As a science communication specialist, I not only have the good fortune to work with the country’s leading scientists, but also with incredibly talented and creative communication professionals. So, when I wanted to compile a list of top tips for working with a graphic designer, I knew where to turn for advice. I’ve worked with graphic designer Lea Crosswell on many projects over the past 10 years, and she was kind enough to provide the following words of wisdom.

Most designers can guide you through the design process and answer any questions you might have. A little mutual respect and give-and-take go a long way in creating a great working relationship and excellent results.

1. Get in early. Whether you’re producing a printed report, or a brand new website, always get in early to find out how long the production will take, and work out a reasonable schedule from there.

2. Trust your designer to come up with an appropriate solution. When giving feedback on a design, tell your designer what you like and what you don’t like. If something about the design isn’t working, try to explain why is doesn’t work so the designer can come up with the best solution, rather than saying ‘move this and that’ without giving a reason. You might be surprised what they come up with!

Keeping this in mind, there are four things designers never want to hear.

“Can I have a version I can edit in Word?”

If you request an editable file, you’ll need specialised design software. Word is not design software. Resist the temptation to ‘tinker’ yourself and simply communicate any concerns you may have to the designer so they can provide the best solution. If your product requires regular updates and this is something you want to do yourself, an alternative, DIY option may be more appropriate. Be sure to discuss this with the designer before any work commences.

“Here’s an image I found on the web.”

You could run into legal trouble for using a copyrighted image, and the image won’t look good because the resolution is too low.

Any sentence that starts with “My [insert relationship to person] said…”

It’s only natural to seek feedback from your artist friend/wife/son or any number of friends and family. Having said that, you hired your designer because they have the design experience and industry knowledge to guide you in the right direction. Above all, the design solution must successfully communicate to your target audience. Again… trust your designer.

“Don’t spend too much time on it.”

A professional designer will always work as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality.

3. Provide final content, rather than a draft. Always provide final, approved content whenever possible. If you send a designer an entire new Word document after they’ve designed the first draft, it means re-inserting all text for a second time. Having said that, a few rounds of revisions are normal and expected.

4. White space is important. Don’t be tempted to say and show more than is necessary. The message becomes cluttered and difficult to comprehend if there’s too much to take in. For the design to be efficient and clear, ask your designer to show you what can be done, or what to avoid.

5. Comic Sans is never an option.

In summary, designers love clients who:

  • communicate clearly
  • are polite
  • establish expectations upfront
  • are willing to trust them.

Lea Crosswell is a freelance graphic designer with more than 24 years’ experience and a number of industry awards under her belt. She knows what she’s talking about.