Working with creatives

Working with Creatives

Before my role as a graphic designer at LifeSci, I’ve lived a few different design lives, working as a museum exhibition and retail designer, as a freelancer, a packaging designer – someone who’s flitted between the worlds of communications, marketing, and the scientific community. And no matter what space I’ve been in, the importance of clear, constructive communication is always essential. But, having hopped between these different spaces, it’s also incredibly clear just how much our communication styles can differ. When you’re working on a creative project as an expert in something else, the language of the visual world could feel a little hairy. Fortunately, there are a few things you can keep in mind to help translate and help make your project – and the process – as successful as it can be.

1. Recognize and plan for a creative project taking time.

Let’s say you’re a young biotech company, launching your website soon. You’ve been working on your corporate plan, your research, and your company for months, if not years, and it’s going great!  You’re excited and can’t wait to launch next week.  Time to get that website up and running, right?Not quite.

Sure, you can get a website up in one week, but as the below (slightly dramatized) illustration shows, there’s a big difference between finishing a project quickly and finishing a project well.

time graphic

If you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into your project, you want your website to be just as thoughtful and just as well considered. So try to schedule ahead for every aspect of your project, including creative. After all, a website or other branded asset can be a vital tool for conveying just how innovative and important your project and mission is.

But how much time is enough time?  This varies for every creative team, but “too much time” is almost never going to be something we’ll complain about.  In the biotech space, where accuracy and clarity of your content is essential, a thoughtful, comprehensive website design project can take anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks; a full corporate deck design overhaul, 4 weeks.  Full corporate branding? 3 to 6 months (or longer if there is need for heavy legal review.) This may seem like a lot, but remember: Quality work requires considerate, quality time and this will help us help you shine!

2. As cliched as it is, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Designers, illustrators and creatives are visual people and because of this, visual references are incredibly helpful.  Not sure how to refer to ‘that neat spinny thing on my brother in law’s website?’ Know certain color combinations and shapes that you think look better on your niece’s tricycle but nowhere near your company logo? As designers, we have a dictionary full of terms to describe visual choices, but our dictionary and yours sometimes don’t completely overlap. Picture references, however, can clear that up quickly and will give us helpful insights on your tastes and project needs.

3. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words are also helpful.

Sometimes you may not have seen an image or design you think is “it” for your project – and that’s okay! We’re experts at taking your mission and give it its own perfect visual style, whether or not  it’s like something you’ve seen before. To help do that, though, don’t be afraid to communicate as much as possible from the start.  Most creative projects start with a creative kick-off where we’ll gauge your preferences, assess design directions, and ask questions about the look & feel pieces of your project.  Tell us the things you like, the things you dislike, and don’t be worried about design perhaps not being your forté.  Your opinion is important and the more we know about that from the start, the better we can give you creative work that works effectively for you and your audience.

4. When it’s time to review, take it very seriously.

To keep on those clichés, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Oftentimes, a creative project requires some collaborative back and forth, but making sure to take initial reviews seriously is a way to cut revision time down drastically. Thinking of the reviews as an investment: Taking a little bit longer to evaluate first drafts makes the second draft that much closer to being your final. Additionally, getting those initial branded materials finessed and finalized well will be crucial for setting the tone of any branded materials coming later.  So make sure you’re starting out on the right foot!

5. Related to #4, consolidate & really consider your feedback.

Speaking about logistics, it’s helpful when our collaborators review and reflect on their feedback before moving forward. As your partners in this project, we’ll of course facilitate this as much as possible, but when you receive creative deliverables, remember to review, reflect, then return:

  • Review all the materials sent to you and think about your likes, dislikes, and overall feedback (e.g. “I don’t like yellow, let’s replace it with red.”)
  • Reflect on those decisions (e.g. “If we make all the yellow red, will it look too unfriendly to patients? Hmm, okay, maybe replace just some of the red.”)
  • Return that feedback to your creative team (e.g. “Okay, I think we should change a, b, and c to red, and keep x, y, and z yellow.”)

This keeps us from doubling back on feedback and work in case some requests were made quickly or while an opinion was still settling in your head, before you had a chance to work out what your real, final thoughts were.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, won’t this take forever? But don’t worry—this process doesn’t necessarily take a long time, just dedicated attention and consideration—and good designers are experts in this! We use tried and true methods to usher you through these steps as quickly and effectively as possible.

In sum, these tips aren’t a fail-proof guide, but can give a little direction when approaching your next aesthetic endeavor.  A creative collaboration can be an exciting, inspiring and impactful addition to your company’s work, so don’t let the fancy font names and Pantone booklets scare you—you’ve got the science, and we’ll handle the rest.

Graphic also by: Autumn Von Plinsky