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A graphic saying: How To Effectively Communicate With Graphic Designers: 10 Code Phrases to Use.

Do you get baffled by the type of language graphic designers use? Pixels, white space, focal points, and sans-serif make sense to them. To the average person, though, it might seem like the designer is speaking in a secret code.

If you’ve contacted a designer, you’ll know what I mean.

Where does that leave you as a business owner or a marketer? Well, I’d say it’s likely that clients who understand these terms get better design results.

That leads me to another question.

How do you get the best from a designer if you’re unsure what they’re talking about? It’s simpler than it sounds.

In this post, I’ll explain how to work with graphic designers and communicate effectively with them.

You’ll soon see that you don’t need to know the difference between points and pixels to get the ideal website design. You just need to understand a few secret code phrases to help you describe what you want and avoid the red flags that set graphic designers on edge.

Ready to find out more? Then let’s get started with the importance of clear communication with designers.

Why Communication With Your Graphic Designer is Important

Take a look at these two images.

The first one is often featured among the worst logo designs (my apologies to the designer).

Example of a bad logo.

However, with some better communication from the client’s part, it’s the logo might look something like this:

Office of government commerce.

Much better, right?

It’s the same with any collaboration. If you want to know how to work with a graphic designer, know that it starts with communciation.

Strong communication positively impacts your overall website design and makes working with designers much easier by:

  • Confirming expectations. When you express your ideas and expectations clearly, a graphic designer can tell you if the design you want is possible and within your budget.
  • Exchanging ideas. One of the best ways to get your ideal product is to bounce ideas off each other. When you communicate effectively, you can benefit from the designer’s expertise while also sharing your thoughts and ideas.
  • Solving problems upfront. The key to any successful working relationship is clear communication on both sides. That allows you to discuss any concerns as they arise and correct course if needed.
  • Reducing revisions. The clearer the communication, the fewer the revisions. The more detail you give, the more likely you’ll get the results you want the first time.
  • Saving time and money. Efficient communication and revision saves time for everyone. It can save you money, too, as you won’t need to pay for additional design hours on a project.

Once you’ve got a good dialogue, it’s time to start building relationships. Let’s discuss how to do that next.

Building Up A Relationship With Your Graphic Designer

Building a relationship is another essential part of understanding how to work with a graphic designer. This helps to build trust and makes the partnership more likely to be successful.

Here’s some tips that worked for me when building a good rapport with graphic designers to help get you started:

  • Get to know your graphic designer. Look at their website. Understand how they work, how many revisions they offer, and what they need from you.
  • Contact them. Send them questions to see how quickly they answer and test their expertise. This enables you to assess their knowledge, communication skills, and responsiveness.
  • Keep checking in. When you’re working with designers, provide feedback along the way. This creates a sense of teamwork and allows you to speak up if you’re unsure about something.
  • Respond quickly to queries. The faster you can respond to your designer and the quicker you can give feedback, the more likely you are to maintain momentum and get the project delivered on time.
  • Show your appreciation. Everyone likes to have their hard work and efforts recognized. Thank your graphic designer while the project is ongoing; however, don’t be scared to give them constructive feedback if you’re unhappy with something.

Finally, if you and your designer are a good fit, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t foster a long-term working relationship with them. However, to keep things moving smoothly, there are some resources your graphic designer needs to help them out.

Resources You Need To Have Ready For Your Graphic Designer

Before your designer can work their magic, they need some basics from you.

First, have a realistic budget in mind. Your graphic designer can tell you how far it will take you or if you need modifications to stay within budget.

Next, the image below highlights some visual resources graphic designers use most often:.

Assets used by graphic designers.

Your graphic designers’ work will also typically need:

  • A brief: Draw up a detailed project brief with the scope, target audience, and objectives. If there are any special instructions, your brief is the place to include them.
  • Guidelines: Send over your brand guidelines to ensure brand consistency.
  • Design elements: This includes things like logos or fonts.
  • Examples: Give your designer a clear idea of what you want by sharing examples of designs from other businesses in your niche. You don’t want your designer to copy, but they need an idea of what you’re aiming for. Pinterest is a great resource for this.
  • Content: Include any text for home, about, contact pages, bios, etc.
  • Details about your target audience: This information helps the designer create designs that effectively communicate your message and resonate with your intended audience.
  • Collaboration tools: You can manage your project via Trello, Asana, Google Drive, Microsoft Live, etc.

