Today most, if not all, content creation is a collaborative effort. With the increasing ease of connectability and mobility, creative boundaries are pushed everyday.
The benefits of this new age of “workplace” collaboration are endless, but what’s great in theory is not always easy to execute. Studies have shown that collaboration in the workplace has its setbacks and can get a little messy. This is especially true when marketing efforts are on the line and customer engagement is at stake.
Visual media and advertising online is leaping new bounds, which means you will be coming in contact with designers time and time again to fine-tune your strategies and gain conversions. Successful marketing depends on data-driven insight, paired with the a designer’s eye for aesthetics and visuals. So, if you’re looking to improve collaboration between departments, here are 5 ways you can build an effective and productive relationship with designers:
1. Transparency is Best
Start with the big picture. Talk to the designer and make sure you are all on the same page with layouts and designs before campaigns are launched. Share the company or client’s KPIs, short, and/or long term goals, and make sure everyone is clear on long-standing objectives.
Inspiring consistent productivity is the ultimate goal, and since the pressures of deadlines and demands easily surmount, it may be tempting to skip over these details and move on to the actual assignment. However, studies show the benefits of transparency are crucial to managing expectations and providing designers with the right resources to execute a task.
If you don’t think that will be necessary or seriously don’t have the time to walk the designer through these objectives, create a platform or document that can be easily accessed and interpreted, such as a brand guidelines. Encourage the designer to read it, and welcome questions and/or comments to enhance the process. Brands like Nike do an excellent job of creating very specific brand guidelines that clearly define every aspect a designer needs to take into account.
2. Develop a Common Language
Taking the time to think about the main differences between you and a designer is important to break down any barriers and find a common ground in your overall design concepts.
While you are consumed by data-analysis and perfecting written content for an intended audience, a designer is focused on visuals, how to achieve a particular aesthetic. At times, these differences can butt heads because instead of targeting a specific audience, they are driven by how the content makes the user feel.
That being said, it’s important to connect and build a common language. If you are not familiar with Photoshop and/or commonly used words in graphic design; consider setting time to do your research and get a little more acquainted with their world. Not only will this help build rapport, it will also allow you to articulate how each image will help the content perform better in a language your designer understands.
3. Be Explicit and Direct
When the written work is complete and it is time to hand it over to a designer, make sure your copy is finalized and your needs are directly outlined. Clarity and deliberate word choice are crucial here. Never assume any piece of the project is obvious or does not need further explanation because a designer will interpret the work in their own way if instructions aren’t explicit.
Remember, getting copy done first is essential to developing the right graphics. This means you must specify your target words and specific ideas to describe the look and feel of the end product. Avoid using any language that is broad or all-encompassing like “make it pop,” or “add some cool graphics.” Instead, you could provide a data set and type of graph you want created or provide an example color you want used in a design.
In your outline, add notes, images, examples, and models of the desired look but don’t been overly nitpicky. You want to leave room for their creativity to shine.
If you really want to make sure you are on the same page, check out the progress along the way; don’t wait until the deadline to make changes.
4. It’s All About the Team
Once you’ve published that amazing piece of actionable content, what really keeps readers engaged? According to marketing expert, Jeff Bullas, “articles with images get 94% more total views.”
Designers have the innate ability to convey information to the world in a way that’s captivating. Of course, your copy sets the foundation, but visual design elements help keep the reader interested longer. This inevitability leads to higher performing content.
Finding top designers, just like in any profession, can be challenging. Good graphic designers don’t just make pretty images. They look to understand the business, what the goal of the graphics are and how the brand wants customers to feel when they are consuming the content. It’s this level of detail that separates the average designers from the rockstars.
Don’t just go with any designer, and expect all the pieces to fall in line. You have committed endless hours to producing solid content, by no means should you rush the process of selecting the right graphic designer. Define exactly what you need done, your budget and the timeline before contacting any designers. This will automatically narrow down the field of candidates. Request a portfolio of work and references to help you determine which designers work well within deadlines and have the type of design style you’re looking for.
Once you’ve found an ideal candidate, take the time to properly onboard them even if they are working remotely. Have a kickoff video call to introduce the designer to the rest of your team. Walk them through the overall content strategy, examples of previous work and your brand guidelines. This level of detail gives the designer a good understanding of what’s expected before they ever see their first design brief.
Lastly, make sure you have a project management platform in place to keep your team organized and in communication. Tools like Asana, Slack and Wrike are great at organizing disparate team members around a specific task or project. Keep all of the style inspirations, color themes, font preferences, and media assets in a shared project folder. The designer can use this as a reference board to ensure they have access to all the requisite information to realize the design vision.
5. Don’t Be a Stranger
In some cases, you may not come into physical contact with a designer, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep your distance. A lot of your interactions will happen online, but despite the barrier, try to keep lines of communication open and don’t be a stranger.
Although remote assignments have become a standard practice for a lot of companies and clients, you must develop a relationship with your designer to build trust and dependency. With the constant demands of deadlines and heavy workloads, you can sometimes forget you are collaborating with people, and in return, the dynamic becomes rigid, rendering a digital workspace less innovative and inspired. To alleviate this issue, do what you can to resist the ease of remaining anonymous. Touch base with the designer often, be personable, and offer a helping hand.
It may sound like extra work, but the time you commit to being available is an investment that pays off in consistent viewership. Read about some ways you can be more personable here if you’re having trouble breaking the ice.
Successful collaboration involves a lot of trial and error, it’s not easy to build the right team. Try these approaches and focus on establishing a strong rapport with your team. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your marketing efforts scale.