How can designers and marketers work in harmony?

We asked both designers and marketers what the other group could do to make the relationship easier. There are some pretty obvious key themes on both sides! Keep these in mind for when you’re working with a designer, or a marketer, to make sure things run smoothly.

Marketing and Graphic Design - how the two can work in harmony

Marketers said

On being creatively minded:

  • I guess as not all of us are creatively minded. I like a graphic designer to take artistic licence. Maybe provide a few early alternatives versions so I can picture the route I want to go down.
  • I like a designer to push me and challenge me… After all, I’m not a designer.
  • I don’t have a creative bone in my body so I want to work with creatives who really understand and can really challenge the brief (and data/insight) that we give them.
  • Being able to give them enough creative freedom whilst having some parameters.

On briefing:

  • I think if you both establish a clear brief at the start, which is the responsibility of both, then it should be smooth sailing.
  • Ask me lots of questions about the brief and question my thinking too.
  • Briefing again! When I first started in Marketing 20+ years ago, the agency we worked with would take our brief and then rejig it into their client-services-to-creative brief. We would sign that off, so there couldn’t be any upsets. It also helped manage the distance as we were based in Norwich and they were in Bristol. Bit laborious but something similar could help with the understanding of what’s required from both sides?
  • I really like giving verbal briefings and receiving their understanding of the brief afterwards to make sure we’re on the same page. So I don’t write a brief (much to the horror of any agency that’s worked with me!) as it’s very visual for me. I bring stimulus or go walking around supermarkets/experience with them. Then they effectively write the brief and what they’ll deliver. I can honestly say Ive never had an issue with this approach. I would tend to ask them to tell me what they saw. It’s not always what I saw, so it ended up being more effective.

  • Everyone needs to try and get better at briefing. I’ve seen a lot of under-briefing but over-briefing can be just as problematic.

On trust, patience and communication:

  • Humility and patience from both sides! Both have their strengths and weaknesses (though neither will admit) and need to work together for the good of the job/client. The marketer should know the client inside and out and know what they will and won’t accept, but they can’t do the creative work. The creative has amazing skills, but is unlikely to know the client as people and so has to trust that the marketer does.

    And if all else fails, make the creative do the presentation if they still think their idea is right and let them get the feedback direct rather than through a filter.

  • Let me know why things might take the time that you quote. Let me in on the journey – if it’s not really possible to do something, go into detail as to why not. There are things that designers know about how things work that marketers might not have a clue about and take for granted. I imagine that’s why a lot of marketers think things can be a “5 minute job” as they don’t know what goes into it.
  • Patience is key. I know we can be a pain!
  • Clear feedback, two way communication, creative freedom/direction, and honesty.
  • I sum this up as the following: Be able to follow a brief, keep to an agreed timescale and meet deadlines, be reliable, and maintain regular communication.

And finally, understanding what’s important to them:

  • We’re always going to be driven by data, and that includes creative. Having a really good understanding of what makes a strong direct response message (creative/content), and how users across different devices consume advertising/creative is really valuable.
  • An understanding (and appreciation) of accessibility, and ensuring what is produced not only looks amazing, but it’s also accessible. It’s one of my non-negotiables and shouldn’t be an afterthought.
  • We find that giving a designer a check list of boring non negotiable things is really helpful.

Designers said

On briefing:

  • As a graphic designer I’d agree on a clear brief! Getting together and really understanding what problem the client is trying to solve and how they would define success.
  • The first thing is trying to understand their business goals, their user goals and their metrics. I’d want them to be able to easily articulate their goals, targets and have understanding of their audience. I’d want them to be able to define rationale for their intensions rather than just saying ‘We need a website’ – Okay, why?

  • Having them collate all their insights, user personas, customer journeys and anything to validate the above really helps early and gets us up to speed and on the same page quickly.

  • Give a clear brief outlining expectations and what is being asked from the start to understand priorities.
  • I’d probably say starting off with a solid brief. We can often end up with little information to go on, making it more likely for us to misinterpret the brief.
  • Engage with the designer at the start of the process to provide a really strong brief.

On timelines:

  • Understanding timelines and that good things take time. Designing isn’t something you can always just throw over quickly, it takes consideration and time to ensure the best outcome is reached so patience from the client / marketing side is always nice- especially when they understand the process.
  • Some sort of respect and consideration for timelines i.e. if a marketer sets a deadline day in the brief but are really slow on replies leading up to that day (even the day of or day before), then it is unrealistic for us to achieve that. So, I guess good communication is up there for me.

On communication:

  • Clear communication from the offset and throughout a project. Checking in but not constantly chasing.
  • Designers don’t often get to understand the outcome and performance of a project. By evaluating successes and failures between departments the designer has the chance to grow and learn, rather than existing in a bubble built on assumptions.

On open-mindedness:

  • Flexibility & staying open minded , sometimes there may be a better outcome that would work better for the brief that wasn’t considered. Whether this is the output itself or how it looks, have an open mind to the outcome of the brief changing / or be open to a discussion with the designer about potential options you didn’t consider.
  • Give us the opportunity to challenge and evolve the brief if needed.

And an understanding of what they do:

  • It’s a bonus if the marketer has some basic understanding of design principles so they know more about what is achievable for us – just in terms of balance, hierarchy, white space, colour things like that. It’s not the most important (more of a bonus) to have but it helps when justifying design decisions when feeding back.


We covered this topic in our webinar on 15th Feb. If you missed it, make sure you watch the recording to see what we had to say!