I’ve noticed a trend when I kick off a new working relationship with a client who hasn’t worked with designers much in the past. They tend to say the same thing right off the bat:

I’m really uncreative and I don’t know how to talk about design. I think I’m going to drive you crazy.

First of all, I sincerely doubt that you are uncreative. Some of the most creative people in my life aren’t artists or designers at all. Did you create and build a unique business that solved a problem? That’s creative.

Oftentimes people equate creativity with art- and more often than not they connect it with their drawing skills. Trust me, that has zero bearing on your creativity and your ability to work with a designer.

Second, just because you don’t know the difference between kerning and tracking doesn’t mean you and I can’t collaborate on the design of your site (both deal with the space between letters- don’t worry about it).

Most people that I’ve interacted with in my career were business minded individuals who could talk circles around me about business metrics- but could really care less about the difference between violet and aubergine (most people would just call them purple).

There are some tips and tricks I have that I think could help us work together the best way possible and create something fantastic.

Collect Your Existing Creative Assets

Do you have an existing logo, fonts, or a brand guide? Have you produced some print material recently? What materials do you rely on currently to tell your company story and capture users?

This helps me hit the ground running. I can start using your logo and brand style right out of the gate as I start brainstorming and creating designs for you.

I don’t mind if you hate what exists currently. We can chat about why you don’t like it and how to change the style during this new round of designs. It still gives me context and context helps me understand where you’ve been.

Share Your Inspiration (optional)

Do you have a couple other sites or brands that inspire you and you wished you looked like? Or even some sites that you really dislike?

Feel free to share those as well- again they give me context and helps me understand what speaks to you. Sometimes the dislikes speak louder than the likes.

I’ll review your inspiration and ask you a few questions (they’re tried and true questions I ask to almost everyone I work with) to help paint a picture of what it is that speaks to you and how to make your designs do the same.

Don’t be Afraid to Sketch Your Thoughts

This one makes most everybody anxious. I adamantly promise that I will not judge. When I’m trying to get my ideas down on paper to explain a website layout it's a rough collection of shapes and lines with scribbled handwriting over top.

Using words to describe something visual can be really difficult sometimes. Plus, as you can imagine, I’m a visual person (hence my career path). If you have a layout in mind, I promise you a couple boxes drawn out on a piece of people with your handwriting over top will be nothing but helpful (with zero judgment or critique on your drawing skills- cross my heart).

Ask Questions

I’ll probably be asking you a lot of questions through the process. Know that you can ask me questions as well. I’m a thoughtful (aka slightly particular) designer and will probably be able to tell you why I made a certain color or photo choice.

Share Your Honest Feedback

I want to hear your honest feedback (I mean... don’t be a jerk about it)- because that’s how I figure out how to create exactly what you need. Don’t be afraid to tell me if something isn’t working for you. Even if you don’t really know what you don’t like something- we can talk about it and figure out how to change it to work best for you.

It’s been over a decade since I was in art school- but there was a concept that my professors pushed really hard on us. They were constantly telling us to ‘not be afraid to kill your babies.’ Grim right? But the idea is that designers can’t be precious with their designs. You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t like something (again… just don’t be a jerk about it).

Try to Articulate Your Feedback

As much as you can- try to avoid really general statements. Ex. I don’t like this photo. Instead, whenever you can try something more like ‘This photo feels dark and gloomy to me- I want a brighter, happier vibe on my site.’

If you can’t figure out a good way to articulate your thoughts- that’s absolutely fine just say that specifically. Ex. I don’t know why… but I don’t like this photo. I can ask you a couple probing questions to try to see if anything clicks about why you don’t like something.

Overall- I’d say that the best projects happen when my client and I communicate a lot. Design is a collaborative effort. Collaboration flourishes in a space where you can trust the exchange. Know that I’m here to create something incredible for you and have no intention to judge your art skills.

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