Finding the right creative partner is key to building a visual identity for your business. But managing a creative partner to get the right results can be a challenge for those new to working with designers. When You Shouldn’t Worry About Design is the first in a three-part series on managing creative partners.
Knowing when you shouldn’t worry isn’t about cutting corners or diminishing the value of great design in developing a brand. In fact, hiring a great creative partner with a track record (and portfolio) to back it up is a must for anyone who wants to grow a business. But just like you care enough to hire great talent, you should develop good habits around trusting your partners and not worrying yourself with the outcome. Of course, trusting is easier to say and much harder to put into practice.
I’ve managed countless creative projects in my career, and I’m incredibly passionate about good design, but I could not draw a straight line with a ruler. If you’re passionate about design but have no skills to create it for yourself, here is my advice for managing creative partners. What’s more, if you’re managing a creative partner for the first time, this advice will help you as you navigate the process.
Do a deep dive on your goals before hiring a partner. Outline things like the target audience, key messages, and campaign goals and package it into a one- to two-page document. This will help you give a clear creative brief. Usually creative partners will also take you through their own discovery process. If you’ve given some thought to your goals, you’ll have rich material to draw on. After you’ve shared your brief and gone through the discovery process, it’s important to give your creative partners some space to start researching, thinking, and generating ideas.
Start with an open mind. Once you see initial concepts, remember that these are usually just first thoughts. No creative partner wants to pour too much into one direction without feedback. As a client, avoid overthinking at this stage and instead point out the things you are drawn to first and then start to focus on ideas and concepts you want to see evolve.
Remember the audience. Designers should not just be designing something you love. They should not just be designing something that they love. Design something that your target customer will love. Keep this in mind throughout creative development. Remember: This part is fun! It’s design, photos, and colors! Whatever the project is, it’s not spreadsheets and finances. Remember to let surprise, excitement, and joy become part of the process.
Give direction, not directions. “I’ll know it when I see it” is on one end of the spectrum, and “It’s not exactly what I had in mind” falls on the other. Being too vague on one end and being too prescriptive on the other both make for unneeded stress, meetings, reviews, and revisions. When you’re spinning your wheels, ask yourself which type of direction(s) you’re giving. Yes, you may want to have an idea of the essence of what you want. You may even have some examples of what you love or a style that resonates with what you’re looking for. Just avoid having a literal vision of what you want it to look like — remember why you hired them in the first place.
Don’t stress on details and don’t overthink it. Two, maybe three rounds of revisions are all it should take to get a clear direction. Remember, once you see version four of a creative idea, the concepts are not going to excite you like they did the first time you saw them. Don’t let that be a reason to start over. Try to remember how it felt the first time you saw it so you can stay enthusiastic about the project. Your enthusiasm will help your creative partner stay excited and create better work. Asking designers to change fonts and color combinations so you can exhaust all options won’t make for better work, and you run the risk of exhausting them. Round after round of meaningless tweaks will destroy their enthusiasm for the project, and the work will suffer.
Have a clear end point. Once you get the final deliverables, either stop worrying and embrace the work or be discerning enough to know if their creative product just didn’t cut it. And this part can be hard. When you’re investing a lot into a creative project (both time and money), it’s difficult to let go of control. But the more we grip and the more we want our hand on the outcome of the creative project, the more we as business owners set ourselves up for disappointment and unnecessary rounds of revisions. That’s not fair to you, your wallet, or the partner.
Stay tuned for our second article about navigating a creative partnership gone sour. I also welcome conversation, advice, and dissenting opinions on this topic. Comment below and let’s duke it out!