Trust the Designer

There’s a saying in the marketing world: Trust the designer.

In graphic and web design, it means that if you’re entrusting a creative professional to make choices that reflect your brand, trust those choices.

After all, they’re the ones with all the training. They’re the ones you’re paying. They’re the ones you should trust.

I’ve struggled with this myself, as I’ve worked with a number of different designers over the past several years. While I’m not a designer myself, I think I have  artistic sense and intuition.

If I’m not careful, though, I can easily begin to nitpick and tell the designer how to do his job.

Trust Your Designer
Photo credit: Chad Magiera (Creative Commons)

When you provide vision for a project, there is a myriad of ways in which it can be applied. That’s because art is in the eye of the beholder. Your idea can be interpreted and acted on in a number of different forms.

So what do you do when there’s conflict between creative vision and application?

The best thing you can do is trust the process.

But how do you actually do that? Here are three tips to remember:

1. Trust the person

If you’ve hired a professional, trust her pedigree. There is a reason you chose her to do this project. Maybe it was her portfolio or education or the mock-ups she presented. But she was chosen her for a reason. Trust that.

Don’t doubt why you chose her now that she’s going in a direction you don’t understand or agree with.

So what if you might do it differently? Respect her opinions. This tension is part of the process. Sure, ask questions, but remember who the expert is. (Hint: not you.)

And if the person you ended up hiring isn’t that good, either hire somebody better or deal with who you have.

Note: micromanaging and nitpicking is not an option.

2. Give helpful feedback

When it comes time to give feedback (which can be extremely helpful when done appropriately), be careful not to tell your designer how to do his job.

Trust him.

This is what he’s trained to do. It’s what you hired him to do. To make tough choices. To make things look excellent. And believe it or not, there are some difficult decisions required in making things look really good.

So when it comes time to review mockups, be careful with your words. Be honest, but stay away from assumptions. Words like “simple” or “easy” or “no big deal” aren’t yours to share — not when you’re talking about someone else’s skill set.

What you can do is share your own impressions, ask lots of questions, and honestly voice your opinions and concerns.

3. Appreciate opportunity cost

Realize that choosing one direction is automatically not choosing another. Be okay with that.

This is called being an adult. It means that making one creative choice over another automatically counts out all other possibilities from this project.

This is painful — letting creative ideas die. But trust this part of the process, too, believing that the really great ideas that didn’t get used can be resurrected later.

Not just for designers, anymore

This idea of trusting your designer isn’t just about design or creative work.

It’s about life and people, in general.

Why not apply this rule of trusting a professional in their craft to all aspects of life? Why not consider this concept in light of other fields of work? Isn’t it a great idea, freeing even? Instead of second-guessing and micromanaging, you can give direction and empower.

All great leaders do just that.

Trusting your “designer” (or plumber or IT guy or whatever) is essential to getting quality work done.

And it’ll free you up to do what you’re a pro at. Isn’t that what you want? What we all want?

*Photo credit: Chad Magiera (Creative Commons)

22 thoughts on “Trust the Designer

  1. Thanks Jeff. I find your wisdom incisive and timely. Only just stumbled upon your writing and hope to see fruit of your advice in my own material at our ministry teamblog

  2. The first thing I thought of when I read the title “Trust Your Designer” was about trusting God. He is, after all, the Designer of it all — of us all. So many applications here. Makes perfect sense to trust Him, doesn’t it?

  3. As a designer, trust is key. Nothing burns me out more, or frustrates me worse, than someone who paid me to do their design and then nit-picks the whole thing. I have fired clients over that. They didn’t want a designer, they just wanted someone to put down on “paper” what they had in their head.

  4. Just yesterday I had a discussion with my cousin about the vexed conundrum of whether— and how—to express gender equality in writing, as there doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory solution. No matter what method one chooses, it tends to distract from the content of the writing itself, if ever so fleetingly before the reader’s mind returns to the actual topic under discussion (in this case, the topic of designers, as I vaguely recall, which I’d be pondering right now had my attention not been hijacked by something else). 

    For instance, you chose the alternating method. Under your subheading #1 (“Trust the person”), you referred to the designer as “she” and “her.” Then under #2 (“Give helpful feedback”) you turned the generic designer into a man (“Trust him“). 

    By way of his—or “her” or “his or her” or “their”—selection, the author invariably appears to be making a statement of some sort—either of literary conservatism (by sticking to “he”, “him”, and “his” throughout), of feminist literary retaliation (by using “she” and “her” in all cases),  or, in your case, of premeditated egalitarianism (by alternating the sexes). 

    Short of recasting all sentences that feature pronouns which refer to non-gender-specific individuals, there seems to be no way around coming across as trying to make a point in this area, even though the writer probably doesn’t want his/her/his or her/their primary message cluttered with collateral and unrelated controversies. 

    1. hah! it’s a difficult one. there are varying schools of thoughts about this. depending on what i’m writing, i do the varying method or default to neutral pronouns. whatever i do, i try to be consistent. that’s the real key to any kind of communication: picking a method and sticking with it. depending on the genre, just about anything goes.

  5. Trust is the one thing that is most difficult to give.  Some say it is earned, others that it is deserved.  The problem is that too often it (trust) is misapplied or misused or flat out abused.  When it comes to design, to put trust in a designer is to allow that person to design your own personal brand…which is, essentially, a scary thing to do.  Does the designer really know me and what I want to articulate to my community?  Does the designer share my vision, my goals?  If not, then my “brand” will become little more than the business card of a designer’s poor imaginations.  

    Therefore, choose wisely.

  6. Well said Jeff and it’s encouraging to read such insight from someone who has worked with designers (myself included) in the past.

    More advice for people who struggle to trust designers: You must first “make design a process”. Test it over and over. Revise it. Hammer out the wrinkles. The end result will be a process that you can trust. The final approval is always yours to make, but know that when you have a process in place that works – everyone wins.

  7. Clearly I’ve been reading too many Christian blogs lately.  I was expecting this to switch to God being our designer half way through.  It wouldn’t have really worked very well.  I mean we don’t pay God, we don’t pick him from a sea of other gods.  Glad you stuck with the main point.

  8. Having been a Graphic Designer for 40 years I was more than interested in the subject of this email. Excellent article. I would add that as the designer one doesn’t ever have to ‘sell’ the design. If you like it and are truly happy with the result, most often it will sell itself.

  9. Oh man. 
    When people drop 4-5 figures to build a Web site, they have a right to be picky, but it gets troublesome sometimes. I believe you’ve struck the perfect balance here. 

    1. Good call. Definitely entitled to an opinion; NOT entitled to circumventing the process that you agreed on ahead of time. In my experience, a lot of miscommunication (maybe ALL) comes down to expectations that are aligned.

  10. This is a great representation of what the relationship between the designer and client should be. My husband is a designer and the “trust” factor is a frequent issue in his business. Thanks for a clear, honest and relevant post.

  11. The best feedback someone can give a designer is to better articulate the problem(“It isn’t quite feeling like our brand yet”) vs offering a solution(“make the logo bigger”).

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