Design,  Nonprofits

6 Things That Drive Designers Crazy


Working with a great graphic designer is, hands down, one of the best ways to help you and your organization get an audience excited about donating. Visually captivating collateral can help you fundraising goals by attracting the right people and lending credit to your cause. The overall “look” of your brand can often be a deciding factor in deciding whether or not readers will ultimately make a pledge to support you.

We could list the benefits of working with a designer that really “gets” your brand personality all day long, but just because the benefits exist, doesn’t mean they’re always easy to achieve. Working with designers can be a trying task for busy founders and requires a level of commitment and follow through to end up with some valuable artwork.

Most people do not speak the language of design. We did a little investigating, interviewing a handful of top graphic designers and design firms in Northern Virginia and found One of the biggest problems cited was communication. Explaining the personality of a brand, the visual elements you and your audience are looking for, and ultimately, giving up control to a professional is more complicated than many founders expect.

To help you get the most out of your graphic designer, here are some of the most common complaints  about clients, and how organizations like yours can streamline the design process, be a better client, and get an incredible final product in less time.

So with out further explanation, here are the top 6 things that drive designers crazy…and what you can do to help them help you.

      1. Clients don’t have a clear purpose.

        When clients come to a designer with a project in mind, it is generally expected that you have a clear and concrete concept for the purpose of the design piece. Asking for a brochure that explains your brand’s annual fundraising goals is a great start. Things start to turn sour when that brochure also needs to serve as a “flyer” for a gala, a company bio for the press, and a post card. Remember, each design piece, whether printed or digital should serve 1 clear purpose. Have your content planned out in advance and approach your designer with as much information about where and how the piece will be used.¬†Designer’s get frustrated with documents that are constantly changing in scope and content. They’re usually happy to update a document for you as needed, but if the new direction means major artistic changes, it will cost you hours and frustrate your vendor.

        Expert Tip: Hold a meeting with your board or marketing team and decide on the purpose, content, and timeline before the first meeting with your designer. It will help you save hours, focus on the actual design of the piece, and allow your designer to produce something unique and creative.

      2. No clear market or audience

        Going hand in hand with the importance of a clear purpose for each piece, is the vital need for a target market. If you request a design piece targeted at “men and women, age 0-75” you aren’t going to end up with a document that works for anybody.

        Carefully consider what the design piece is for and who will be receiving it. If you’re creating a fundraiser information packet, consider who is most likely to be interested in that information. Are people downloading it from your website? Check out the demographics and personal interests of the traffic visiting your site daily. Are you publishing a post on Facebook or Twitter? Use your social media analytics to create a donor profile. Is it a postcard that you are mailing out to a specific, high net worth geographic location? Consider the common age of homeowners in that area as well as what they do for a living, the cars they drive, and the activities they pursue.

        Taking a hard look at your audience and communicating this profile to your designer will result in a stronger design piece, a more inspiring color palette, and a higher probability that the document will motivate donors.

      3. Constant Rush Jobs

        Design takes time. The creative process generally can’t be rushed and although designers are some of the most creative people out there, they will generally produce better work under more conservative deadlines.Heather Bartlow, a graphic designer with digital marketing firm Crimson Fly, gave us this point. She listed “Constant rush jobs” as one of her biggest frustrations, and explained that it’s not only hard to accommodate from a creative perspective, but also hard on her administrative process. “When a client comes to us with a rush job, we are generally happy to accommodate it. It does require we shift the schedule we have for our other clients, and the added strain on time puts your project at greater risk for errors.”

        Most designers have a process they follow which delivers a creative, on brand, error-free final product. When deadlines are cut to a matter of hours, each of the steps in that process must be scaled back. Try to plan out all the design pieces you will need at the beginning of each project, and work with your designer to develop a realistic timeline that works for both of you.

      4. “Too much white space”

        There is a science to graphic design. There is a saying that goes something like “art is beautiful, design has a purpose.” Graphic designers spend A LOT of their time learning and understanding the impact of color, layout, or white space on the perception of a document. A great layout will make a document look expensive, well thought out, and easy to read and comprehend.Often, founders who have little design experience or aren’t familiar with the principles which guide the industry have trouble understanding why elements like “white space”, “perspective”, and “scale” matter so much to designers. You shouldn’t expect your designer to teach you the principles of design before every project, but if you don’t understand the choices he/she has made, ask. Try to keep an open mind and understand that in design, less is more.

        This is one of the more difficult aspects of working with designers. Its very hard to tell a client “no, that just doesn’t look good” but often it has to be done. Try to trust in the talent you’ve hired and be sure to choose a designer with a portfolio that you love. This will help ensure you have overlapping styles and limit the number of creative disagreements.

      5. Too many opinions

        Many founders are very savvy, smart people. The idea that statistics should rule the creative process makes sense to a lot of people. If you get a design back from your agency/artist, submitting it to a number of people for feedback and taking the most common suggestions seems like it would result in a universally appealing document. WARNING! This never, ever works out well.The fact is, most people are not design savvy, and most people don’t understand the goals of your organization, the designed piece, your target market, or the brand personality you are trying to support. The best strategy for reviewing and editing designs is to choose a small group of people to be involved in the process from the beginning, keep all versions of the design among those people exclusively, and roll out the final version to your friends and followers with all the confidence that your piece will be a success.

      6. “It will only take a minute”

        Good design takes time. Of all the designers we talked to, the phrase “it will only take a minute” came up more than anything else. Clients often have a hard time estimating how much time design changes and updates take. While it’s always good to keep an eye on your time, it’s important to understand that designers rarely sit down and crank out a perfect image on the first go. Graphic artists often spend time thinking about your project and visualizing design options before they ever open their computers. Once they start to work on the actual lines of the project it’s expected that each element on the page will evolve as the design develops. Designers try out a handful of ideas, doing different configurations before ever settling on something to show their clients.Be conscious that your requests may be more time consuming than you might think, and try to operate under realistic deadlines.


Even though it kinda ruins the “6 Things” thing we’ve got going on, owe thought we would toss in a little bonus point for you. We heard this cited over and over again, but we hope most of you know not to do this last thing that drives designers cray.

Providing vague feedback

Asking your graphics person to make a design “better”, to “jazz it up”, or to “do something different” doesn’t help either of you. When critiquing a design try to be as specific and detailed as possible about what you don’t like and why.

Have you mastered the art of working with your designers? Give us your top tips for a seamless design process in the comments.


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