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WORKING WITH A DESIGN TEAM: Nonprofit Storytelling with Design

Hiring a design team to help you tell the story of your impact is not like ordering groceries from Instacart – where you choose from a menu and it’s dropped off at your door with little to no participation on your part. It’s more like finding a hair stylist to cut your hair.

You come with an idea of what you want (sometimes just a mood or energy, sometimes as specific as a picture) and you talk with them about it before they get started. You trust them but also make sure that they really understand you before you let them snip a single lock. If you’re smart, you also likely did a bunch of research on them before you even called for an appointment because you want to be sure that they know how to cut hair like yours. You want to see (and like!) samples of work they’ve done in order to increase your chances that you’ll be happy with how they cut your hair. 

While you’re in the chair, you trust their expertise but when you see something that isn’t what you expected, you ask questions. You give honest feedback. And in the end, when you do all of that, you walk out with a haircut you love.

Creating art with and for someone else is a delicate collaboration and we love to do it. When you know and respect the process, it goes that much smoother.

Here’s how you can be the perfect partner in this creative two-step:

    1. Do your research: Research, research, research! Before you set foot in the metaphorical design salon, become a detective of the digital world. Uncover their portfolio, dissect their case studies, understand their design DNA. Are they masters of minimalism or champions of maximalism? Do their colors sing your brand’s tune? This legwork ensures a smoother collaboration, one where expectations are aligned and admiration is already brewing.
    1. Be able to say what you want (or at least what you don’t want): Don’t wait for them to read your mind (though some talented stylists might manage!). Articulate your vision, even if it’s just a nebulous feeling. “Bold and vibrant” is a starting point, “evokes the energy of a bustling marketplace” paints a clearer picture. The more descriptive you are, the closer they can get to your creative bullseye.
    1. Expect iteration & collaboration: Iteration isn’t a sign of trouble, it’s the artistic evolution in action! Be prepared for sketches, mockups, and revisions. This collaborative dance allows you to fine-tune, tweak, and polish the piece until it becomes the essential storytelling tool you need it to be.
    1. Ask questions: Curiosity is your friend. Don’t hesitate to ask “why” throughout the process. Understanding the reasoning behind their design decisions makes you an active participant, not just a passive observer and increases your investment in the final product.
    1. Give honest feedback: Don’t hold back! Constructive criticism isn’t an attack, it’s a roadmap to perfection. Be clear, be specific, be kind. Remember, you’re both working towards the same goal: a powerful visual tool that hits your brand’s unique goals.

If you don’t hear anything else, know that communication is key! Don’t wait for frustrations to simmer. Keep the lines of communication open, express your thoughts and feelings regularly. Remember, your design team wants to collaborate and help you tell your story just as much as you do.