One of the biggest hurdles of working with others on a project is getting another person to understand your vision. Sure, it’s an exciting 4K cinematic glory playing in your head. You hear angels singing as a magnificent work of art is revealed in your mind (and yes, smoke machines are probably involved). But now, you need to make someone else see, understand, and create that dream in a concrete marketing piece. You need them to take photographs, fonts, and shapes into the amorphous abyss of computer design software to ultimately create what you envisioned.

To get to that final marketing piece, there is a lot of information filtering back and forth between those working on the project. A strong communication flow between team members will increase the quality and effectiveness of your email marketing to meet your goals.

So…how do you do it?

It seems like such an easy concept: an exchange of ideas from one person to another. But to explain something as nebulous as an idea is difficult. Buzz phrases like “think outside of the box” and “make it pop” don’t express the tiny details of what you truly want.

Through the years, I’ve picked up some helpful tips to make the communication on a project go a bit smoother.

Have a conversation

Before a design is even started, everyone should already be on the same page about what is expected. A design vision is multi-faceted, so trying to describe it with a two-sentence email or text message won’t get the full idea across. Instead, there should be a two-way, detailed conversation between both parties. This could be done through Slack, email, a phone call, or even face-to-face. During this time, nail down the specifics: Are there certain colors to use? Is a specific image or font needed? Do you have similar examples to reference?

Remember you are on the same team

When communicating about something as personal as a creative vision, the process can quickly turn sour if one or both sides of the conversation become defensive, argumentative, or unresponsive. If there is a difference of opinion, try to calmly come to terms. Each person should lay out their opinions and knowledge so the full picture can be seen. With the restrictions of email inboxes, some aesthetics aren’t possible. Other ideas might not be on-brand. Perhaps an idea is against your best practices. Working through these issues can be frustrating, but butting heads will just make the situation more stressful and emotional.

Provide assets and examples

It’s not a secret that designers are visual people. If you have an idea of what you want your final product to look like, send the designer specific examples or even try sketching it out for them! If nothing else, a simple grouping of rectangles can help give the designer a visual structure to start with.

This is a page from one of my notebooks on variations of an email design. They aren’t pretty. They aren’t fancy. But they tell a clear story of where the designs should go.

In addition to examples, remember to supply all the photos and graphics you want to be used in the design. Not sure what image you want? Supply a range of options or a robust image library to the designer and give an explanation of what type of images to use. Do you want images of the products? Do you want happy people? Would you like to see a natural landscape? Any direction is useful. Believe it or not, one of the hardest things to design is “Do whatever you want.” Without guidance, a designer may find a magical rabbit hole far away from the intended vision.

Advice for designers

One of my favorite quotes from a college professor is that “Artists create for themselves. Designers create for others.” While designers have that creative juice (or maybe it’s just coffee) running through their veins, each piece created is then left to the scrutiny of others: your boss, your coworkers, your customers, other designers. You’re likely proud of your creation. However, it also needs to be approved by all parties involved in the process. Their opinions matter too! And it doesn’t stop there. It also needs to perform. You need a measurable return.

And sometimes that can get painful. Sometimes your masterpiece is torn to shreds. As creatives, we get emotionally attached to our creations. Having someone change your creation is painful. The initial reaction can be anger or sadness. You may not be able to control that emotional response, but you can control how you deal with the situation.

  • Take a few minutes to calm down. A heated response will only make the situation worse for all parties involved. Go to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee, or step outside and take a big, deep breath. Just a few minutes removed from the moment can make a world of difference.
  • Start a dialogue to find out the reasons behind the change. There may be a legitimate reason – for example, following branding guidelines. Some requested changes might not be possible due to functionality or SPAM regulations, and that might need a discussion to explain. By creating a conversation, you open both parties to seeing the full picture and reduce confusion.
  • Find your happy place. We all have something we love so much that we can’t help but smile at. I love my family. It’s a little unconventional: a husband and cats. But it’s mine. And those cats: they’re cute and fluffy. They have little lawn mower engines inside of them that turn on when you cuddle. As much as I wish I could have one plopped in my lap all day at work, I make do with about 3 million pics of them on my phone (and a few hung around my desk for good measure). In the heat of the moment, when I have more work than I can imagine getting done in a single day and I’m stressed beyond belief: I stop for just a moment and look at a little furball.

Seriously, who could be upset looking at this picture of Wedge?

Ultimately, to have the most effective communication during the creative process, you need to listen and remain open to each other’s ideas and needs. As long as you work together instead of against each other, you will create amazing things.

What communication methods do you use with your designers? Do you have any advice yourself?

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