The following article is inspired by a blog post by Seth Godin – ‘Working with a Designer (four paths)’. In the article, he posits four postures with commentary when working with a designer:

I know what I want. Bring your vision. Bring in your folder of typefaces, images, copy. Be very, very specific. The more you paste it up and sketch it out, the more likely you’ll get exactly what you were hoping for.

I’m not sure exactly, but I know what it rhymes with. Put together a scrapbook. Find examples from other industries. Do you want your website to look like one from Apple or a direct marketing diet book site? Don’t tell the designer what to do, but be really clear what you want to remind people of. Originality isn’t the primary goal of design, effectiveness is.

I’m not a designer, but I understand state change. Do you want this work to increase trust? Desire? Confidence? Urgency? Who’s it for? What’s it for? If you can be really clear about what the work is for, then hire someone you trust and give them the freedom to find a way to cause that change to happen.

I’ll know it when I see it. Please don’t do this unless you have a lot of money and a lot of time (and a very patient designer). This demand for telepathy is for amateurs [1].

This is a great place to begin when starting a dialogue with a new designer or branding firm to engage in a partnership with. Many clients expect a “turn-key solution” when creating a brand, designing a logo, or building a website. The truth of the matter is — to create something truly meaningful for you, your brand, and your audience — three key components are required: due diligence, empathy, and partnership.

Due diligence. Do your homework. Does the company or designer in question have a history of lasting relationships with their clients? Do they feature testimonials from other successful businesses in similar verticals? Does their work reflect the aspirations and ideals you have for your own brand? Appreciating the work in the designer’s or firm’s portfolio and communicating that appreciation or connection to the work builds trust between you both. It also generates motivation, and more importantly confidence.

Empathy. Design by it’s very nature is “subjective”. After all the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. However, it’s important to understand that design is not a competency — it’s a discipline that takes at least four years of academic training and a lifetime of practice. It is as much about process as it is about generating results. Creativity is the foundation of design, and “to create something out of nothing” is the essence of the design process [2]. Good designers have a sophisticated framework by which they understand and deliver a beautiful design solution. Great designers, however, also understand that “to create something out of nothing” one must become “nothing” — an empty vessel or clearing for you and your audience’s needs. Empathy builds trust between you both.

Partnership. Taking on Seth Godin’s fourth posture, “I’ll know it when I see it”, is recipe for creative disaster 99% of the time. Avoiding certain upset comes down to a matter of constant communication, completing intentions, and fulfilling expectations. At NOVA, we like our clients to be involved as much as possible. If they choose not to be, it’s usually because they’ve done their due diligence, trust our approach whole-heartedly, and understand our capacity for empathy. But even in those instances, we squeeze everything we possibly can out of our clients. After all, no one knows your business better than you do.


1. Working with a Designer (Four Paths) by Seth Godin
2. On Being a Designer: A Primer by Gong Szeto

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