“We love what you’ve done, but we feel that it just needs a few minor tweaks…”
If you have ever uttered that phrase, you’ve undoubtedly contributed to one of the more frustrating aspects of working in a creative environment. Creatives—a term coined by the marketing industry to describe creative employees and contractors such as graphic designers, copywriters, and the like—are skilled workers who are often hired for projects that businesses can’t handle internally. These creatives take care of branding, web design, promotional materials, web copy, and so much more, but it’s important to know how to work with them in a manner that will alleviate stress and frustration all around.
Should you find yourself in a position where you’ll be working with a creative, please take note of the following suggestions. I can assure you that your professional relationship will be far less tetchy if you adhere to the dos and don’ts outlined below.
- Sit down with them and explain every aspect of what you’re thinking about. Filling out a creative brief that covers all the different aspects of the project at hand is a great way to lay everything out on paper so you can refer back to it at regular intervals. You’ll be able to establish the scope of the project and all the assets required for it, and in turn you’ll find out how much time each aspect will take. This will allow you to set a solid critical path, and stick to your budget.
- Show them examples of what you like, and what you don’t like. One of the worst things you can ever do is say something akin to: “I’ll know what I don’t like when I see it.” You (hopefully) wouldn’t go into a restaurant, order everything on the menu just to taste it, and then only pay for the one or two items that you liked, would you? The same thing goes for creative work: you are not entitled to receive thirty different versions to pick and choose from when you’ll only end up paying for one.
- Familiarize yourself with terminology so you know how to describe what is is you’re looking for. You’ll be able to receive the business card of your dreams if you let the designer know you’d like letterpress printing, rather than just saying that you like cards that look “smooshed in”, and expecting them to know what the hell you’re talking about.
- Realize that white space is a good thing, and that your logo doesn’t have to fill the whole bloody space. Have you ever owned a pair of Levi’s jeans? If you have, you probably remember that the label was a little patch on the back of the belt area—it wasn’t stretched across your rear end and down your leg. Less is often more, and subtlety = elegance.
- Let a committee make decisions. If you’re the CEO or project manager, establish right from the beginning that you will have the final say as to whether any adjustments are needed. When you allow a committee to give their opinion about a design or written piece, you’ll have a dozen different opinions to balance, and you’ll end up second-guessing your own decisions. Chances are that the people you’ll be asking will have varying levels of experience and familiarity with the subject, but they won’t agree on anything. Let one person deal with the creative and make all necessary decisions.
- Say: “This should only take you a few minutes to do.” You likely have absolutely no concept of how long that assignment would take, as you hired this creative person because you couldn’t do this task yourself. What you think may only take a few minutes may in fact require several hours’ worth of work, so it’s best to ask how long it’ll take and then determine whether you have enough money in the budget to cover that work.
- Tell anyone to “make it POP more”, because that means absolutely nothing and you’ll be loathed just for having said something that douchey. If you don’t know the correct terminology for what you’re trying to express, then find images or examples that illustrate what it is you’re looking for as mentioned in the “DO” section above.
- Demand that changes should be made if the subject you’re dealing with is something you’re unfamiliar with: instead, trust in the fact that they know what they’re doing. Chances are that you wouldn’t second-guess your dentist with regard to the tools used on your teeth, and you wouldn’t hover over your mechanic’s shoulder, suggesting that they switch around certain plugs and such in your car’s engine, right? Please show that same courtesy to your creative team. They’re no less skilled than any other professional, and if you insist upon peppering your copy with exclamation marks, or adding lens flares to your website just because you think they’re “neat”, you’ll end up looking like a jackass and your business will suffer as a result.