While lawyers and designers may approach problem-solving differently, they both have clients to serve and with that comes shared lessons in communication and collaboration. The ultimate rule of thumb? Give your designer the same attention, empathy, and professionalism you would your clients.
Think about problems over solutions
As an attorney, you are a natural-born fixer. Your clients expect you to come up with specific and concrete solutions for them. When it comes to design, however, this mindset can actually hinder the ideation process. For example, let’s say your designer has created a homepage mockup for you, and you feel like the background colors of each section blend into each other, making the homepage bland. With the best of intentions, you might suggest to the designer to make the first section blue, the second red, and the third yellow. Not realizing that your intention was to make each section more distinct, he would follow your specific instructions, thus limiting the number of solutions to address your problem. Instead, if you talk about the problem of poor visual separation for each section, you can then have a conversation about choosing another color scheme, changing the layout, or other possible solutions.
Now just because you’re talking in terms of problems does not mean that you can’t suggest constraints. One of the best ways to guide your designer is to provide visual examples of what you’re thinking of, and explain what you like about it. Even if you can’t fully verbalize what exactly you like about a particular example, you and the designer now have a point of reference for discussions regarding color, typography, layout, and other topics your designer will consider for your project.
Be realistic about the time frame
It’s a designer’s job to consider all of the subtle details so that the final product looks polished and effortless. Behind the scenes, however, the process looks more like this: research, ideation, iteration, reiteration, development, revision, development, final. What usually takes up the most time is the back and forth between the designer and the client, when you are both discussing revisions to the design. While a good designer will allot some time for this in his estimate, this stage in the process is the most variable–revisions often add to the timeline, and it is important that both parties are cognizant of this.
Recognize when it is not working
The designer might not always get it right on the first draft so expect revisions. However, if you both have gone through multiple rounds of revisions with no positive results, despite clear and timely feedback on your end, you might need to find another designer. To prevent this, you should do your research by seeing what other projects the designer has worked on before starting a project together. If his aesthetic or approach doesn’t seem like a good fit to you, the disparities will only be magnified once you’re deep into the process.
Remember the three factors
The most successful projects are usually a result of three consistent factors: clear communication, productive constraints, and trust. Clear communication means that the designer can reach out to you to receive a timely response and vice versa, and that the feedback you provide is specific, but not to the point where you have stifled the designer’s creative input. Productive constraints refer to sticking to the timeline, including modifications to it, and knowing what you want so that you can convey your preferences to the designer and he can work within them. Finally, trust is the foundation of any professional relationship. Having trust in your designer means you are not micro-managing and emailing him every minute to check on the progress; instead, you know he will check in with you at the agreed-upon time, and he will provide a design that accomplishes the objectives you both discussed.
At the end of the day, these statements also apply to the designer as well. Having empathy for the other party and developing a shared understanding of the desired outcome can make a real difference in creating the kind of project that raises the bar across the board. Hopefully these tips will prove to establish a strong relationship between you and the graphic designer so that they can better design for your needs.