Good Designers Ask A Million Questions
A Letter to Account Executives.
From Yours Truly, Rachael The Designer
You’ve just submitted your creative request via email — you feel accomplished. An hour later (or two hours…we “creatives” are very busy) you receive an email back from your Graphic Designer with an abundance of questions. Did Sam the Designer not understand your request? What’s with all the questions? We promise there’s a reason we need answers.
Having all the facts can go a long way when dreaming up the perfect logo design, digital display ad—you name it. Elements like audience, voice and brand requirements are all factors that go into conceptualization. Graphic Designers tend to dig deep into the ‘what’ and ‘why’ to help guide them to their design solution. All of the information that is gathered can then inform design decisions like font style, color, copy and imagery.
We designers have a firm belief that “form ALWAYS follows function”. Although we agree that appeal and aesthetic are significant in creative, it is imperative that we follow these functionalist ideals. Sure, we can design something pretty, but it is likely the end result may feel excessive or even unnecessary. Sure, that font looks cooler… but why? How does the font benefit the client’s brand and support their brand values? What does it say about them or their audience? Understanding all of the answers will help inform better design decisions across the board. At the start of your project, the best way to dig even deeper into these questions is by obtaining resources like style guidelines and brand positioning decks. Most major brands will have resources like these available for your team’s perusal. If unavailable, it’s helpful to build an in-depth questionnaire in the form of a creative brief. The briefing can touch on questions relating to the audience, brand values or persona and objectives — all things useful when making design decisions. So, now that we’ve made functionality, reasoning and concept our foundation, we can introduce things like aesthetics and standard design principles to develop our work.
You may also think we designers are stubborn. And some of us are. But the good ones aren’t afraid to voice the question, “Why?” You probably ask yourself; “Ugh, why can’t Sam the Designer just do what the client suggested?” There certainly are times when the client is right, as he or she knows the brand the best. However, when a client offers an overwhelming amount of arbitrary art direction, at that moment, the creative team reserves the right to question “why is that?” We are happy to try our clients’ suggestions; however, if the result begins to sacrifice concept, functionality and brand guidelines, designers should then step in to guide them in the right direction. By asking for rationale, we are encouraging our client to reveal the true issue within the design. Check out the below scenario:
Tyler the Account Executive: The Client asked if we could change that top text to red.
Sam the Designer: Thanks for the feedback! Why do they feel that text needs to be red? I am a bit concerned about placing red over a black background, as those two colors tend to clash when overlaid, especially because the font weight is so light. Having low contrast is against their brand guidelines.
Tyler the Account Executive: Oh, that line of text is definitely most important. She wanted to call that out.
Sam the Designer: Makes total sense. Instead of changing to red, our recommendation would be to enlarge those words and change them to a heavier font weight. That should help establish some hierarchy in our layout, calling out the most important copy. I’d be happy to jump on the phone with you and the client to talk them through some of these suggestions.
Tyler the Account Executive: That sounds great. Send over those changes and we can hop on the phone to share that reasoning with the client.
Hopefully, you aren’t looking at the above interaction and thinking, “damn those creatives…always giving the account services team a hard time.” Sam the Designer questioned the client’s initial suggestion to determine what needed to be fixed. It is clear that utilizing red text with a light font weight on a black background will make the text unreadable, thus violating brand guidelines. By knowing the true problem, Sam was able to offer an alternative solution that didn’t compromise the brand or basic design principles.
Whether it is to get more information on a creative brief or to question feedback, simply put, designers ask a lot of questions. And rightly so. In a fast-paced agency environment, our Creative & Content team hopes to provide the best possible outcome in the most efficient time for our clients, but we can’t do it alone. With the help of the account services team, together, we can dig deeper and develop great work for our clients through research, getting to know the brand and creative conceptualization. Just know that when Graphic Designers ask a million questions, it’s all a part of the process.
Rachael Conti is a Graphic Designer working on the Creative & Content team at Advantage. She has supported the creative needs for The Event Studio, EXP, and Sponsorship Consulting teams, including clients; LG Electronics, Frontier Communications, Microsoft, NYX Professional Makeup and Smithsonian Channel, among others. Design is her passion; and when it comes to her work, she believes in concept, the creative process and having fun.