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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Work with a Graphic Designer: 9 Tips

Beginner's handbook

How to Work with a Graphic Designer: 9 Expert Tips

How to Work with a Graphic Designer: 9 Expert Tips
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

9 min read

Working with a graphic designer can be an exciting journey, whether you’re creating a brand identity, launching a marketing campaign, or developing designs for your print-on-demand dropshipping store. It’s a collaborative process that blends your vision with the designer’s creativity and technical skills. 

We asked our designers what they thought were the most important aspects to consider when working on design projects. They emphasized the significance of understanding the customer’s vision, establishing clear communication channels, and building a relationship based on mutual respect and collaboration. This understanding is crucial for creating a final product that meets and exceeds the customer’s expectations.

In this guide, we’ve distilled designer insights and experiences into 9 key points that’ll help your collaboration go as smoothly as possible. Sounds good? Let’s jump in.

a woman sitting on the floor holding a dog

1. Communicate your vision

Start with an idea of what you’re aiming to achieve with the project. 

It might seem easier to leave it all up to the professional designer, but each designer has a unique style and approach to designing. If you know what you’re looking for, you and your designer will have a much easier time getting on the same page. 

What you communicate will be the foundation for all their following creative decisions. 

To better understand what you want, consider the following steps.

1. Reflect on the message you want to convey

Clarifying your message will shape the direction of the design. Is it a call to action, an informative piece, or something designed to inspire and engage? 

For example, if it’s a graphic design for a custom product, think about the story you want the product to tell and the brand values you want to communicate.

This core message will be the guiding star for all the visual elements and design choices, ensuring consistency and purpose throughout your project. 

2. Think about what emotions you wish to evoke

Design can powerfully influence emotions. Do you want your audience to feel excited, calm, or intrigued? The emotional response you aim for will guide the designer in choosing colors, shapes, and imagery.

That’s especially important for web design elements, which can significantly impact customer perception of your brand.

3. Pinpoint the target audience you’re addressing

Who are you speaking to with your design? Understanding your audience’s demographics, interests, and behaviors will inform the designer on how to tailor the design to appeal to your audience.

4. Understand the scope of the work 

Be clear about the extent of the project. Is it a single product design, or are you looking to create a collection of print and embroidery custom t-shirts and custom hoodies? Or maybe you need an adaptable logo design that you can use everywhere. Knowing the full scope will help the designer estimate the time and resources needed to complete the project.

5. Determine the channels of distribution

Where will your design be seen? Will it be printed, displayed online, or both? Different platforms may require different design considerations and formats.

6. Consider the longevity of the design

Is this a design for a one-time event, a single season, or something that’ll represent your brand for years? A timeless design may require a different approach than a trendy, short-term campaign.

a woman sitting at a desk with computer screens and a pen

2. Introduce your brand

Your brand identity is more than just a logo or a color scheme—it’s the essence of your business and what sets you apart from the competition. When working with a professional graphic designer, clearly communicate your brand’s core elements. That includes your brand’s values, personality, and the story you want to tell. 

Share your brand guidelines if you have them. They should include specifics such as typography, color palettes, and imagery styles that should be consistent across all designs.

If your brand is new and you don’t have established guidelines, discuss the feelings and messages you want it to convey. The more the designer understands your brand, the better they can create designs that reflect its identity.

3. Prepare visual examples and references

Gathering visual references is an essential part of the design process. These references can include anything from images, color palettes, and fonts to examples of design work that align with the aesthetic you’re aiming for. 

a collage of a womanSource: Pinterest, MyCreativePool

It’s not about copying but providing a visual vocabulary and inspiration to inform the design process. These materials can help the designer understand your preferences and the look and feel you want to achieve. 

By providing examples of what you like and, just as importantly, what you don’t like, you can help set clear expectations and avoid misunderstandings. This groundwork can significantly streamline the design process and provide a more accurate and satisfying outcome.

You can create a mood board in Canva, Adobe, or Pinterest


a man holding a pen

4. Get down to details

Schedules, revisions, deliverables, payment terms—these are the nuts and bolts of a design project that need to be addressed with precision and clarity. 

Discuss and agree on the project’s timeline, including milestones and deadlines. This helps set realistic expectations and ensures the project stays on track.

  • Schedules aren’t just about the deadline but also about the checkpoints along the way. Regular updates and check-ins can help keep the project moving forward and allow for adjustments.

  • Revisions are a given in any creative process. Establish how many rounds of revisions are included in the project scope and what the process will be for any additional changes your designer will need time for.

  • Deliverables should be clearly defined from the start. What exactly will you receive at the end of the project? Will it be print-ready files, digital formats, or a combination of both? Make sure you understand the sizes and formats you’ll be getting.

