25 Tips for Working With a Designer

25 Tips for Working With a Designer

May 26, 2015 by

A lot of churches either don’t use graphic design or are new to the process (why is graphic design important for churches?). It can be a lot take in, but you’re on the right track. The #cmschat community on Twitter recently talked about graphic design and shared a lot of great tips for working with designers.

Plan Ahead

  • “So often the request is ‘Quick make something pretty for us to put up this Sunday!’ Not much time for planning.” –Jordan Gillman
  • God can still move through a good plan. It doesn’t mean there won’t be last minute changes, but the more you plan ahead the better things will work out.
  • “Good planning is good stewardship. Things are cheaper when planned.” –Jonathan Carone


  •  “Sometimes you actually need to fork out the money. It’s hard if it’s not in a budget.” –Elizabeth Webster
  • Yes, design will cost you money: “Designers have bills too. You wouldn’t not pay a guest speaker. Don’t expect designers to work for free.” –Jonathan Carone
  • But it doesn’t have to break the bank. Do you really need to hire someone on staff? Consider contracting with a freelancer and only pay for what you need.
  • Don’t rely on volunteers to do design. There are times when it works, though everyone needs to be careful about expectations. But it can also be tricky:

Picking a Designer

  • Designers need a good design eye, but also understanding what the church needs.
  • You don’t just want someone who can make things look pretty. It has to communicate.
  • Look at experience and organizational skills.
  • Look for designers who fit the style you’re going for.
  • Communication is key. This person is going to be your visual voice, so you need to understand each other.

Explaining the Project

So how do you get started with a designer? A creative brief is an industry standard and can be a helpful way to pose the problem, ask questions, give some boundaries to the project. But the creative brief comes from the client (churches), so that doesn’t always happen.

But even if you don’t have an official creative brief, you need to have a conversation with the designer to cover that same ground. A designers should be asking questions. At the very least, the what, why and how of any project.

Neal Fischer shared a few specific questions to ask:

  • What’s the objective your trying to accomplish?
  • What’s the call to action? What do you want people to do?
  • What’s the key message?
  • What are the prioritized support points for your  key message? You can’t say everything in one ad.
  • Who is your target audience? (If you say, “Everyone,” try again.)
  • What’s the context? Where, when and what environment you say something is as important as what you say.

Interacting With a Designer

  • Rely on the experience and skill of the designer. They’re a valuable asset, not just a production shop.
  • Don’t re-design a designer’s work. If you want changes, communicate with the designer to make them. If you have too many changes, you probably didn’t communicate well in the first place.
  • If you’re really new to the designer experience, try sitting down and watching a designer work. Get an understanding for what goes into it. (Though this is not an invitation to look over their shoulder and tell them what to do. Sit back and shut up.)
  • Creatives are wired differently than pastors. Don’t expect to see things the same way, process the same way, react the same way. Some cross-cultural understanding needs to happen.
  • Helpful feedback is crucial. If you can’t explain why it doesn’t work, that’s not going to help anyone.
  • Timelines and deadlines for everyone involved need to be respected. You can’t get mad at the designer for a late project if you missed the deadline for text.
  • “Good design, like a ‘good’ sermon takes time and preparation. Give them time, but also a deadline.” –Steve Fogg


Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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