A lot of businesses from time to time need to employ the services of a designer. Perhaps a new website is needed, maybe a new company brochure or even identity. The sticky process of designing the new product begins and oft times there is some awkward fumbling during the process.

There is a lot of information around about the nature of design, what the approach is like and what to look out for in contracts, etc. Like any business to business relationship, there are many chances for a break down. In my years of experience as a designer I find that the most frequent breakdown point is communication.

I’ve worked hard at learning how to better communicate with clients, and admit that there is still a lot for me to learn. However there are a few points that often occur. To give a little advice on avoiding these situations, I thought I would give a few tips on how to communicate with your designer and hopefully make the entire process smoother..

Disassociate yourself with your opinion.

It’s hard lesson for many clients to learn, especially since the client is the paying entity in the party: but the client’s opinion isn’t the most important factor in any design project. You’ve hired a designer to help your business. You’re not decorating your house.

Design is not art, design is a business tool and should not be looked at subjectively.  Do you hate purple? It doesn’t matter. Purple may very well be perfect for your cloth diaper store. Do you hate Helvetica? It doesn’t matter. Helvetica may very well be perfect for your line of Swiss furniture. A good designer doesn’t force his or her opinion on you. A good designer makes well informed decisions based on what he or she thinks your audience will respond to and will in turn benefit your business. Another way of putting it: don’t ask yourself “Do I like this?”, ask yourself “Is this the right direction for my business?”

If your opinion cannot be disassociated, I understand.

Everyone has opinions (even me). Sometimes a person can simply not get past “purple”. This happens. It’s frustrating to a designer, but it happens. Don’t lead with your opinion. Don’t say that you “hate purple”. Say why. In fact, “Why” is the most important thing you can communicate.

There are no stupid questions

Designers are generally generous folks. They rarely protect trade secrets. Usually if you ask a question, you’ll get an answer. If you’re not sure how you feel about the design being presented, ask the designer why it was done that way. There may be a valid reason for it that is not readily apparent.

Don’t be afraid of hurting feelings.

Many times a client sees a presentation and is impressed, yet something’s not right. Rather than stating their unease, they give approval and production commences. Only after the project is about to be launched do they speak up. This is a nightmare for a designer. Lots of work has been done, not only in vain but also on the client’s paycheck. Budgets are blown and meetings must be had. Never spare a designer’s feelings in the beginning. It’s best to let your feelings known early, rather than late.

Don’t expect everyone on your team to be happy.

This is probably the number one reason a project goes bad. It happens time and time again. An example: Your business partner wants a conservative, old-style look to your new logo while the sales department thinks a flashy, trendy logo. There is not a way to compromise. A compromise will make neither person happy and will possibly ruin the project. Bringing your designer into a internal debate within your company will also not help the situation. In all likelihood, It will make things worse.

This is the time for a project leader to look at the pros and cons of each approach?possibly after consulting the designer?and make a firm decision. Either your business partner or the sales department will simply have to be unhappy.

This article is not an attempt to be arrogant and gripe about bad client behavior. Not in the least. Rather it is meant to helpful to anyone thinking of hiring a designer. And it certainly isn’t a comprehensive guide to giving feedback. But I hope it helps make your project go smoother.

Good luck.