There are countless blog posts that detail what you, as a client, should ask your brand designer (or potential designer). That is the post I sat down to write, actually. Then I realized: Don’t you, client, want a designer that knows enough about what they are doing, that they lead the conversation and ask you the important questions? I certainly think so.
See, the thing is, I realized I can’t expect a client to know about branding, design, strategy, or any of that. I expect them to know about their business, and whatever industry they are entering into. But, they hired me because I’m the expert for branding - so I should know what the important questions to ask are. First, I do have two things to clarify:
- Not all graphic designers are selling/offering brand-designing services. For me, offering brand design implies that I am delivering strategy and design.
- These are questions your designer should ask, but that doesn’t mean you need to know the answers. I never enter a consultation expecting the client to know the answers at all. I just want them to be open to figuring out the answers with me.
My actual on boarding process has more questions than this. But I narrowed it down to the top 8 things that your brand designer should ask you.
WHAT’S YOUR ONE LINE?
If you read my blog, you have definitely heard me talk about your one line introduction. This is where you develop the “why, who, and how” of your business.
I cannot build a brand identity and strategy without knowing why you are going into business. I totally understand if you haven’t had to figure this out yet. I'd be excited to dive in and figure it out with you. In fact, I will insist we figure it out, because I can’t do my job properly without it.
A red flag for you, as a client, would be if your potential designer never tried to understand your business. $10 logo farms have no interest in your company, or your mission. They have no interest in the success of your business, either. Even though a $10 price tag might sound awesome, success sounds way more awesome. You want to work with someone who wants to see your business succeed. You want to work with someone who will do everything in his or her power to help you get there.
What if you're asked these questions and you have no clue what your answers are? That's a-okay! Designers who approach branding from a strategy standpoint will be able to help you. They will be able to assist in your "one line" (though they might call it something different).
Next, you need to understand your target client. Not only understand them, but also know where you can find them. And then understand how you serve them. Again - if you never cover these questions, red flag. But, what if you just don't have the answers yet? Totally fine.
Your target client determines so much about your strategy. It’s not so much a “build it and they will come” anymore. It’s “build it, make it super amazing, go out there, find your target, and knock their socks off."
A lot of people assume that your brand visuals are just based off of what you, as a client, likes. It’s definitely a factor. But at the end of the day, you aren’t the one supporting your business – your clients are. So we need to get clients. We need to appeal to clients. How? Have striking visuals that they are attracted to. Be visible where they are.
In the past, I've encouraged readers to create a Pinterest board in the mindset of their target client. This seems to blow people's minds. I'm less interested in your personal tastes. I want to know your target customer's tastes. That’s not to say that you and your target client wont have the same tastes. That’s fine. But, I want you to have studied and analyzed your ideal client before you come to that conclusion.
Red flags: Your designer never asks about a target client, or doesn't care when you bring it up. It’s basic-designer level to be able to make something that looks nice. It's good-designer level to make something that looks nice and be awesomely effective.
I also want to know, in your analyzing… where is your target client? Is he or she on Pinterest? Twitter? Do they hate social media and hear about things through word of mouth? I want to plan an attack that will put your awesome and effective visual elements in front of them. It’s not so much as throwing a huge net and hoping you catch something. It’s finding that perfect spot where the fish are and then dropping their favorite food. As bait. Er... and then hooking them. Whatever. I don't know how to fish.
A designer should also question you about how you are serving your customers. I hear you over there, thinking, “But I just want you to make my website, why does it matter?!” The answer is, because I want your website to have the elements that appeal to your target client and have them understand how you serve them. Let's say that you serve clients by creating beautiful, luxurious wedding albums. The kind that they will treasure for the rest of their lives. Well, I need to emphasize these wedding albums. I need to load your website with gorgeous pictures and testimonials (and maybe even actual tears of happiness from past clients). They need to experience the amazing-ness that is your wedding albums on your website. So, when you say your packages start at $8,000 - but include the most wonderful and amazing album of all time - they aren’t horrified. Instead, they will have already grown accustomed to the fact that you create high end and amazing wedding albums. Instead of saying, “Wow, $8,000, never in a million years!” they'll say “Wow, $8,000! They must be AMAZING!”
WHAT SETS YOU APART
I want to know why a client chooses you over someone else, so that we can emphasize that. I want to know what makes your company amazing and special and unique.
You might be worried that you don’t have a feature that is uniquely yours. But you do! Truly, you do. I hear you. You are one of ten dog trainers in your hometown. You all housebreak puppies. BUT, the way you conduct business is different than anyone else. The systems you have in place, how you talk to customers, how you interact with animals, etc. is unique. So think on what is special about your company.
If you feel stuck, you should check out this article by Kayla Hollatz, about finding your edge. I love that she suggests asking people what they know you for! This is a phenomenal idea. Maybe they know you for how kind you treat the puppies or that you always come prepared with homemade treats. Whatever your edge is, your brand designer should ask you about it. Then they can emphasize that in your brand identity and strategy.
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO SAY
There are a ton of clever definitions of branding. I love the idea from Jeff Bezos that "Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room." Going on that mindset – what do you want people to say?
