Five tips for working with non-creative people

One of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with being a designer has been working with a non creative people. It’s tough having to work with them when they don’t fully understand the creative process. Over the last year, I’ve had to work with a lot of people like this.

Maybe you’re in the same shoes as I am. It’s difficult when you work with somebody who isn’t taking the time to appreciate your craft. But I’m here to tell you that that’s okay and not everyone is going to appreciate design like we do.

I want to share a few things that I’ve learned that you can apply the next time you have to deal with somebody who isn’t as creative as you want them to be.

So let’s dive right in.

Define a clear, common goal

When I say clear, common goal,” I’m talking about something that your design will accomplish that benefits the person it’s for. The best example I have is designing a e‑commerce shop. Obviously one of the clear goals would be that they’re looking to sell products. Maybe they’re looking to sell certain number of products. Perhaps they want a certain number of people to view those products. 

Whatever the case might be, make sure you’re both on the same page with whatever goal that your design or the elements of design that you’re creating for them need to accomplish.

This leads into step number two.

Establish roles

This is something that a lot of us have an easy time doing for ourselves.

It’s easy to sit down and say here are the tools I’m going to use. Here are the processes that I’m going to use. Here’s how I’m going to design this for you.” We forget the other half of that which is telling our client what we’re expecting from them. This is always something that unravels into the the client told me to make the logo bigger or to make the sky greener.”

When you sit down and define what their role is, whatever the case might be, it becomes easier when we get to that feedback stage. A client often knows their customer, their target market, and the people that they’re trying to reach. What I like to do when I sit down with clients is to discuss how they’re going to capture their attention and then guide me towards that.

If I’m overlooking something in my design process, its easy to ask how it will accomplish their goal. This might go a step farther if the target audience typically responds to something specific.

Dig deep

When we get into the feedback stages and the client comes back with cosmetic requests, don’t be afraid to dig deep. When I was talking about making the sky green there may be a bigger concern that they’re not able to articulate.

Don’t be afraid to dig into those requests and get to the core of what they’re asking. It isn’t so much that they want the sky green. It might be they’re concerned that you’re getting outside of a comfort zone. Or they aren’t sold on what it is you’re doing.

It’s okay to step back

Often, I’ve learned there’s something that isn’t being clearly communicated. This could be you, by them, or by both of you. Having that discussion, you often find that there might be a different solution and it might not involve making a sky green.

There are times you have to dig your heels in. I know Mike Monteiro often mentions this. If push comes to shove and they’re asking you to do something that you don’t want to do, it doesn’t make sense.

Don’t be afraid to fight back

I think a lot of designers feel that we need to lay down the second things get a little bit ugly or testier.

Stand your ground. Sometimes these requests could alter the project so much that it might move it away from the goal. If you’ve defined one and agreed on it, it might be okay to fight back. But fight back fair.

Remember why you’re there. Remember why they hired you. You have expertise as a designer. You have knowledge that someone else doesn’t have. You have the experience of doing these kinds of things that a non creative person doesn’t have.

Make sure to remind yourself of this. It doesn’t hurt to kind of remind a client or a non creative person that every once in awhile. Not snarky of course! B make sure that you don’t forget that. One of the most heart wrenching things I see from other designers is when they forget why they there on a project and they become a human Photoshop curser. I think we can all agree that might be the most soul crushing thing of all.

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