Good design is good business

Your designer is your partner

“Good design is good business.”
Thomas Watson Jr., IBM, 1973

Communications professionals nearly always start their creative process with the written word as a way to clarify and explain an issue or improve understanding. Just as valuable as the words, however, are the visual images and graphic design that reinforce the communication. The creative concepts introduced by a professional designer help make your message powerful and consistent across all channels. Together, words and images make a case, promote a brand, advance a cause, sell a product, or share information. 

Strategic use of design enhances your communication and increases the chance that your campaign will grab someone’s attention, change their mind or boost the impact of your message. Good design sets a mood, appeals to specific audiences and establishes your brand.

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So how can you find the right design partner for your communications project or campaign? First, your designer needs to “get” you and should to be involved in your project from the start. Introducing a designer’s creative eye early in the process will pay dividends as the campaign components come together.  Websites, social media and print products will align and entwine, bolstering and telling your story.

If you don’t already, it’s time to really look at your designer as one of your most important strategic partners. 

  • Take time to select the right designer or a design team that fits your corporate culture. It can take some time before you find the right one. Carefully review the designer’s work samples and portfolio. And talk to their clients about their strengths and weaknesses, and level of service. 
  • Ensure that your designer has professional credentials, such as those established by the Registered Designers of Ontario, which signal quality and competence to the profession, public and government. Someone with an RGD designation (Registered Graphic Designer) has met a rigorous set of standards that includes documented levels of relevant, professional education and experience, as well as competence in the areas of business, design principles, research and ethics. 
  • Once you have selected a team, trust them. If you have chosen a strong design partner, they will help you achieve your communication objectives. Respect their ideas, ask for their input, and involve them in the big picture. 
  • Spend time with your designer and explain what you are trying to achieve – overall and project-by-project. Prepare a comprehensive briefing for the team to clearly articulate the objectives. Most design companies can also provide a creative brief to help you focus. 
  • If you have a very large project, or are required to issue a request for proposal (RFP), be certain to clearly outline the requirements, timelines and budget. Ensure that you have a reliable evaluation protocol so you can judge proposals fairly.
  • Keep in mind that is not fair business practice to ask your design firm to develop creative for “free”. Pay them for their time and professionalism. 
  • View your design team as communication experts. When working out the direction and elements of a campaign, ask for design input.  Designers can offer ideas about cost-effective design elements and the channels that will resonate with your clients. 
  • Discuss budget details up front. Your design team may steer you away from the expensive print campaign and show you how a compelling and well-designed social media campaign can deliver an equally good or better outcome.
  • Work with your design team to establish a realistic production schedule that ensures that your deadlines are met.
  • Remember that designers are creative and they are problem solvers. They want to help you achieve your objectives and are ready to apply their skills and imagination to your communications challenge. 

Design should never be an afterthought or a last minute throw together.  Get it right from the start. There are many innovative design professionals out there to help you deliver creative with impact.

Susan E. Wright is a strategic communications specialist with the Hillbrooke Group. She has more than 25 years of experience developing and implementing communications and stakeholder strategies in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Susan can be reached at

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