it” is a recipe for difficulties, if not disaster. If you want your material to resemble another piece that you’ve seen, share that piece with the designer. Words like “hot,” “cutting-edge,” and “cool,” are mostly useless in a pre-design discussion.

4.    If you’re uncertain about what you want, trust the designers.

Sometimes you may not have a clear idea about what might work best, so trust the designer to interpret what the approach should be. Second-guessing can add up. Worse, maybe you have a notion of what you want, but don’t communicate it. When the design is presented, you declare “That ain’t it” and the entire process starts over, a time-consuming and potentially costly exercise.

5.    Identify your audience and your objective.

These are crucial bits of information to share with the designer. Designers can “speak” to your audience if they know who they are. And, if the objective is to shock, soothe or sell, the designs can reflect these moods.

6.    Collaboration is great, confusion isn’t.

Let’s face it: for many people, the design phase is the “fun part.” Everyone wants to be part of the team because everyone has an opinion about a design. The adage about design-by-committee resulting in a camel is based in fact. No offense to dromedaries, but your public image is riding on the professionalism of your materials and their design. Chances are, if there’s a six-member team, there’ll be six different opinions on what should be tweaked. If it’s your responsibility to oversee creative services, trust your instincts on purely design issues. If you don’t trust yourself or if everyone wants to get in on the act, let the final decision rest with the person with whom the buck stops.

7.    Let the professionals do their job.

Unless you’re a professional designer yourself, you should ask yourself if changes you’re about to make better communicate your message, or just cater to your own (subjective) preferences. If the ultimate “client” is someone else in your organization, you may end up making design changes only to have them changed back. This costs money, so resist the urge to act as designer.

8.    The design process should not cause angst.

Your materials are important to everyone involved including the designers. But keep your perspective. Every piece cannot be all-things-to-all-people. Hopefully, the piece you’re working on now will be followed by another and another and another, each helping to burnish the brand you’re trying to convey. The longer you agonize over a piece, the less likely your changes will appreciably change the strength of it.

Most of us who work with designers day-in-and-day-out make quick decisions regarding a particular design. Because we know and trust the designers we work with, it’s very rare we literally “go back to the drawing board”. When we’ve done our homework, the graphic designer has taken our words, our concepts, our color schemes and our brand into consideration before showing us mock-ups of a design.