Graphic Marketing 101: Working with a Graphic Designer on Creative Projects

So you’re interested in working with a graphic designer to create some marketing materials for your business.  Awesome!

Whether you’re interested in a brochure, promotional flyer, email campaign or a set of banner ads for your website, there are a few key items you’ll want to have fleshed out before meeting with your designer to discuss the creative.

1. What is the goal of the project?

The “why” for your graphic design project is key information for your designer to be able to create an effective piece.

Maybe you’re needing a brochure showcasing your company.  That may sound straightforward to you — and it’s a great starting point — but it doesn’t give your designer much to work with.  It’s important for them to know how you plan to use the brochure (or whatever the creative may be) as well as whom you’re targeting it to.

So, to expand on the idea, you might ask for a brochure providing an overview of your company’s top services, to put in the hands of your sales team when they go out to visit clients and meet with new leads.  Or you may want an email campaign to promote a special offer, with the goal of reaching out to prospective customers who have expressed interest in your company by signing up for updates from your site but haven’t yet purchased.

Whatever you’re expecting to result from the communications piece, be as specific about that as possible to your designer.


2. Give them details.

This may seem basic, but nothing hampers the effectiveness of a creative piece more than a lack of information to communicate.  I’ve had clients come forward with a request for design work, and when I ask them about the topic or theme they have in mind, their response is that they’re not really sure (adding that, since I’m the creative one, shouldn’t I know a topic?).

If you don’t have complete details or all of the “official” verbiage for the topic you’re working with yet, that’s totally OK.  But make sure you at least know the direction that you’re going.  Links to related pages on your website can be helpful to the designer to illustrate the outlines of what you’re looking for, or even an example of information that you’ve found from a competitor or from a Google search.  Giving them the framework of what you’re seeking and sources for the information you want to convey, is what counts.

3. Remember that your designer is not automatically your copywriter

On the same token, don’t expect to fork over a bunch of random links and text fragments to your designer and have them magically distill it into useful information for your piece.  Some designers double as copywriters and can perform wonders in that regard, while others do not (and cannot).

This being said, it’s important to recognize that copywriting is not something you can expect from a graphic designer by default or for free.  If you need that service, they probably can help you out, so be sure to ask them about it.  Chances are, if they themselves don’t excel at copywriting or don’t offer it, they’ll know someone who does and can refer you to that person.  They may even work with that person on your behalf to save you the trouble.

4. State outright what you do and don’t like graphically

Do you love vintage images?  Hate patterned backgrounds or get queasy at the sight of the color magenta?

Any strong feelings you have, positive or negative, about certain visual or graphic elements will help your designer create something that you’re sure to love.  Or at the very least, something that you won’t all-out hate the first time you see it.  Be sure to be upfront with them about your likes and dislikes.

5. Remember that it’s a work in progress

One of the greatest joys in working with another human being is that they are completely different from you and have a unique viewpoint, both on the world at large as well as on your company and products.  Remember this when working with your designer and always take a moment to drink in the effects of what they’ve created, even if you don’t like it.  A piece that doesn’t say what you want it to or simply feels “off” still represents another perspective on your product(s) and business.  Keeping this in mind as you provide your designer with feedback and direction to make changes will give you a sounder and more complete picture of your business, one that you might not have been cognizant of before.

In addition, sometimes seeing something you don’t want is a great prompt to help you identify what do want.

Perhaps you have this reaction and response the colors to the colors in a piece of work that a designer produces for you:

“That lime green color bar hurts my eyes and mind! Make it forest green instead and use the same color for the headings.”

Although the first color choice wasn’t pleasing, the second color might not have occurred to you to mention if you hadn’t seen the original color first. So the situation is a win-win, because the designer put the initial idea out there and it helped you specify your own preference.

A certain amount of trial-and-error is all part of the process.  The graphic designer is there to help mold and craft the piece into what you need it to be…as long as you’re paying them for revisions.  Read more about that in my post on why charging for revisions is essential for graphic designers.

Need more help getting started?  Take a look at these top graphic design questions or leave a comment below.



Rob is Co-Owner of Cortica Creative Design and writes about graphic design for marketing and advertising. He loves fonts and typography, Bauhaus, Mirò, Max Beckmann, wine, anything with chocolate, and dabbling in various aspects of linguistics. Follow him on Twitter at @RobTDuvall or connect on

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