7 things not to say to a designer

A design agency that works with you in the longer term will be able to really immerse itself in your business, understand the ethos and objectives and create artwork that promotes your brand in exactly the right way to exactly the right people – creating an invaluable partnership.

Not only will your design partner be able to work with you on a wide range of services like brand refreshes, new websites, suites of new materials and exhibition stands, but they will also be able to introduce you to tried and trusted specialists from related fields, such as photography, PR, print and event management to help support your wider marketing requirements – with all of them having been vetted by the design firm that you trust.

However, in order for the relationship to flourish, you both have to understand each other. Dedicated designers will work hard to create a completely culture and customer appropriate branding for your business, sourcing the answers to a variety of essential questions about your target market, aims and objectives and previous physical and digital marketing materials. But what can you, as the client, do to support this burgeoning relationship?

And the answer are, perhaps it’s the things you shouldn’t do that will be the most helpful! Just like any other industry, the design industry suffers from some popular problems, so in the spirit of building better relationships between designers and their clients the world over, here are some of the things not to say to your designer, please…

  1. “I’ll know it when I see it”

Every designer who has ever worked for anyone will probably have heard a client say this at least once. Saying “I’ll know it when I see it” is a tricky one as the phrase doesn’t provide any information. Good designers will immediately quiz you on what you like and what you don’t, as well as the reams of questions they should already have asked you about your sector, your business and its objectives, but if you are able to offer any insight into what you want independently, then that’s really useful! Sadly they aren’t able to read your mind to share your vision so concentrating on what you do need is much more helpful.

  1. “Whatever you think best”

Design is a partnership activity. Yes the designers are creative and are brilliant at coming up with ideas that suit your customers and shine light on your talents, however, they need lots of information from you before they can do this. It is vital that you share with your designer your previous marketing materials – physical and digital – your current branding or preferred colours as well as what you are trying to achieve.

Taking a little bit of time to answer your designer’s questions will pay off in the long run as saying “you’re the experts, do what you think is best” is very likely to result is something that is not quite what you, your business or your customers need and you’ll both have to start the project all over again.

  1. “Design is just basically drawing, isn’t it?”

Graphic design is not the same as drawing pretty pictures. Actually what a design agency does is combine a whole range of different skills from developing a brand representing a company’s ethos to creating a suite of marketing materials to fit across print and digital spectra. They’ve trained for a long time to master a huge range of techniques, platforms and approaches and what they really want is to be able to ultilise all of these skills to help support your business.

  1. “I found this image on the Internet so can we use it please?”

The age of the Internet has made images more readily accessible than they have ever been. Images you find on the Internet are, more often than not, protected by copyright that prevents you from using them unless you are prepared to pay a fee to the owner. Therefore originality is not just a creative goal, it is a legal one too, so with plagiarising images often resulting in breaching copyright laws as well as design that looks tired, it’s best avoided!

Instead, why not create some striking images of your own? Designers can usually recommend the best photographers for the type of images you are after and can usually manage the shoots too, to ensure that you get exactly what is needed to illustrate your business brand in a way that suits your culture, customers and budget.

  1. “Can you just do this – it’ll only take you five minutes”

It’s fantastic that you’ve chosen to trust a professional with your precious design work, however, unfortunately there is very little that will take five minutes!

It’s sometimes tricky to explain how the creative design process works and how long each stage takes so why not go along to your designer’s offices so that they can show you how and what they do? Once you see the design process live, you will be able to see how all the elements fit together and how delivering decent design is not a quick process.

Meetings between designers and their clients help to develop a mutual understanding and respect and it’s a brilliant foundation for a long term relationship. Of course, added to the normal time it takes within the design process, all great designers will (and it’s necessary that they do) have an obsessive eye for detail and will take more time and trouble over a project than you would think possible because they want to get it exactly right for you.

  1. “I showed it to my friend’s son who is studying marketing and they suggested …” [or similar!]

First of all it’s really important to tell you that designers should be keen to hear all your ideas and should welcome any feedback on work that they are putting together. What often happens is that the third party offering their opinion isn’t aware of the context of a piece of design or isn’t perhaps isn’t within the design discipline but in a related profession.

If we use the example above, the young man may not be aware that the piece of marketing material you’ve showed him is just part of a wider campaign across print and digital for a trade and not a consumer audience, or any other combination of facts might be missing! He’s also studying marketing and not design and, as a marketing professional, he would always commission a professional designer to deliver his design work, so by all means let your designer know about third party comments but be wary of people commenting on your design work without the full knowledge of the situation.

  1. “It needs to look exactly like this”

Giving your designer an idea of what you are trying to achieve before they start work is essential – but being too inflexible about it is the opposite. You’re paying a designer for their creative expertise, so use it! If you’re a small firm your brand is often linked to your sense of self, and if you’re a corporation then there will be a way that it’s always been done, so all good designers will empathise with how difficult it can be to let go or take a different direction. But for the benefit of your business and your brand, take a deep breath, and let your designer create!


Clare Bampton

Clare Bampton has nearly 20 years' experience in PR and marketing and founded Derbyshire-based Bampton Communications Limited seven years ago following a career including Lloyds TSB, The Boots Company, TNT and British Waterways. Bampton provides practical, value-for-money PR and marketing services to a wide range of SMEs and marketing professionals across the UK.


Clare Bampton has nearly 20 years' experience in PR and marketing and founded Derbyshire-based Bampton Communications Limited seven years ago following a career including Lloyds TSB, The Boots Company, TNT and British Waterways. Bampton provides practical, value-for-money PR and marketing services to a wide range of SMEs and marketing professionals across the UK.