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3 Ways Marketers Can Avoid a Communication Breakdown With Designers

Not to point any fingers, but how many marketers are guilty of asking designers something along the lines of “Can you just make it prettier?”

For many marketers, working with a designer can be one of the most challenging tasks they face while building a brand. Communicating their wants, needs, and visions can lead marketers into a minefield of misunderstandings.

Despite working toward the same goals, designers and marketers speak different languages. Designers are specialists who have learned to translate concepts visually, but that method of communicating information requires plenty of education and training.

Marketers are no less specialized than designers, and increased digitalization has led us to use more technical jargon—marketers love their buzzwords—and complex processes. Most words we use to communicate meaning just don’t add up: The word “flat,” for instance, has a completely different meaning to designers than it does to marketers—and most other folks, for that matter.

On top of the inherent differences in each role, the way people communicate meaning and value changes constantly. The speed of modern communication has altered our expectations of turnaround times, and the introduction of 5G is about to change the speed of communication yet again.

When frustrations and miscommunications arise, this tension leads to diluted messaging and diminished relationships with their target audiences. If marketers and designers commit to speaking a common language, their relationship and reliance on each other will lead to superior marketing assets: Good design results in world-class branding, after all.

Bolster Your Brand by Learning to Speak ‘Designer’

Don’t let the fear of lousy communication stand in the way of an awesome partnership with your design team.

Here are three ways you can keep projects running smoothly:

1. Get together before the project begins

Designers aren’t minded readers. They cannot pluck an idea from your brain and turn it into something marvelous without plenty of direction, clear expectations, and guidance along the way.

At the start of the relationship—or any new project—set up a meeting to discuss your vision. Be clear and specific about your goals, and admit what you don’t know or still have to find out. Ask the designer what he or she needs from you.

Use this meeting to also forecast the timing of the project. According to our in-house data, basing timelines on previous projects causes teams to underestimate how long a project will take 67% of the time. To avoid this trap, outline any expectations about turnaround times and revisions before building a timeline together. When possible, allow designers to take the lead on project timelines or stages.

Give your designer everything he or she might need to understand your brand and target audience. Explain the demographics you’re trying to reach, how your audience interacts with your brand, and what promises or values you want to communicate.

That might seem like a lot of information, but it will empower your designer to make intuitive choices without micromanagement. Without clear expectations, it’s easy for a designer to follow a tangent that made sense in the drafting stages but doesn’t necessarily align with your end goal.

2. Commit to overcommunicating

When you’re establishing a new relationship or project with a designer, err on the side of overcommunicating. Ask plenty of questions, and don’t assume anything. Get clarification about the designer’s thought process, ideas, and—especially—suggestions.

Check-in regularly to see whether the designer has everything he or she needs. Explore different methods of communicating to find an approach that works for both of you. Chat platforms like Slack are great for quick, on-the-go check-ins, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting or video call for sorting out problems and expectations or stirring up excitement for ideas.

It’s equally important to provide written documentation of all expectations, budgets, timelines, and directions. Don’t let creative briefs linger in a folder on your desktop; get them to your designer right away. You can set your projects up for success by treating this early step as a collaborative and informational process.

Once you’ve established your preferred mediums and cadence of communication, you can settle into a more relaxed rhythm with the knowledge that everyone’s on the same page.

3. Give constructive feedback that’s design-specific

Clear and constructive feedback is essential to a productive relationship with a designer. Saying only “I love this” or “I don’t like that” doesn’t cut it, and vague comments such as “Make it cleaner” won’t help designers decide what to do next. High-quality feedback builds on good ideas and explains why “bad” ideas won’t work.

A designer’s job is to solve and create, and your goal is to present a challenge with a problem to overcome. Don’t impose solutions—ask designers for input and ideas. If discussions start to go in circles, steer the conversation back to your pain point. Try to explain precisely what bothers you about any problematic elements, but give your designer the freedom to own the work they are doing.

Trust your designers and embolden them to offer their own evaluations without having to fear that you’ll ignore them or take offense. Create this safe space in your meetings by introducing feedback from the beginning.

Designers might speak in colors and shapes rather than metrics and data, but you can work together to forge a shared language. Start this relationship off strong by bridging the gap and finding ways to communicate, and the results will speak for themselves.

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