How to coax the perfect idea out of your designers


The key to getting the very best work out of a team of talented creatives is to have a very strong creative brief.

Know exactly what you want your design to accomplish and communicate.
Understand your audience.
Understand why your message will work to turn prospects into clients.

Then pass that brief over to the designers that you’ve carefully selected because you like their past work.

If, during the first round of concepts, you find yourself in a situation where the designs  aren’t exactly what you expected, here are a few things to do:
1. Revisit the original brief, and make sure it says everything it needs to say.
2. Ramp up the strategic goals. Make sure your brief is clear and concise.
3. Have one primary communication goal.
4. Discuss the revisions to the brief with your designer.  Make sure the designer understands the brief.

Some clients never check back with the original brief, and begin to art direct instead.  This is where their future design begins to lose potential.

So how do you remain an integral part of the process, without art directing?

Trust + Communication.


Trust your decision to hire them. You loved their portfolio, and you liked them when you met with them, right? Remember that first round doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s only a first round. Trust that your design team will deliver a piece that will work for your needs.


This one is important: Try to understand why things were designed the way they were designed in the first round.

If your design team veered from your original suggestions, ask them why.
They wouldn’t have done it “just because” – so find out their reasoning.

Explain what you don’t like about a design. (Be specific here.)

Pow-wows after a disappointing round of design will often lead to unexpected insights, and to exciting possibilities.

These discussions may offer insight into an amazing new direction, or they may even uncover your own blind spots or assumptions that could have compromised the success of the campaign. Great designers have a strong business acumen that they draw from, some having worked on hundreds of campaigns similar to yours. I would always suggest capitalizing on that knowledge and experience, and using it to your advantage. Ask the designer why that color, why that font, why that look, etc. Ask them for input on direction and goals. This will give them a campaign to really dig their teeth into. (This is when they do their best work.)

Remember that your design team eats and breaths design. They have seen a lot of what works, and a lot of what doesn’t.

No matter how strong the urge– try not to step up into the role of art directing.  {Read: don’t crush any great creative tangents / ideas / sparks that would have come naturally out of the regular design process.} By being the brain that orchestrates and controls the design, you take the designers out of creative mode and put them into “production mode”. In this mode they become Photoshop by proxy, executing your ideas for you, no matter how wonderful or how terrible they are. You are not only cutting their proverbial creative wings… you are also assuming that your design ideas, skills, and abilities to judge a final design are more honed than theirs. The potential to miss out on wonderful ideas is large when clients become art director, as is the potential to miss the mark with your target audience with the final creative piece.

So work with the designer, and push them to create their best work without taking the reigns. The best results come out of working together in a creative collaboration, where each person’s strength and talents are used. Put your talented designer’s gifts to good use, and your campaign will reap the rewards when it is done.

About Chris Donnelly

Chris Donnelly is a brand strategist and a launch specialist. She works with entrepreneurs to flesh out their values, their launch plans and that special unspoken secret ingredient that makes them unique in the marketplace.

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