Bridging the gap between client and designer, church leader and creative volunteer…
Here are some helpful tips to help you work with your church designers.
How to be the perfect client for your church designer!
Today we’re going to think about how to work with designers, as a church leader.
In small churches, this will often working with volunteers, so this is something I’ve assumed here. But the advice also applies to working with an agency or a staff member that you have, who’s responsible for creative designs.
So let’s go – how to be the perfect client!
Step one – be clear with your briefs, but leave room for creativity.
Don’t assume that your design volunteer knows exactly what you’re looking for.
Help them out!
If you have some images or other visual stimuli that can serve as some sort of inspiration, then share it.
Do your best to clearly articulate your vision, and it will be rewarded with a final product that is much closer to it.
But with that said, always leave some room for interpretation.
Design is as much a creative process as a technical one, and no one wants to be a keyboard monkey!
So, aim to be descriptive, without being overly prescriptive.
What this looks like in practice is likely closer to a couple of paragraphs, for a brief – rather than a couple of words. Give your designer a good place to work from, and let their creativity develop your ideas and bring them to life.
Now, if you get to this point, and you’re stuck for ideas for the brief – don’t panic!
Why not let your creatives know what you do have (if anything!), and offer to grab a coffee to chat. This can be a great opportunity for fellowship, as you develop ideas together; it can be a really fruitful way to spend time.
Speaking of time… deadlines.
Always set a firm deadline, so that all parties know the timeframe, and the expectations.
More than this, though, set a fair deadline.
Make sure there’s plenty of warning – particularly on projects like we thought about earlier where you don’t have lots of ideas.
These things take time, and they take creativity. There’s nothing that will kill the creative process like not having enough time to get the work done. It won’t lead to the best designs; more than this, it has the potential to build up resentment. Not allowing enough time sends a message that you don’t see the volunteer’s service as important.
Not allowing enough time sends a message that you don’t see your volunteer’s service as important.
What a ‘fair’ amount of time looks like will depend on how many designers you have on your team, as well as the other demands they have on their time. If they have a full-time job, or a family, you can’t really expect them to drop everything in order to jump on board with your schedule.
Now, one final word on deadlines. Make sure the final deadline allows enough time for logistics: such as printing, uploading or delivering.
So here’s an example.
If you’re producing flyers for an event that takes place on July 1st, work backwards from there. How long do you want people to have to respond? A couple of weeks? How long might it take to actually deliver the leaflets? A week? How long will printing take after the designs have been approved? A few days maybe.
Suddenly, that deadline of June 1st, which seemed like overkill, is actually making a lot of sense. And you’ll want the first draft deadline a week before this, to allow time for any changes.
So there’s deadlines. What else then? How else can we seek to be the perfect client?
Providing necessary details
Well, we can make sure to provide as many details as possible upfront.
Of course, we can make final changes further down the line. But whilst it may seem a small change to update some text or add an image, this still requires a chunk of your designer’s time.
And be aware, not all changes are necessarily as simple as they appear. To you, it might just be a request to update the event text. But that update could have all sorts of knock-on effects that require re-configuration of the whole design. So whether it’s an image, text, a logo, a web address, a phone number or a Bible reference; aim to present all of the necessary information to your volunteer along with the brief, at the beginning of the project.
Aim to present all of the necessary information to your design volunteer with the brief, at the beginning of the project.
With this same thinking in mind, it’s a good idea to try to consolidate your responses, in to as few messages as possible.
When it comes to the ‘feedback stage’, where you review the designer’s work, try to gather your thoughts and send a single message with the necessary changes. This shows an intention to cause your designer as little inconvenience as possible – something they’re sure to appreciate.
And remember, if you were working with a creative agency, they’d usually charge after one or two rounds of amends. So think of each message that you send to your designer as a round of changes.
A few more things, then.
Help out your volunteers by checking the content for errors, at each stage.
Whilst the designer might spend more time starting at the artwork than you, this might actually cause them to miss things that someone else will spot in an instant – especially if they’re under pressure designing things at short notice.
Ok, two more things, and this next one could be a bit sensitive.
Don’t be precious
Even if you have a very specific vision for a design, humbly remember that your view isn’t the only one, and we all approach things differently.
So listen to your designer, and respect their expertise.
At the same time, if you’re really not happy with the creative direction the project is taking, communicate it respectfully, but firmly. And include your reasons: you know there’s nothing worse than being overruled without knowing why. So consider their position, and practise empathy.
And this leads us nicely in to our last point.
Keep each other up to date. If briefs or deadlines change, communicate it promptly. This will save any unnecessary work or wasted time.
Also, encourage your designer, and thank them for their service. Whether or not the end result is something worthy of hanging in the Tate(!), they’ve given up their time to serve God, and serve the Church. So thank them for this!
So there you go, some quick tips for being the perfect design client!
Did I miss anything? Let me know with a comment down below, and don’t forget to sign up to the newsletter to be kept up to date with new posts here on ChurchTrain.