Creative Communication: How to Communicate with your Creative Colleagues

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Before I started working for myself, I had an employer that invested a lot in personal development and team dynamics. During my time there, I had the opportunity to complete Strength Finders, Insights Discovery and The DiSC Assessment. While not everything about these personality assessments resonated with me, it opened my eyes to the plethora of ways that people with different personalities tend to communicate. I learned that my director preferred getting straight-to-the-point in meetings and that I didn’t need to waste anyone’s time talking about the weather. On the other hand, some of my colleagues preferred to visit me in my cubicle and chat about life while they delivered revisions to the headline of an advertisement. I eventually adapted to these communication styles without compromising my own workflow and began to feel an overall better understanding of those around me – increasing my productivity and satisfaction.

As a pretty typical right-brained creative, I realized pretty early on that not everyone sees things the way that I do. I’ve learned to take a step back when working with new clients and to be more perceptive to their communication style. I can usually tell within the first moments of interaction how I can adjust my workflow and communication style to approach each project with them. I discover if someone prefers e-mail or talking on the phone, I can tell if they like giving feedback or if they need some encouragement in offering their honest opinion. I can sense if they’re super deadline driven, or have a more relaxed work style. 

This skill is something I’ve learned over time. When I first started, I wanted everyone to follow my protocol because it’s what I was most comfortable with and assumed was the most efficient. I didn’t consider that I may have been pushing others out of their comfort zone or – even worse – killing productivity and possibly diluting a good working relationship. 

I wanted to provide some insight to those who are new to working with a graphic designer or creative professional or just need some help smoothing the waves of communication. I surveyed a diverse group of 20+ creatives to get their take on different aspects of working through the creative process with clients – everything from preferred methods of contact to possible reasons for miscommunication. 

Take a look at the results:

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Here are some good tips to consider when establishing a new relationship with your graphic designer:

  • Make sure your designer provides an onboarding document or project checklist before you agree to work together. Each designer uses a different creative process and it’s important that you’re on board before you sign an agreement.

  • At the beginning of the project, discuss your preferred method of contact (i.e. phone, text, email) and figure out a good communication strategy that works for both parties. If you prefer to give project details in-person but your designer is not local or is only accessible by phone or e-mail, it might be a sign that it’s not a good fit.

  • The feedback and revision process can often be where a project goes awry. Deciding a good method for relaying feedback before reviewing a design could save a lot of time. Here are some methods to consider using for providing feedback:

    • Use Adobe Acrobat “Sticky Note” Comments 

    • A bulleted list of feedback

    • On a call on in-person

    • Screensharing on Skype

    • A marked-up and scanned printout of the project

  • Creatives are naturally visual people, providing visual examples – whether it’s a rough sketch on a napkin or a full Pinterest board of ideas – usually plays a big part in a designer’s creative process and can drastically improve the results of your project. Even if this doesn’t seem like your forte, ask your designer for some tips on how you can help them get a good feel for the vision for the project. 

  • Simply practice honest, open communication about what’s working for you.

Here are some valuable nuggets from some of the designers who took my survey:

I have a full consultation to try and get a feel for who my clients are, what they like and what their goals are to better personalize their project. -Samantha LaBarbara | getoutloud.com

I make sure that my phone’s voicemail message says for people to text me if they want me to get back to them sooner. -Shaina Nacion | shainanacion.com

We have created a complete process outlining our expectations and how we prefer communications with our clients. This has helped us set boundaries and avoid miscommunications. - Mallory Musante | www.boldandpop.com

I always have a check list when I have a phone or in-person meeting with a client to make sure that everything that needs to be covered is addressed in that meeting. - Nehemiah Harmsen | @nehemiah9design

Thanks to all of the creatives who took the survey, it was really neat seeing the results. I hope everyone can use this in your toolbox of creative communication!