Graphic design for the soul: communication and compromise

I often find myself reflecting back on my last year of design school nostalgically: the thought of being done with the world of academia, having one last hoorah with my classmates, and then on with my life. Within a month of graduation I was excited to land a great job at a wage higher than anything I’d ever earned. Life was good. However, I soon realized I had a lot to learn about good communications and meeting clients’ needs.

My early days as a graphic designer

I didn’t notice how good I had it when I was in school; I was responsible for the direction of the graphic design work that I produced. Sure, the instructors provided the assignments and offered feedback but, at the end of the day, I made the decisions that affected the final outcome. Shortly after I was working as an in-house graphic designer and taking feedback from individuals who didn’t have a lick of design experience. It was the first time that I heard the saying, “I know I’m not a designer, but I do have a sense for design.” I found myself compromising my design ethics, “selling my soul” as some in the industry might call it.

I needed to learn how to communicate with clients better to develop positive working relationships and effective campaigns.

What I’ve learned from doing graphic design in Regina

Fast forward to my current Art Director job in Regina—here I’ve come to realize the key to a successful agency/client relationship is open communications and willingness to compromise.

The best advice that I have ever received is to focus on the target audience and the message.

5 Steps to get successful as an artist and with clients

The following steps have allowed me to get good results for my clients and hopefully they will help you to communicate more effectively with your agency counterparts as well.

1. SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

It’s very important to be on the same page with regard to what needs to be accomplished. Your agency should outline the expectations and deliverables, and what is going to be expected from each party to achieve the end goal.

2. CONTACT FREQUENTLY

This certainly doesn’t mean daily contact, but it is important for both parties to make themselves available. Touching base regularly allows for open communication which is key for any relationship.

3. EDUCATE AND GET EDUCATED

You may not be familiar with how an agency works. Feel free to ask questions. You should feel comfortable discussing what’s not working and what needs to be done to rectify the situation. The agency will never know your business as well as you do. It is as important for you to educate the agency on the ins and outs of your industry, as the agency to educate you.

4. LISTEN

Misunderstandings will happen from time to time but can be minimized if your agency reps listen to you. When asked why my Moshum (grandfather in Cree) was so quiet all the time, he simply replied that you learn more when you listen. Words to live by.

5. PROVIDE FEEDBACK

Feedback is important for both the agency and the client. Dialogue to discover what is working and what needs to be improved is vital for the relationship to move forward.

The common thread woven throughout this list is communication. Graphic designers, like me, are generally known for their visual rather than verbal communication, but I’ve learned in a short period of time that open communication, and a little compromise, can indeed save your soul (and achieve some pretty great design results as well!).

Look into our communications-centred approach

At Look, our creative and communications services are focused on outcomes. Learn more about our creative here and take a look at our work.

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