Are you ready to work with a designer to create a brand?

This post is in response to Brian Doll's "How to pick a design agency." article discussing decisions about collaborating with Thought Merchants during their Reify branding project.

How your brand represents itself is undeniably the most important aspect to running a successful business. Whether you are a start-up or an established company with an identity crisis, brand driven design is more than just visual aesthetics. It’s an integration of simplicity, consistency, and a final product that creates an experience for consumers - aspects that only a professional designer can provide. Here I present three questions you need to ask yourself when deciding if you are ready to work with a designer.

Do you have the budget?

Or more accurately, are you willing to spend at least $5,000? If yes - great, let’s work together. No? Then we will probably not work together. A professional designer needs time to understand your business, your personnel, and your core business values. Time that we need to bill for. Without this, it’s impossible to visually solve the problems for which you came.

So why a $5K cut off? I cannot commit to and do great work for under that. When you pay a much less for a branding job, you pay a novice. Someone who will not bring depth and expertise to your brand. While a novice designer can produce reasonable results from time to time - the track record over long term is not good. Your business takes on unnecessary risk.

Are you a bootstrap start up just looking for something better than the founder can do? Then more novice designers are a great fit. But if you want to build a brand that communicates your vision for years to come, then you will need a professional. The best designers are not just service providers, they help your company understand itself through the design process.

Are you ready to collaborate?

You need to be ready as an organization to receive honest, external feedback. A good designer will call you out on your buillshit, and you should call them out on theirs. Collaboration and constructive criticism will move the two parties closer to their end goal - dope designs that achieve your business goals.

Are you willing to let go?

You invest in a designer to create what you can't. All too often you don’t even have the visual language to explain what you want to accomplish, and that’s okay. The designer is going to work with you to develop your visual vernacular. You just have to let them lead the way a bit.

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re ready to work with a professional designer. Here’s a few expert tips on how to effectively collaborate on your next design project:

  • Establish a goal before any designs start.
  • Give the designer authority and space to execute the best design.
  • Clearly outline who is involved (stakeholders) and has say in the project from the very beginning.
  • Always plan the next meeting. Setting a regular interval communication helps maintain a good relationship (comfort).
  • Get to know the designer as a person, it will help you communicate and empathize better.
  • Don't always be super serious. Humor can unlock blocked ideas.
  • Always show your work. Don't like a design or direction? Take time to understand and communicate that feeling as best you can. It is very easy to just say "I don't like it." It is much harder to articulate a more informed response.


Oct 16, 2017


Steve Berry

What's going on here?

Design happens everywhere. We look at it and give you our critique.

By thinking critically about the design that exists around us - evaluating what works, what doesn’t and why - we can apply new perspectives and rigor to our work designing applications and systems and communicate more effectively through design.

Our observations range from big corporate rebrands to local business street fliers. With each, we’ve taken the time to break down the designs and offer our point of view via a ranking system modeled after the Robert Parker wine rating system.

The Rating System

Unsatisfactory: Does not achieve design or communication goals.
Satisfactory: Just enough, sufficient, fine or “sure.”
Good: It’s good.
Very Good: Better than most but not exceptional.
Exceptional: Unusually good, rare, outstanding.

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