So you’re on the marketing team – Stop pretending you’re a designer

Marsha Permadhi | 26 August 2016
pretending to be a designer

Designers in general aren’t given to speaking up much. That’s what they have comms people for. Indeed, if finished products are what we’re going by, a designer is literally seen and not heard. But in the interests of fairness I went to the BBT design team (or in the wanky advertising world our “digital artisans” – spot the oxymoron?) Asking them to tell me some of the things they’d like more brands to understand.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – designers, or “creatives” are wonderfully odd creatures at times. They get weirdly het up about something called “kerning”, spend as much time working on “mood boards” as most people spend on Facebook and can not only identify 50 different shades of red but will tell you exactly how each shade makes them feel.

They are sensitive souls who often get tied down by restrictive, tight briefs and are forced to produce a particular style of design just because it’s the way other brands are doing it.

This travesty has to stop!


Design needs to be a collaborative effort.

In a world where “everything has been done before, nothing is new and everyone is becoming a designer”, it’s one thing to come to a designer with an idea. It’s another to come along with a list of exact specifications and demand that the designer follows them to the millimetre – designers are creative folk, and they do their best work when they’re given a bit of room to express that creativity. To get the best from your designer, consider what they have to show you and incorporate it into the project.

At the other end of the spectrum, designers do need a little bit of guidance. While a designer can bring to life some really creative ideas, they can’t read your mind. Come to them with a concept and a direction to avoid you and your designer going around in really expensive circles.


Things not to say to your designer:

“I want the design to pop more!”

“I can’t explain what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

“Can’t you just do this ridiculously complex design in Word?”

“Can you use a lighter black? But not grey, I want a light black.”


Don’t neglect the importance of fonts.

What you say is undoubtedly important, but so is how you say it – as in, the actual letters you’re using. The font you use communicates a lot about your brand, and has a marked effect on how you are perceived. It also directly impacts how easy the text on your design is to read. Typographers create awesome fonts which designers will pair with your brand, so just demanding Arial or Helvetica means you give up an opportunity to make your brand stand out a little more. But don’t follow the crowd – while everyone knows fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus are massively overused, so are many other fonts.


Don’t skimp on execution methods.

So you’ve worked with your designer to come up with a design which is unique and looks fantastic. What are you going to do with it? Your answer should not be “take it to the cheapest printer I can find” – or the cheapest web designer. Be willing to spend some money on getting your design presented, whether that’s online or in the physical world. That will ensure your design looks as good as it possibly can, and is far more likely to get people exclaiming over your brand.


Plagiarism is not okay.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but unfortunately it does. Coming to a designer with a brief to directly copy someone else’s design is not only dishonest, it’s a bit of an insult to the designer’s talent and skill. The same goes for things like asking them to remove watermarks from images which haven’t been paid for, or using pictures directly from the internet in their design without getting authorisation from the copyright-holder. The designer will turn down your request, which could result in some awkwardness all around.



You wouldn’t go to your doctor and tell them that because your knee hurts you want them to focus on your shoulder. Why do the same with your designer? Let them do what they’ve spent years studying and perfecting, and you do what you’re good at. Market segmentation or something.