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Confessions of a non-designer client

blindfolded person about to fall off a cliff cartoon
Most non-designer clients hate to admit it but they are often lost and in need of help.

Designers and writers are always the first and last to work on a marketing campaign. 

In my previous work, most of the time, our client already had a design in mind, the designer will create it out of a template and I’d just come in to add the words.

Lately, I’ve been part of a process where I need to also conceptualize images on my own and then communicate directly to the designer to be able to execute what I have in mind. 

Since I am now my own non-designer client with zero knowledge of the design process, I’m often struggling.

Here are some of the realities non-designers face and what we can do about it:

We are blindly influenced by what we personally like

I invite you to check the photo album on your phone. How many screenshots did you save? More than your selfies I guess. This is because we usually take pictures of things we want to remember so we can use them in the future.

Non-designers are the same, we document the inspiration we want to use for our designs. Unfortunately, when we want to retrieve them, they’re lost somewhere. 

We have to rely on our non-existent photographic memory to remember the brand or the layout of the design we liked.

And if we do find them, they’re off-brand and can’t be applied to the current campaign that the designer is working on.

For example, I like animé (Japanese cartoons). I usually save and use them as my phone wallpaper. Even when I worked with service brands that have “children” as their target market, I’ve never seen animés as part of their branding. Sad.

The brand chooses the design, not the other way around.

Competitors inspire us

We often look at the other side of the fence often because we don’t want to make the same mistakes as our the competitors. We’d rather improve on what worked for them.

But be warned: non-designers require guidance on copying ideas, especially for startups, because the risk of design plagiarism is high. 

In design, plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use or close imitation of existing artwork and its representation as one’s own original work.

Non-designers can’t immediately tell if a design is plagiarized because we have not been exposed to a wide variety of designs long enough to recognize the difference.

Professional designers, however, can help us avoid these mishaps because they can create something new from inspiration for to make it work for our brand.

We don’t know where else to look for inspiration

We are good at in Googling how to find an image closest to what we had in mind. Unfortunately, we usually get a poor, inaccurate picture.

To fill in the gaps of the not-so-accurate picture, we try to explain what we hope to achieve with the design in our own words and pray that the designer can connect the dots.

We are easy to please

A person who doesn’t know how to cook will be satisfied with a sandwich. A five-star chef will be unhappy with an overcooked egg. 

Non-designer clients will be happy with the design as long as the designer captures the essence of what the client wants to see.

Nonetheless, you will find that professional designers in Deer Designer don’t settle for the bare minimum. Even if they know that their client doesn’t have design skills, they will still provide high-quality designs according to what is needed.

surprised girl saying wow cartoon

We don’t know how long it will take to complete a design

Designs don’t have a recipe book nor an exact cooking time. That’s why a non-designer client’s guess on the delivery time is only loosely based on how fancy a design looks.

Ironically, minimalist designs sometimes take even longer because of conceptualization, but unless designers tell us, we have no idea how complex a design is.

Deer Designer account managers will keep you updated on the timeline of your deliverables. If you need a design prioritized, you can coordinate with them or change the ticket priority however you like it.

We don’t know how to conceptualize a web page

We know what button we want a web visitor to click, but we don’t know how to make them effective through design.

If all web visitors were like Deedee of Dexter’s Laboratory, a non-designer’s life would be a lot easier. But netizens are smarter and more discerning, and it will take more than a big red button to initiate a sale.

Let’s just leave this task to the web design professionals.

We want a specific colour but we don’t know which

– I like blue but the light one. As “light as the sky” but a bit more on the “neon side”.

Do you catch yourself having this conversation often? Non-designers like me try to pick the right colour for a brand but it takes a design pro to find the right hue to create a palette. 

A brand is made of a group of colours that complement one another.

A non-designer can choose emotions instead of colour to narrow down their choices. Anchoring on the desired emotion, the professional designer can play around with a colour palette until you find one that best suits your brand.

Take a look at the Deer Designer illustrations below. Observe that when the colour changes, the emotions that the design evokes change too.

We don’t know what font to use out of thousands of options

Non-designers know that there are plain fonts and swirly fonts, that’s it. We’re not sure what they are called, we just find that swirly fonts are playful and not good for rigid corporate brands.

Choosing one font is burdensome, choosing more traps us. We can’t decide which fonts will complement each other for the overall design. 

Although there are websites that can match or suggest fonts for us, it will require design thinking to create the overall brand.

We throw in big words to explain things

Modern, classic and friendly

Innovative, playful and good service

Traditional, reliable, and expensive

Honestly, we have no idea how these concepts will be translated into a design or if they make sense together. But it’s better than nothing, right?

D-I-Y apps excite us at first

When drag-and-drop design apps like Canva hit the market, non-designers were the first ones to try. We were absolutely thrilled to easily make nice-looking logos, brochures, and social media posts for ourselves. Well, not for long…

When we see that many companies in the same niche have similar designs as ours, we abandon it for a more customized, professional output. At the end of the day, there is more value in bespoke design.

We ask for a lot of revisions and variations

Sorry, but we can’t help but ask for revisions. It’s not due to us being perfectionists, but because we want to always make a good impression. It’s the face of professionalism.

Aside from this, we have other reasons for asking for a revision for the “nth” time. Maybe because our boss didn’t like it, we missed a spot or a partner brand wanted to move their logo on the poster.

We, non-designers, are especially thankful for on-demand design services that offer unlimited revisions. They help us look good to potential clients.

We know nothing

We are the John Snows in the Game of Design

We have this great idea in our minds, rushing through our blood, our employees or even managers look to us to execute the concept but we simply don’t have the time, the skills or the passion to create designs from a blank canvas.

The key is over communication

Remote work poses a challenge for design collaboration but I find that the solution for non-designers to achieve their design goals is to over-communicate.

I always try to remember that my designer is also starting from scratch and they rely on my input to conjure a beautiful design. If I give them nothing, I will get nothing.

I try to be as specific as I can, leaving room for creativity. I let the designer create a variation if they have a different approach to the design if I’m really out of ideas. This takes a bit more time, of course, but it’s worth the wait.

Trust the process and your design team

As a non-designer like me, you might feel like you need to know the technicalities of design in order to create an effective social media post, lead magnet, web design, you name it. 

Sometimes you even think you need to take design lessons just to give the right instructions.

Don’t worry, if you subscribe to an on-demand design service like Deer Designer, you don’t need any of those, you only need to be ready to communicate your ideas.

Your design team is battle-tested to do what they are good at, that’s why even if you’re a non-designer, you are in good hands.

With a reliable design team coupled with the clearest, most comprehensive instruction or feedback you can give, you can rest easy knowing that the designs you will receive will be of high quality and at par with your brand standards.