Finally, be ready to give your designer the creative freedom to create a website design, logo, or other graphics. Sure, you’ve got your ideas, but you’ve got to learn to trust their expertise.

Now, remember I mentioned the graphic designer’s “secret code?”

To effectively communicate your needs and avoid concerns that may unsettle your designer, you just need to know a few secret code phrases. However, it’s a two-way process, and there are certain phrases that clients need to avoid too. Stay with me while I detail those next.

Code Phrases to Avoid

There are certain phrases that immediately make designers want to say “No” to your project—or start charging extra.

Why? Because they know your project will be harder work than it needs to be.

Say the phrases below at your peril.

1. “I’ll know it when I see it.”

It’s simple: If a designer doesn’t know what you want, they can’t give you a finished product you’ll be happy with. Design is a two-way process. Your participation and guidance are key to developing a website design that meets your needs.

2. “Here, I made a layout for you.”

Those words will likely send a shiver down any good designer’s spine. They don’t want clients to do the work for them. Instead:

  • Tell a designer about your conversion goals and the market you want to reach.
  • Let them know if there is a certain mood you want to create or an image you want to convey.
  • Step back so your designer can do what they do best: solve communication problems visually.

When you try to do a designer’s job, you limit their ability to deliver the perfect solution.

3. “I had a huge falling out with my last designer.”

This one puts designers on edge. They’ll wonder why? Was it them, or was it you? Were you impossible to work with? Did you not pay your bills?

4. “I don’t have much to spend now, but there’s more work coming.”

Whenever you don’t have money set aside for design, it’s like telling a designer that you don’t value good design or well-planned marketing and you won’t appreciate the impact it will have on sales. It’s a red flag that you’ll be hard to deal with, won’t pay invoices on time, and might even be out of business within a few months or years—none of which are qualities top designers are looking for.

5. “How much does <insert hideously complicated project> cost?”

Designers sometimes have standard prices for projects with tight descriptions that don’t vary much. These could include graphic design for advertising, website headers, HTML emails of a particular length, and even logos. However, for any complex project, such as a free report, corporate website, or product packaging, your designer will need to gather information before they can give you a price. Experienced business people know this, so asking for a “ballpark figure” before giving details just makes you look like a beginner.

6. “I want to show this to my <spouse/friend/child>.”

There is nothing wrong with asking for feedback, but this one still makes designers nervous, and here’s why: none of these people are inside your business. According to a recent survey, 61 percent of companies reported their design process only involves a handful of people (between two and five), so if you want to talk with a marketing director or business partner, that’s fine. They probably understand your business and marketing goals. However, when you go outside of your company for feedback, it implies that you can’t decide on your own.

How many people are involved in the graphic design process.

Enough of the negatives, though. Let’s look at some more affirmative code phrases you should use.

Code Phrases to Use

In contrast to the phrases above, the words below are music to your designer’s ears. Clients who understand the value a designer brings to the table and know the importance of well-planned marketing say things like this:

7. “What do you recommend we do?”

The simplest way to get inspired work out of anyone is to make it clear that you value their opinion. Graphic designers are no exception. Instead of starting a project with your deliverables set in stone, give your designer a chance to think about it and make recommendations. Sure, it might take an extra day or two, but you’ll often be amazed at the ideas top designers give you. It can be the difference between a mediocre website design and one that makes you millions.

8. “How much time do you need?”

This question tells your designer that you’re aware good work takes time, especially for new clients. First projects always take the longest because they are inventing the “look” of your company from scratch. It takes a lot of thought, back-and-forth, and revisions, all of which take time. If you’re willing to be patient, it’s worth it, though.

9. “What’s the best way to communicate?”

Some graphic designers like the phone, while others prefer email. Some are happy to talk with you at 10 PM, while others can’t. Before starting your project, it’s essential to know how your graphic designer prefers to communicate and do your best to accommodate it. You’ll have fewer mixups, more fun, and a designer who loves working with you—all of which lead to higher-quality work.

10. “Here’s the information you need. Here’s the target market. Here’s how we’ll approve your proposals. Go to work!”