  • Payment terms should be discussed right away. Ensure that the payment schedule is agreed upon, including any deposits required upfront, payment milestones, and final payment upon project completion. Clear communication about payment assures the designer of your commitment to the project and helps avoid any financial misunderstandings.

a man sitting at a computer5. Be open to iteration

It’s natural to want your design to be flawless from the get-go, but remember that the first draft is often just a starting point, especially for a big project. This stage involves exploring and getting a feel for the project’s direction. 

Expecting perfection on the first try can put unnecessary pressure on you and the graphic designer and may stifle creativity. Be open to the iteration process, as it’s through successive refinements that a truly great design will emerge. Keep an open mind and a collaborative spirit.

6. Give good feedback

a group of people looking at a computer

Good graphic designers will seek your feedback. It’s good for their professional growth and will help the designer understand your perspective and refine their work to better meet your needs. 

Be specific about what you like and what could be improved to avoid having the designer rework it more times than necessary

Constructive criticism means providing specific, helpful, and kind suggestions to improve the work while respecting the effort that has gone into it. It’s not about tearing down the design but building upon the existing foundation to achieve a better result.

Here’s how to go about it.

  • Be specific and actionable. Avoid vague language and instead provide concrete suggestions. For instance, rather than saying, “Make it pop,” you could say, “Increase the font size for the headline to make it more eye-catching.”

  • Explain the why. When you suggest a change, explain the reasoning behind it. This gives the designer context and helps them understand the change from your perspective, which can be very insightful.

  • Use positive language. Even when pointing out areas for improvement, try to phrase your feedback positively. This can be the difference between a designer feeling inspired or discouraged.

Encourage your graphic designer by acknowledging their efforts and creativity. This approach fosters a positive working relationship and contributes to a more fruitful design process.

a woman sitting on the floor with a laptop and papers

7. Respect the creative process

Graphic design involves a series of steps from concept to completion. Respecting this process is crucial for the successful execution of your project. While some ideas may seem simple, they can require much thought, experimentation, and refinement before they’re ready.

  • Trust the designer’s expertise. You’ve hired a professional for their design skills and knowledge, so trust the designer’s ability to guide the process. They understand how to translate your ideas into a visual language that communicates effectively.

  • Give them creative freedom. It’s perfectly fine to give them as much information as needed; however, let their creativity shine. Graphic designers know what makes a great design.

  • Stay engaged. While it’s important to trust the graphic designers, staying involved in the process is equally important. Be available to answer questions, provide feedback, and make decisions when needed.

a calendar with a check mark

8. Set realistic deadlines

Quality work takes time, and rushing can compromise the outcome. A realistic timeline allows the designer to thoroughly research, conceptualize, and execute the project with the attention to detail it deserves.

When discussing deadlines, factor in time for:

  • Initial concepts. This is the stage where the graphic designer explores and presents various ideas for your consideration. It’s a foundational part of the creative process that shouldn’t be rushed.

  • Revisions and feedback. After presenting initial concepts, the designer will need time to make adjustments based on your feedback.

  • Final touches. Once the design is nearly complete, the designer will need to polish and prepare the final files. This might include making the design compatible with different formats or ensuring it meets specific product design or printing requirements.

Setting realistic deadlines ensures the project flows smoothly without unnecessary stress or pressure. This approach leads to a healthier working relationship and a final product everyone can be proud of.

a woman holding a notebook

9. Embrace the journey

The design process can be full of surprises, with many twists and turns. Embrace it and be open to where it may lead. The outcome may differ from what you initially envisioned, but it could also turn out better than you imagined. This journey of creation is not just about reaching the destination but also about the learning and experiences gained along the way. 

As you collaborate with your graphic designer, you’ll find that each step, from the initial sketches to the final revisions, is an opportunity for growth and innovation. It’s a dance of ideas and execution, where your vision and the designer’s expertise meet to create something unique and impactful. So, take a deep breath, keep an open mind, and enjoy the creative adventure that unfolds.

You’re now a team

The success of your design project lies in the strength of the partnership you create. 

A successful collaboration is built on clear communication, shared vision, and mutual respect. 

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be better positioned to articulate your ideas, provide valuable feedback, and understand the nuances of the design process.

With a spirit of collaboration and an open mind, you and your graphic designer can achieve remarkable results that resonate with your audience or even improve your brand. With this in mind, you’re ready to get your designer!

PS You can hire a freelance graphic designer on Fiverr with a 10% discount.

Read next: 23 Bestselling Print-on-Demand Products


By Lilija Karpjaka on May 26, 2024

Lilija Karpjaka

SEO Content Writer

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.