Thought Leadership Resources

#31 Why having a great graphic designer matters now more than ever

Want to know how to draw more attention to your ideas? Add an image. Images will help get your ideas noticed. Take a recent post in Social Media Examiner:


According to Track Maven’s retweet report, tweets without a visual received 0.1333 retweets on average, while tweets with visuals received on average of 0.404 retweets instead.

That is four times as much leverage for the ideas in those tweets.

And it’s not only Twitter – magazine articles with images tend to get noticed, blog posts with images get opened and forwarded, and videos that include images rather than just a “talking head” get watched more. Going a step further, you can present your ideas in image form – it’s called an infographic – and if well presented, they can get shared into markets you haven’t explored yet.

So how does a business professional get good results working with a graphic designer? I went to the designer I work with, Carolyne Wagland of Gravity Art and Design, and asked her. I’ve been working with Carolyne for over 15 years, and she’s become an important part of the Thought Leadership Resources team, largely because she can convey, in images, the ideas and words I come up with.

She did a good job of taking my ideas and expressing them visually, as you can see on the Thought Leadership Resources website, here and here. The TLR logo is her work as well.

This is some advice she had to offer, based on a recent conversation, in Carolyne’s words, with some editing to fit.

Give your designer a clear idea of what you’re looking for

I’ve found that it is very important to find a designer you feel comfortable working with. Most graphic designers offer a free initial consultation to new clients in order to get to know the clients and assess their project needs.

Some designers are really good at listening, and will work hard to help you get the results you want. Some designers have their own ideas of what works best and will just run with it. It depends on whether you want to provide a lot of guidance, or rely on the artist’s expertise. This means, finding a designer who best suits your working style (are you a micro-manager, or do you delegate tasks well?).

This means that as a designer, the more information I have about your intentions, the better I’ll be able to meet your needs. I need to know the purpose of your organization, and who’s your audience.

This might start out with showing me some examples of the style you’re looking for – what works for you. It’s important for you to keep an open mind. Sometimes the design solutions you think work best for you, are not the best solutions. Remember it is not always about you, but about the audience you want to reach, and effectively communicating the right message to them. This means that what works for you might not work for them. It’s not about you; it’s about the people you want to reach.

If you’re reaching Millennials for example, you need to understand that they’ll be spending a lot of their time online. If you want to work with retired professionals, on the other hand, they may check their email a couple of times a day, so you may be better to reach them in print. And the way we design for online use is much different from what works in print.

It is not just one element, but a successful marriage of many design elements that make up a successful design solution. Specific choices of colour, fonts, images, textures, design styles can evoke a visceral emotional response from people. Carefully crafted vintage designs can bring back memories of their Grandma’s warm inviting kitchen, while clean modernist angular design treatments can propel someone into the future.

Never underestimate the power of a well thought out design solution! Remember that good design comes from a collaborative process that you allow yourself to trust in.

Reach agreement with your designer on workflow and process

When I work with a new client, I always discuss the timeline, deliverables and critical path on how to work together. This is particularly important if there is a schedule to meet – say the design is for an advertisement that must meet a deadline. In such a case, I’ll make it clear what I need from the client – for example, I’ll do a draft or sketch of the design, and need to get a response on that in time for me to make changes and then do the final design.

I’ll seek agreement with the client that, for example, we’ll move on the next phase only once the current phase is approved.

There has to be some give-and-take in that critical path, but that gets to be a problem if there’s a tight deadline that must be met, and the deliverables along the way aren’t being met.

What about online templates and other new design tools?

There’s been an explosion of new tools for do-it-yourself design, like templates and computer-generated logos. Sometimes I feel that just as anyone with a camera or a smartphone is now a photographer, anyone with a computer can be a designer.

Templates have always been around, it’s just that they’re more accessible now, to the point that anyone can design their own business card, flyers or websites. And some of those tools are good for what they are. I am a big proponent of digital tools that empower people to get things done quickly and inexpensively. As a professional I embrace many open source tools and templates where it makes sense to use them.

So, you may be able to generate some of your own design work, but there’s still a need for professional design. Maybe if your business is new and cash is tight, you might go to some online resources. But there comes a point where your business matures and you have the budget. That’s when it’s probably a good idea to talk with people who have graphic design skills to get your image out there in a professional way.

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

You can connect with Carl on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter

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