Graphic design has everything to do with how the world perceives your business from customers and clients to investors and other businesses. Design plays a large part in determining your brand identity, but it is by no means the only factor.
Your brand extends beyond what people see. Branding has a back-story, which forms the story of your business. This back-story includes the way you address your customers, the verbiage you use, the wording of your emails, and the kind of customers and clients you pursue. Before you hire your graphic designer, it’s necessary to spend some time doing your research and deciding how you will appeal to your demographic. Know your brand, then you’ll start asking the right questions.
Ideally, your designer should ask you questions. In order to develop the visual aspect of your brand, they need to know all about it. They’ll ask you about your company’s message and what your company offers. They’ll also want to know how your competitors represent themselves, and how you want to set yourself apart. And in order to work their magic, they need to know your ideal customer and your overall brand story ideas.
It might feel like they’re grilling you, but in reality, they are trying to get a clear picture of what your designs should look like. If they are asking questions like this, then you know that you’re in good hands. You should also feel comfortable asking questions back so that everyone knows what’s going on. At the end of the process, here are some topics that the both of you should be on the same page about.
1. What are our communication expectations?
It’s best to begin here. Communication can be the biggest roadblock in a professional relationship, or it can be the determining factor of a successful professional relationship. The fluidity of communication can also determine the scope of the project.
The market is brimming with startups, so your content constantly needs development for you to stay on the radar. And once you get up and running, you’ll probably be on multiple channels, meaning that your graphic design won’t be a one-and-done kind of thing.
You need to know if your designer expects to stick around after the initial image development. Ask them when they’re available to communicate and how will you communicate with them? This also opens the door for you to negotiate time frame.
If you talk candidly about communication expectations, your designer will feel more comfortable asking about any needs they have for developing your image, such as professional photos, product photographs, slogans, and other elements that will ultimately make your image better and more coherent.
2. Are these colors and fonts appropriate for my field and demographic?
You’ve already told your designer what your market is and who you’re expecting to attract. You’ve probably given them market stats on consumer demand, keywords, and a few inspirational brand identities that you look up to.
Now’s the time to consult with them about the current market and color sciences. You want to know whether or not your color choices will draw the right attention. Color can be the clincher when it comes to emotional marketing. The colors of your branding will send signals to your customers and clients about how to feel.
Colors and font choices can dictate whether customers and clients see you as intense or light-hearted, deep or breezy, modern or classic. Many people already form a first impression from your logo’s font, color, and shape, even before they register the name of your business. This means that your first impression needs to be in line with your market.
On top of that, there are practical concerns about your font and color choice. Some color choices give off the perfect emotion for your brand, but they might make text difficult to parse. A thin copperplate font might make beautiful headings, but it will make long strings of text unintelligible. A classic serif font can look handsome on a printed page, but tends to be hard on the eyes when displayed on a screen.
In many cases, your designer knows his or her way around a color picker, and will know exactly how certain colors and fonts come off to certain demographics and what appeals to whom. If you feel that something’s off, though, it’s worth asking for further investigation.
3. Will this be consistent with the rest of my image?
Graphic designers are professionals who can spot inconsistencies as well or better than your target consumer. But you are a client, and that means that if you really want something in a particular way, the designer will do their best to try to give you that.
In this case, it’s worth it to take a step back and get your designer’s honest opinion. Do they think what they are creating matches the rest of your image, including the verbiage of your website, the tone of your social media content, and the copy of your web-store descriptions? Does it support the story and images of your About page, as well as your overall brand story?
If you feel that your graphic designer is on the right track with a new brand image, then you will need to update existing content for brand coherence. Would they be able to update any of your current online and marketing materials to the new logos and designs?
4. How do you deal with customer feedback?
Even if you could say everything that you wanted to for and about your brand, there’s no way to completely control how your customers feel about it.
Analytics are key for coming to understand and know your customer base. You need to be able to see what they are responding to and what they aren’t so sure about.
Once you know what your customers like or dislike, you can go to the drawing board with your graphic designer, and form more coherently around what you’re doing right while cutting out what you’ve been doing wrong. It’s the graphic design version of halting production on the slow movers and ramping up production on the best-sellers.
5. Is it trendy or is it authentic?
Many graphic designers eat, sleep, and drink trends. It is their job, after all. In many cases, the trendy designs work for minor marketing moves and the more ephemeral parts of your business. But you should never sacrifice your business’s authenticity for trendiness.
Your customers will know right away when you do something just to be trendy, and it’ll make you sweat when they refer to it as “clickbait.” Costumers are more responsive to brands that intend to help them rather than just capturing their attention for clicks. That doesn’t mean that trends can’t work for you. Trends are amazing tools for customer outreach, but they shouldn’t be the basis of your brand identity.
6. How translatable are these designs?
Once you’ve been presented with a design or logo, you need to be able to see or imagine its versatility. Even before the designer starts to make mock-ups of personalized stationery and other designs for your business, he or she needs to be able to answer the question of whether the designs will translate attractively to other media.
A good logo should be able to display on a business card, letterhead and stationery, presentation template, website banners, web ads, phone apps, and all the rest when the time comes. You don’t need these right away. You can add them to your design wishlist. But you do want to be able to see them as a possibility.
The more you tell your graphic designer and ask them about what they intend for your image, the clearer the picture of what you need will become.