Graphic designers are important!

They make your business and marketing initiatives look good. But is that all they do?

Heck no! Designers serve many important roles that are essential to the success of your branding and marketing goals.

Professional designers are trained to organize content based on how it will be used, where it will be seen and who will be seeing it… and they do all of this while communicating your brand voice.

Pretty nifty, right? Sure is!

BUT, if you really want to get the most from your graphic designer, you need to be prepared before commissioning work. Here’s how:

Identify Your Goals

When developing any marketing campaign, it’s vital to identify your goal(s). What message do you want your audience to receive? What action do you want them to take?

Once you have identified your goal, a designer can help you make sure it is clear to the audience.

The scientists at Lab3 Marketing have been experimenting with a lead generation campaign with a Tampa Bay Realtor. The content developed for the campaign is titled, “6 Steps To Take BEFORE Buying Your Next Home.”

Below you’ll see images of the content formatted in two different ways. In the image below, font size and style, color and indentation indicate a list of “steps”, each with a few sentences emphasized with red. It seems easy enough to read, however, the layout is a bit boring.

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As a marketing tool, we want to capture our readers’ attention immediately and encourage them to want to read the content.

The next two images show the designed version of the text. The first page captures the audience with bold brand colors contrasted by plenty of white space. The initial small portion of text makes the document feel easily digestible.

The list of “steps” is then separated into two columns that mold the content into delicious little chunks. The “TAKE ACTION” sections (the red sentences in the first two images) become more prominent.

They stand alone on the right side of the page and say, “Read me! You can do this!” It accomplishes our goal of making the process of buying a home seem easier with simple, actionable tasks.

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If you’re going to work so hard developing a message for your audience, make sure the take-away is clear.

Get Your Priorities In Order

Sometimes you may wish to achieve several goals with a marketing campaign. In order to do this, however, you need to organize your goals by priority. If you bombard your audience with too much information, they will get confused and move on.

Let’s examine a magazine cover to see how prioritizing information can benefit a design.

The example above includes the visual elements found on most magazine covers. There’s a single, captivating photograph in the center of the page surrounded by variously sized text and the magazine title spanning the top of the page.

The woman in the photograph is the largest, and therefore most important, subject of this issue. The hierarchy of importance then moves to the text. Size and style determine what the editor wants the reader to see first, second, third and so on. “FALL FOR ALL” would be considered the second most important subject since the type is biggest.

Now think about tabloid style magazines. Honestly, I don’t even know the titles of any. Why? Well, there are several lines of text in different sizes and colors, similar to the periodicals mentioned above.

However, the swarm of bright colors and bold fonts compete for attention with the main title getting lost in the chaos. Neither the words nor the images provide a visual focal point for your eyes to rest. Images are heaped together like a teenager’s collage of their celebrity crush.

You don’t want your audience feeling like this when they look at your design, do you?


I didn’t think so.

Just like editors and designers organize content on the cover of a magazine, you need to measure the importance of each marketing goal. This way the designer knows where to guide your audiences’ attention first.

Have a Clear Tone/Feel

How do you want your audience to feel about your marketing message and your business as a whole?

The answer to this question should align with your brand voice. Is your business serious, playful, or maybe compassionate? If you need help, ask yourself these 5 Simple Questions to Identify and Cultivate Your Brand’s Voice.

Colors, typography, shapes and photographs work together to create an overall tone and impression for brands and their marketing campaigns. This is an important ingredient of the glue that encourages clients to stick to one brand over another. How important? “Ninety percent of information transmitted to your brain is visual.”

To help your designer understand your business, tone, and point of view, provide visual examples.

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If your company has commissioned design work in the past, it can be a helpful guide. Previous work shows a designer how to use your logo and brand colors. Even if the marketing initiative is different, repeating certain brand characteristics will maintain a cohesive look across marketing campaigns.

You can also provide examples of other designs you like.

Consider Location

Where your marketing collateral will be seen and used has a lot to do with how it needs to be designed.

Let’s say you need a guide of breweries for a beer festival. You wouldn’t want to pass out an 8.5 x 11in sheet of standard printer paper. That would be an annoyance for the patrons to carry as they make their way through a crowd, holding a glass and sampling beer. You’ll be picking up wet, torn, crumpled guides throughout the event.

Designers consider the user experience as an important aspect of the design. They solve problems to make sure your audience remembers your brand favorably.

In this case, I would look at that sopping, ripped festival guide and consider the weight and size of the paper. Perhaps a folded design would hold more information and easily slide into someone’s pocket for safe keeping.

Define Your Audience

Different demographics of people are attracted to and detracted from different elements of design.

I am currently designing an invitation for an event benefiting a veteran’s non-profit organization. The company organizing the event uses a deep red color in their logo and branding, and the question arose whether it would be off-putting or even offensive for veterans to design the invitation with that as a dominant color.

Ultimately, it was decided that, while that is a possibility, the target audience for the event isn’t veterans and that choice of color will work. Still, the question needed to be asked.

Something as basic as color choice can make or break your message. Make sure your designer knows your audience so they can design accordingly.

Have Branding and Marketing Materials Ready

The designer needs a copy of your logo and anybody copy being used in the design.

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If your not sure what logo files to expect, this blog post by 99designs has up-to-date information of the necessary file formats.

You must also provide complete, approved content before the designer can start working. Layout is dependent on the type and amount of content included in a design.

Taking away or adding chunks of content half way through the process often requires reformatting. That will result in project delays and increased cost.

Now It’s Your Turn

I’ve just given you a lot to think about!

But, there’s no need to get overwhelmed. Take one question at a time. If you get stuck, step away and revisit it later. You never know when inspiration will strike in the car or shower.

Also, you probably defined your tone/feel and audience when you started your business. Now, just consider whether your target is more narrow for a particular marketing initiative.

If one of the topics really has you stumped, ask your designer for suggestions. A seasoned professional can tell you what has worked for their past projects and what hasn’t.

What else has helped you communicate better with a designer?

Fellow designers, what have you done to better communicate with your clients?

Please leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!