Have you ever asked a graphic designer to bedazzle an email template? I have (jokingly, of course). The designer’s response was several seconds of silence followed by, “You’re kidding, right?”
It’s good to use colorful language when communicating with our creative genius friends. It can definitely add levity to a stressful project. More importantly, through good communication, you and the designer can collaborate to create something that makes you both proud, delights your client, and secures a relatively stress-free existence for yourself as a project manager. As Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite says, “All of your wildest dreams will come true.”
I’m a visual person, so design is something I enjoy. You could call me a graphic designer in training, so I can empathize with those folks learning the ropes. When providing creative direction and evaluating creative work, I try to keep it simple. I break a long checklist down to three essentials:
1. Concept: What does it mean? What message should the visual convey?
Take the design in as your intended audience would. What story is being told with the visuals? This may be a stretch for simpler deliverables like an email template, but there can be a story in the most basic of design projects. Take a look at the imagery, photos, and other design elements. What does the design say to you about the product, company, or program it represents?
2. Layout: Where does your eye go? What do you notice first, second, and third?
The goal of good design is to communicate a message. Simpler is definitely better, and you want to avoid burying your key message in artistic clutter. Ultimately, it comes down to priority. Identify the hierarchy of elements/messages and ensure that this hierarchy comes through in the layout. You can check this by closing your eyes for 10 seconds and then looking at the piece. Where do your eyes go first, second, third? That’s the hierarchy. Is that the order in which you want your audience to view those items? If not, some tweaks are in order.
3. Emotion: What is the attitude or mood of the piece? Is it appropriate for the message?
How does it make you feel? Sounds like a session with a psychiatrist, but it’s an important question to ask. When giving feedback on creative work, I try to be clear and describe edits in a way that plays upon the senses. Rather than saying “I want more color” or “Let’s add some yellow to that,” you should describe the emotion you want to evoke. For example, you can say that you want a design to be “brighter, more cheerful, and lighthearted.” Then let the designer do her thing to represent that in the work. Though we all have a different mental image of bright, cheerful, or lighthearted, you are getting at the true essence of the design in an attempt to clearly define and express the emotion behind it.
A couple of days after finishing our project, that same designer I kidded with about glitter and a glue gun showed me a very funny video called Make My Logo Bigger. We both had a good laugh. I guess that video can serve as a lesson of what NOT to do when working with designers.
Good communication is definitely a two-way street. I’m waiting for a video from the project manager’s perspective to be released. I wonder what it would be called. “We Need More White Space,” perhaps?