As a business owner and entrepreneur, I’ve figured out a lot of stuff the hard way. So, when given the opportunity, I’m happy to help others avoid the mistakes I’ve already made. A few weeks back, I was asked to do just that at a No Hype/Just Help learning event for women in business. And, since this week was Global Entrepreneurship Week, it seemed like a good idea to share here too.
In particular, I spoke about what I’ve learned as a client and business owner about collaborating creatively with a graphic designer, and about what it takes to create a coherent visual identity, keep costs down, and achieve positive results when hiring a professional. It was a small group of motivated women in diverse businesses, drawn together by their common desire to express their personal brands authentically and consistently. We covered lots of ground, and had a grand time, but I promised to post a summary of what I said. (Oh, and if you’re super-keen, I’ve also made a more detailed worksheet in pdf, which you can download here.)
1. CAREFULLY CONSIDER YOUR BRAND
Before you start swapping ideas about what style of design you prefer, it’s absolutely critical to think through the substantive aspects of your business first, including your brand. If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times, a logo is not a brand. Instead, your brand is a bundle of personality traits, attributes, and promises that make up who you are. The more your graphic designer understands your brand elements, the better their design work will reflect them.
2. PUT A REALISTIC PLAN IN PLACE
When starting out, it is easy to get carried away by the demand for good graphic design. Who wouldn’t want an entire suite of products printed and ready to go? But, building a brand is a long process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Start with just a few key simple design elements. That way it’s easier to keep costs down and preserve flexibility, in case things change. Rarely do business owners have it all figured out before they start, so let your visual identity evolve the same way your business does. Oh, and plan on learning to do some design work on your own. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with Photoshop Elements!
3. DO YOUR OWN CREATIVE RESEARCH
No matter how talented the graphic designer – they can’t get inside your head. Unless you are able to provide some visual clues to your vision, a graphic designer might as well be working in the dark. So, before you decide to hire a professional, spend a little time doing your homework. Keep examples of appealing business cards, brochures, and print marketing materials in a ‘swipe file’. Take note of logos and colour combinations you like. Bookmark websites that work well and strike your fancy. Get a few printing quotes so you know the costs. Once you’ve done the prep work, provide your designer a proper creative brief.
4. BE SPECIFIC ABOUT REQUIRED DELIVERABLES
When it comes to getting what you want, you need to know what that is. Specifically! Or, the better you understand your needs, the more likely you are to have them met. If you’re starting in business, begin with your brand identity. Consider it your toolbox, and fill it with the basics first. A logo or wordmark in multiple file formats, a colour palette, a font combination, and some general style guidelines will take you a long way on your own. When you’re ready to add your brand to a business card, website, or any other marketing materials – refer back to your toolbox to start building. Then, be as specific as possible about your desired end-product. For details, check out the worksheet.
5. PRAISE AND THANK YOU
Lastly, remember that when it comes to working with a graphic designer, it’s a long term relationship. If all goes well, you will likely return to them again and again to help bring your business strategies to life. So, the more time and effort you spend to minimize your designer’s headaches, the healthier your relationship will be. Recognize their training and expertise, empower their creativity, and thank them every time.Image via Creative Review