The ultimate designer’s fantasy? A client:

  • With all of their text and photos organized
  • Who knows their target market and overall goal for the piece
  • With a clear approval process in place
  • And who is willing to give them the time and authority to do their work.

If you learn nothing else from this article, remember these phrases because they cover everything you need to build a great working relationship with your graphic designer. Keep in mind, though; you’ll also want to give feedback along the way to keep the project on track. Let’s look at how to do that and what your designer wants to hear from you during a project next.

How To Provide Effective Feedback for Your Graphic Designers

Giving graphic designer feedback is essential if you want an end product that you both love. However, if you’re not used to working with freelancers, giving effective feedback may feel awkward.

I can understand that.

Knowing how to work with a graphic designer and give them constructive feedback that gets results can be a bit of an art.

With that in mind, here’s how to give helpful, specific feedback that gets you the results you’re after.

  • Be specific: Telling a designer you’re not happy or don’t like something doesn’t help them. You need to explain precisely why you’re unhappy. Allow your designer to explain why they’ve done something the way they have, too.
  • Be professional: Yes, I do mean respectful. There’s no need to get personal or overly critical if you aren’t entirely happy with the first design. Expert freelancers are happy to take revisions on board or explain why they’ve done something a particular way.
  • Consider your audience: What do you do if the final design isn’t to your tastes? That’s difficult, but remember, it’s not all about you. Your design needs to appeal to your audience and resonate with them. If the finished project does that, the designer has done their job.
  • Share your suggestions: Remember, it’s your project. A designer shouldn’t have a problem with you suggesting room for improvement. However, don’t try and tell your designer what to do. Let your designer use their expertise and creativity to devise alternative approaches or modifications.
  • Use tools: Filestage lets you give feedback for website design, social feedback, videos, etc.
  • Highlight the positives: OK, so perhaps you don’t like the overall look, but there are areas you do like. Start by telling your designer your favorite parts of the design, and then tell them what you don’t like about it. Here’s an example of how to do it from Studio Antheia.
Example of bad feedback and good feedback.

By following these principles, you can guide your graphic designer toward creating a design that meets your expectations and achieves the desired results.


How do I tell my graphic designer what I want?

Start with a clear design brief. Include things like your goals, your audience, and your desired outcome. 
To give your designer an idea of the look you’re hoping for, show them the graphics and logos you like so they can use them for inspiration. “Make this design pop” might sound cool, but it doesn’t tell your designer what you want. Show them which colors you prefer and the style of fonts you like. Give examples where you can.
Giving feedback and being specific is essential too. Give constructive feedback along the way and raise any concerns.
Detail the emotions you want to inspire. Do you want your customer to have a sense of calm? Or do you want them to feel energized or inspired? That all influences the colors a designer uses.

What not to say to graphic designers?

For a start, Don’t tell them, “I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.” That doesn’t help anyone. Those words will likely get any talented designer running for the hills or at least politely declining your project.
Another golden rule is to refrain from doing the design work for them. A designer doesn’t want to see the layout of your design. Instead, tell them what you want to achieve, the market you aim for, and what mood and emotions you want to inspire. Feel free to share graphics like logos etc., to help guide your graphic designer.
Also, while it makes sense to be clear on costs, don’t try and lowball your designer with the promise of more projects to come. 
If your project is overly complicated, don’t expect your designer to immediately produce an estimate or quote. A professional graphic designer will want to do some information gathering before they can quote fairly.


If you’ve been wondering how to work with a graphic designer, this article should have answered many of the main questions.

Creating visually appealing graphics is an essential part of attracting your ideal customers.

Getting your dream result comes down to building a relationship, giving your designer what they need to do their job, and letting them use their expertise to create the best design for you.

Clients who are easy to work with and use secret code phrases regularly don’t just get a designer’s best work. They also get the lowest invoices because they can work efficiently, and designers don’t have to fight their way through the process.

You can do plenty more to make working with designers much easier, like providing them a detailed brief and understanding graphic design “secrets” so you know “code” language when you hear it.

Working with graphic designers also requires trust on both sides and good communication throughout the project.

Do all that, and you can get your dream website design or other graphic.

How do you work with graphic designers? Share your tips for getting a great website design below.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson is an award-winning graphic designer and author of the Big Brand System.

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