Knowing that answer can determine so much. Say you're the expert. You are super serious, meticulous, and efficient. Bright reds and oranges and a hand-lettered logo doesn't fit the bill. If you want people to think of you as the wolf of ... whatever your business is, then you approach branding in a more fitting way (super serious and meticulous? We are going classic fonts, somber colors). Knowing what you want people to say can help a designer begin to develop a path to getting there. It’s not by luck that we say and feel certain ways about brands. It’s not by luck that when someone says Nike we think fitness. We think: just do it, try harder, work harder, athletic. Why? Uh, branding. It’s their branding. You can have that same effect with your brand – we just need to figure out what the goal is first!
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING
I am talking about actual items you want. If you want a logo, business cards, a newsletter template, e-commerce, etc. – your designer needs to know that! If your designer is leaving it up to assumption, or not detailing anything about deliverables - red flag! I'm not judging and assuming the quality is bad at all. I'm just saying, what happens if you expect a business card and e-commerce, and they can’t do that for you? Its a red flag because you should start to wonder - are they going to be accommodating to your needs, if they never try to understand what your needs are?
I offer packages that detail the deliverables. Then, I make a point to find out if there are any other things that the client thinks they might need. I don't assume that my packages cover everything. I can't possible know what a specific person might need for their specific industry. I would rather find out in the beginning and know if it is something I am capable of doing. Then I can set expectations accordingly. I incorporate “4 collateral items” in my packages to cover most situations where the client doesn’t quite know what they need yet.
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE UPKEEP
This is so important, y’all. Sure, you get this awesome site and logo and everything is hunky-dory…but then what? What happens after your designer and you part ways? Are you going to be able to upkeep the strategies that we discussed as far as social media and your blog goes?
This should definitely be a discussion! There needs to be a plan in place, or some kind of retainer service, if your designer offers that. I have definitely been the bad designer here and learned the hard way. I assumed, “Okay we made this amazing branding strategy. Now the client is going to blog and tweet, like, non stop and business will come pouring in!” What if you (client) hate tweeting? I can tell you a 100 times over that you need to be on there, but will that matter to you a month down the road?
I’ve come to the conclusion now that we need to discuss these things up front. Then we can create a strategy that is not only effective, but actually practical. And if there’s no way around it, and you (client) need to fall in love with Twitter - then I want as much time as possible with you to convince you of how awesome it is! (I’m winking, promise).
DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY FOR FINDING LEADS
If you are an existing brand who just wants an update or rebrand, you might already have things in place to bring in business. A designer would need to know what those are, so that they incorporate them into the new materials/website. If you are a brand new company, then a brand designer can help you develop materials and strategy for finding leads.
I like helping clients develop lead magnets, or materials for expos, or whatever it is that they need to do to go out there and be successful. I think sometimes designers forget that their clients success does, in part, show their abilities as a brand designer. I’m not trying to take credit or anything like that, like whatever service or product my client offers is amazing, and they are awesome at their business, but I like to think a part of what I’ve created and planned for them has helped along the way!
WHEN IS CONVENIENT FOR US TO MEET/TALK
Ooooh this one is something that should be established with any business relationship (or any relationship, period). As a designer who works relatively quickly, I want to know when you are going to be able to get back to me with revisions and updates. I want a timeline that we both have agreed will work for us.
Establishing these communication expectations will make your (client) life so much easier. You will be able to plan around needing some time to look at logos on week 1, and approve a sitemap in week 3. Your designer should be asking this because it will make their lives so much easier, too! If nothing is said, at all, about how communication will work throughout y’alls business together, then that’s a red flag. You want to know if they are emailers, or Facebook messengers, or texters, or what. Managing client expectations should be important to your designer, because it makes their job a hundred times easier!
WHAT IS YOUR TIMELINE
If they aren’t asking this – RUN. FOR. THE. HILLS. There needs to be an end-cap on your project. You might mentally have an idea of wanting to be done in a few weeks or months, and they might be assuming you are booking a slot that doesn’t even start for a month. Timelines needs to be discussed and documented.
If you are really low-key about a timeline and just want it done eventually, that’s amazing. Don’t tell your designer that. Tell them a hard date that you expect things to be done by, and they will tell you if that’s possible. I’m not saying to be unreasonable or rude and demand your entire rebrand be done in a week! It is a discussion on both ends, but it MUST be discussed. Conversely, they might start the conversation saying they have an opening in two months – if you agree to that, then you agree to that. I get a little nervous when I feel like a client doesn’t fully understand, if they booked a month out, we won’t be emailing everyday leading up to that. I mean, of course, I’ll talk to you – but I won’t be sending you awesome things about your brand.
Anyway, if you aren’t being asked this, and you bring it up, and it’s a flaky or not concrete answer – run. By flaky, I mean, “In like, a few weeks. Maybe like two months.” No. Not uh. In comparison, I’ve definitely told a client, “At slowest, we can have it done by end of the year. At best case, where we don’t have delays, or vacations where you don’t email me back for a week, or anything unexpected, I can have this complete in a month.” That doesn’t seem flaky, because I am putting the ball in their court: you get back to me and follow the timeline we established: done in a month. You disappear on me, or take four-five days to respond to each email: more like three months. And then they respond with what they are going to be like as a client, and then I document it. And you should, too!
Okay, so I hope you (client) learned something valuable today! And I hope you (designer) also learned something valuable today. There are, of course, a ton of other questions that come up – but these ones are the ones that MUST come up.
I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!