A guest post from Ashlee Allen, a communications designer based out of San Marcos, Texas. 

Communicate first means just that. Communicate first. What is the content, concept and message of a brand? Once you can answer these questions, you can guide your creativity in the right direction.

Be a personal problem solver

Don’t forget why a client hires you. You are their personal problem solver. Usually businesses seek designers to resolve one of three problems:

  1. They have a great logo but it doesn’t reflect the brand
  2. They have an amazing message but no graphics to reflect it.
  3. They don’t have a clue about either message or logo and need a designer to help them communicate their brand through design.

A business is focused on the consumer. If they can’t communicate with them, then they already know that they are not going to have a successful career. This principle applies to designers. If we don’t communicate, we have already failed.

What is clear communication?

I read a business article that asked, “How do the best leaders motivate and inspire their people?” The answer: “Through clear communication.” The article also asked, “How do market leaders sell their products and services?” Answer: “With compelling ads and marketing campaigns — in sum, by clear communication.”

If businesses are focused on communication how much more should designers be focused on communication? Because most of our designs are shown without supporting text, communication must be a priority.

As they say, you have to know the rules before you break them. Well, communicating is the one rule I believe we should use as our base, and then use our design to push expression further. Let’s face it. Not everyone is going to like your designs. But if you design something for a client that they dislike, your explanation of how it will work for them and their brand could be the deciding factor whether or not they will accept your idea. As a young designer, I understand that what you communicate can often outshine your design.

Of course, functionality is an important concept that many designers need to understand. Once we satisfy the necessity, which is to communicate what the brand is about, then as designers we have the liberty to express our style based on the foundation given.

Communication in action

Have you ever looked at a kindergartener’s drawing and been confused by what they drew? But then, after they tell you that the little squiggly is you and the green square is their house you stop and say, “Oh, ok I see it!” Now, I am in no way comparing our craft and skill level to that of a child, but the same concept applies. We work so hard on design that sometimes we get lost in what we created and forget exactly what it is we want to say. Your designs must communicate, evoke emotion and reflect the brand’s message. Communicating well in black and white is a much more important skill than designing in color.

I just want to reiterate that what you say matters. People look for substance, trust, loyalty and innovation in a brand. So think about these things as you continue to understand this complex world of design.

Ashlee AllenAbout the Author

My name is Ashlee Allen, and I am graduating senior at Texas State University-San Marcos with a BFA in Communication Design. I am excited about the design world that l am becoming a part of and I desire to learn something about my career everyday. I enjoy daydreaming and coming up with solutions through design.