Brief Answers to Big Questions: How Do I Get the Most From My Design Team?

Published: October 7, 2021

by Justin Difazzio

You’ve probably been in a situation where you ask your design team for something, and what you get in the end is not at all what you pictured. Maybe your focus was different than theirs, or maybe the tone was all wrong, or maybe they didn’t understand the urgency of the request. This sort of hiccup can waste valuable time and resources, and the worst part is that these incidents are completely avoidable. The good news, though, is also that these incidents are completely avoidable.

There is no specific blame to be placed when something like this happens, and often a simple discussion or a little more detail could have prevented the unfavorable outcome. We’re here to share our top five tips for getting the most from your design team. Hopefully the information below will curtail most (because you’ll never completely avoid miscommunication) of these incidents.

design definition

1. Use Precise Language

You might not know your kerning from your drop shadows, but talking to your design team doesn’t have to feel like contacting aliens. It’s important to use the right vocabulary when speaking with your design team, and that can be as simple as having them define terms you don’t understand. A simple request for definitions can help you both fill gaps in learning and make your communication easier and more effective.

You could even have a meeting or a weekly email where the design team can share and explain concepts that could help the whole team grow. A simple explanation of basic design concepts and phrases could help to make sure you are asking for exactly what you want and getting what you need, and an open forum would allow for people to ask questions to clarify what they don’t understand. With just a few of these meetings, everyone could be more fluent in the language of design.

design feedback

2. Give Specific Feedback

With a working knowledge of design terms and concepts, you will be more capable of following this second piece of advice. When you give feedback, be as specific as possible. Your design team will use that feedback to try to create something that’s closer to the desired end product in your head.

It’s not as simple as it sounds to explain what you’re imagining, and meeting for feedback often, talking about what aspects work and don’t work for you, and talking beyond whether things are good or bad will help everyone be on the same page. Take time to look at drafts, noticing what pieces work and why, what might not do what you want it to do, and why that might be. If you can’t put it into words exactly, talk through it with the design team, solicit help from the rest of the team who are working on the project. Chances are, someone will be able to explain it in a way that will allow it to be improved.

design examples

3. Use Examples

Perhaps the best way to show the end goal of a design is to find a comparable example of something similar to what you want. In the industry, that’s called a “comp.” Finding a few good comps can shorthand the whole design discussion, making nebulous concepts and design elements concrete. You may not find an exact example of what you want, but finding several comps and pointing out what you like in them can shorten the process and lead to fewer drafts.

Just be careful not to lean too heavily on an example for specifics. You’re not copying someone else’s work as much as you’re giving your design team the tools to understand the final product you’re envisioning in your mind. Think of it as a launching point for putting your own spin on things.

design edits

4. Learn What Changes Really Mean

Something that might look like a simple fix to you can mean hours more work for your design team. It’s alright to ask for changes. That part is essential to creating effective designs. But both you and your designers will be happier and more satisfied with a clear understanding of how long something might take.

Sure, you might get it back almost immediately with some changes, but be sure to ask how much time they might need to make changes so your expectations are in line with the reality of the amount of work they will need to do. Being open and honest about how much time something takes will lead to an understanding about how much time projects will generally take and make managing projects easier for everyone involved.

robot trust

5. Trust Your Creative Team

Getting a good design can be as simple as trusting your creative team to create a piece of media that works. When it comes to design, they’re the ones with the expertise and the experience in what works. Trust their instincts, and you’ll get a better product every time.

If you’re not exactly sure what you want, let your design team craft a solution. It may not be exactly what you thought you wanted, but you could be surprised by how effective and creative their final products might be. And if what they deliver doesn’t hit the mark entirely, it’ll be a really good place to start using your new design vocabulary to work together and create something that’s a bullseye for you and your clients.

Design Your Own Success

happy designers

Now that you’ve got these five tips and can put them into practice, your communication with your design team will be more effective and less in need of an intergalactic translator. Whether you have a whole corral of designers or a single overworked design genius, you can’t go wrong by trying to meet them at their level and learning just what they need to succeed.

And when your design team is happy, everyone is happy.