Ways Marketers Can Avoid a Communication Breakdown with Designers

When non-designers and designers collaborate, the chances for communication breakdown derailing a project are high — learn how to avoid this.

Communication Breakdown

Believe it or not, miscommunication is one of the major reasons for a failed or delayed project.

It is estimated that for every $1 billion spent on projects, about $135 million (about 13.5%) of total spending is at risk because of the poor communication or the lack of it. No matter where or what you work on, some sort of miscommunication is bound to happen because of differences in skill sets, point of views or learning styles.

This is especially true when designers and non-designers collaborate. Even if you have a good idea of what you want, it can be hard for a designer to understand what you are trying to convey, when you say, “Make this more colorful or clean it up a little bit.”

Almost ninety-nine per cent of the time, your opinion will differ from the designer.


Here are some tips on how to avoid communication breakdown:


Meet up before you start

The majority of designers communicate using visual cues and are, to put it in simple words, poor at written or verbal descriptions. If you try to explain to them how to work on say, a logo, over the telephone or using text, chances are pretty high that they won’t understand it at all. This pretty much explains people getting frustrated when designers design something that they didn’t even think of in the first place.

Try meeting in person, or somewhere over Skype or Hangouts. Be clear on what you want to and clear their doubts, if any, regarding anything they might ask. Try explaining what you have on your mind using visual examples such as colors, fonts, illustrations etc.

Use the course of the meeting to clarify some important aspects of the project, such as the deadline or the projected timing. One more thing to take into consideration which often gets neglected at times is to tell the designer what the product or company is focusing on, who you are going to target and how people are going to communicate with others.


Be clear and communicate directly

One of the major reasons for communication breakdown is the lack of clarity when designers are expected to change something as simple as a color. Simply saying “This needs to pop out” might mean a change of colors to one person while change increased the font size to another.

Be specific about what changes you want. Telling the designer “make this blue darker” points to change in a particular direction making the work more productive and less frustrating. Talking to the designer directly will sometimes make things easier for both you and the designer(s) working alongside you.

That being said, the role of a project manager is by no means less crucial to the work. While direct communication is healthy most of the time, sometimes the designer might get frustrated when asked to change things in a certain way or start working from scratch. This is where the project manager comes in. He can talk to the designer by making them understand why and what needs to be done, thereby helping avoid misunderstanding in communication.


Over communication

While this may seem ridiculous at first, you might be surprised knowing how one small thing can make all the difference in terms of productivity. Assume that the designer does not know anything about your product or company and start from the bare basics. Ask them if they clearly understand what you are exactly trying to tell them. Small things like the size of a shape can be the difference since there may be other elements which may be based on that particular object or shape.

Try not to leave anything till the end and keep them frequently updated using a convenient means of communication. Emails or instant messages are better than telephonic conversations since they can show you what they have in mind, making the entire process hassle-free.


Acknowledge creative note taking techniques

Unlike project and content managers who are used to take handwritten notes with a few diagrams on their notebooks or tablets, a designer’s note comprises of zero to very little text with what you might think of as unrelated doodling, weird sketches or diagrams.

Visual note taking might sound like one is not paying attention at all when it is actually a form of active listening.

According to a scientific study back in 2009, people who were doodling retained almost 30% more information than those who weren’t.

Doodling is now in fact known and widely accepted as a way of remembering information, which might serve as memory cues.


Positive criticism

Designers are completely left in the dark when you tell them, “I don’t like this”. It makes them wonder what part of the design you did not like and what do they need to work on. Your designer might be clueless and might ask you where he went wrong in the first place. What “make it pop out ” might mean to you might be completely different from another person’s perspective.

Tell them what part you don’t like and how you want it to be instead of letting them think. It’s your product after all, and you are the one who knows how you want it, so don’t be shy to tell them this is not how you wanted it to be.

One more thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need to stomp over them and ask them to change things straight away. Just remember that they are the experts, so take into consideration what they have to say rather than dismissing it outright. However, if they insist on changing the main part of the design, don’t hesitate to say no to them.


Summing up

Keep in mind that there will always be some difference in perception because of the variation in profession, experience and method of communication. Clear communication is the key to avoiding a total communication breakdown. Explaining to the designers what you want in their language will help both you and they clearly focus on achieving the desired goal.