Design Ideas

Working With Your New Designer

by: | February 2, 2012

You’ve found your designer. You like the designer’s work, you’ve got a good rapport with the designer, and you think it’ll work out great between you. Now, what? What’s the next step to ensure your working relationship works out the way you want it to?

See part 1 on finding a designer for your business.

How to Get Your Project Started

Creative Brief

Before your designer begins designing anything, they will want to have as much information about the project as possible. In the design industry, we usually provide a project brief. If the designer doesn’t give you one to fill out, ask for one specifically.

A project brief, also called a marketing or design brief, is a set of questions that outlines exactly what it is you’re wanting for your website and outlines how you want it to look and function. These are valuable for you because it asks for information you might not have thought about yet, and it gives the designer guidelines so he or she can make sure the design is exactly what it is you’re looking for.

If the designer doesn’t have a project brief, ask what information is needed to get started and be sure to outline all the guidelines you can think of.


In the industry, we usually don’t expect the client to pay for the whole project up front, so we’ll split the cost of the project over two to four payments. In my business, I require a deposit up front, then another payment when I provide design comps, then another when the project is finished. Your designer might split it up differently.


If there is one thing that can stall a project nine times out of a 10, it’s not getting the copy, which is all the written content on your site. If you’re writing the copy or if you have a writer you’re working with, make sure to give your designer the copy as close to the beginning of the project as possible. The sooner your designer has all the information and content, the better and sooner the project can be completed.


The purpose of the design work is two-fold: your designer wants to make you a happy client and also lead your visitors clearly to the main goal of the site. The more information you provide up front, the more successful the designer will be in executing your vision and thus, the happier you’ll be with the final product.

In order to make this part move forward as smoothly as possible, state your expectations up front. If there’s a color you don’t like, let the designer know. If there are styles or colors you want to see, let him or her know that, too. Also, showing examples of sites you like and sites you don’t like can give an unambiguous idea of what you’re looking for.


Work with your designer to set up a schedule. Most designers will include two to three rounds of design changes in the price and then will charge for additional rounds of changes. Make sure you understand when you should expect the first round of comps (flat, non-working draft designs), how long to expect design changes to take, and when to expect the final design to be finished.

Keep the Project on Track

Setting expectations up front and knowing what all your responsibilities are will help the process go much smoother and help you be happier with the results. Here’s what you should expect and what your designer is expecting.

What to Expect From Your Designer

You should expect your designer to provide you the designs in the timeline you both set forth. You should know that your first designs will be images that look like screenshots. It won’t be a working design, as it’s easier for a designer to make changes to a design comp then a fully functioning website.

If you’re using a separate developer for your site, you should expect your designer to give you the files to hand over to the developer. If the designer is a developer as well (score!) or working with his or her preferred developer, then expect a timeline for when the site will be finished and launched.

What Your Designer Expects From You

Your designer is expecting all the content the design needs, so he or she can build you the best possible design for the information you are displaying. The designer also expects you to provide feedback for the designs in a timely manner to keep the project on schedule. Designers are also “coin-operated,” so to speak. In most design contracts, the designer reserves the right to stop work if he or she is waiting for the first or next deposit, so be sure to pay on time.

When you look at the designs, remember, you hired the designer for his or her expertise, so ask questions and trust the guidance offered. Design can be a highly subjective thing, so your opinion matters. That said, there are certain aspects to design that we designers better understand, like how to use hierarchy to make important elements stand out, for example. Many designers aren’t always able to articulate the importance of certain decisions we make, but we can tell you they’re important. Trust is an important component of achieving a design that works well for your business.

Use this guide to help your project move forward successfully and help forge the best possible relationship with your designer. In the next post, I’ll provide tips for reviewing design comps and request changes from your designer.

Do you have any additional advice to working with designers? Let us know in the comments.Marketing Zeus

Posted in: Branding, Content, Engage!, Professional Services, Usability

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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