Few things in life are worse than being super excited about the possibilities, only to be let down by the reality. Whether you are working with a big company or a solo graphic designer, providing clear and effective art direction is the key to achieving great design results. Art direction involves communicating your vision, goals, and preferences to the design team so that they can create designs that accurately reflect your brand and vision. In this post, we will explore the best practices for giving good art direction to ensure that you are pleased with the final results.
Start with a clear, specific brief
The first step to giving effective art direction is to create a clear and comprehensive brief. This document should outline the project’s objectives, target audience, budget, and any other relevant information. A good brief should also include examples of similar project designs that you like (e.g., if you are looking for a book design, your examples should be books.) The brief should specify exactly what you like about each example. Is it the structure or hierarchy, the general vibe, the layout, the photos, the typefaces, or the colors? Often clients have sent me a sample they say they like. But upon further discussion, it is revealed that they only like one aspect of that design and dislike many others. A thorough brief will give the designer a clear understanding of your preferences and goals. If your company has a brand guide, be sure to include that.
If you have preferences on color schemes, typography, imagery, or layout style, by all means share them with your designer. Don’t assume that the designer will know exactly what you want—be clear and concise in your instructions. For example, if you want a logo that’s modern and minimalist, provide examples of logos that fit that description. Often, common terms like “modern” mean different things to different people (especially to people who are not designers or art directors themselves), so the samples will clarify your vision. If you have specific color requirements, provide a palette. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for the designer to produce work that meets your expectations.
When writing a brief, it’s also important to keep your target audience in mind. Who are you trying to reach with this project? What message do you want to convey? The more you can describe your target audience, the easier it will be for the designer to create designs that resonate with them.
Provide constructive feedback
Once the designer has provided you with their initial designs, it’s important to provide constructive feedback. Avoid vague phrases like “I’ll know what I like when I see it.” Instead, be specific about what you like and don’t like about the work. Examples might be “it should be bolder,” or if you dislike a particular typeface, ornament, color scheme, photo choice, or layout composition. You will get better results if you can avoid the temptation to “dictate the design” by requesting overly specific changes (e.g., ‘put this in a yellow box, move that element to the other side’). Graphic design is a process of making a thousand little decisions and then seeing how everything works together as a whole. Changing one element often breaks the content hierarchy or upsets the visual balance, requiring additional changes to get it all to work together again.
Trust the designer’s expertise
While it’s important to provide specific design requirements and feedback, it’s also important to trust the designer’s expertise. You probably looked at a lot of portfolios before hiring this designer. A good designer will have a deep understanding of design principles and what works best for your target audience. Don’t be afraid to ask for their input and suggestions.
When working with a graphic designer, it’s important to remember that you’re working as a team. You bring your knowledge of your brand and target audience, and the designer brings their expertise in design. Together, you can create designs that effectively communicate your message and resonate with your target audience.
Set realistic expectations
Finally, it’s important to set realistic expectations when working with a graphic designer. Design is a collaborative process, and it can take time to create designs that meet your expectations. Be patient, and understand that it may take several rounds of feedback and revisions to get the design precisely right.
It’s also important to communicate your timeline and budget upfront. This will help the designer understand your expectations and ensure that they can deliver the designs within your timeframe and budget.
Working on a graphic design project can be a rewarding and exciting experience. By following these best practices for giving effective art direction, you can ensure that your project will be a success. Remember to start with a clear brief, be specific about your design requirements, provide constructive feedback, trust the designer’s expertise, and set realistic expectations. By working as a team, you will be able to create designs that you love!