6 Things NOT to Say to Your Graphic Designer

Graphic designers are a funny bunch. They drink coffee like it’s their sole life source, doodle during meetings, and seem to speak another language. The purpose of this post is to poke some fun at the “language barrier” that sometimes exists when communicating with a graphic designer. It’s meant to hopefully bridge the gap when it comes to conversations with your in-house graphic designer.

I’d like to preface this post with saying, first off, that I am a Graphic Designer (if you didn’t already pick up on that) who works in-house on a team of Instructional Designers alongside a Multimedia Specialist. I am the first resident designer to have worked on my team and I’ve been here for 4 years. Over the years, all members of my team (including myself) have learned what it means to work with (and as) an in-house graphic designer. There has been plenty of miscommunication and confusion over the years, so the goal of this post is to poke a bit of fun at the conversations we’ve had. I hope you can relate and get a good laugh out of it!


  1. Can you send me the raw file?

As designers we know the beautiful, chaotic beast that is Adobe Illustrator (or Photoshop). It’s slightly complicated, but when you’re familiar, it’s like having an extra, seamless limb. Graphic designers speak in pixels, so when someone asks for access to our beloved pixels, it’s like asking you to sell your firstborn child. Granted, that’s a bit dramatic. But if you’re a designer, you know what I mean. Designers are happy to show off their work. Just ask them for the finished, exported file and they’re typically happy to cooperate.


  1. Can you send this to me in a Word/Publisher format?

This one is easy. No, we cannot. The laws of files types do not allow this.


  1. It needs something more…*crickets chirp*  

Do we know what that ‘something more’ is? No? Oh. Okay. This is one that I encounter all too often. A client or colleague knows that a design is missing something but when it comes to the “what”, they really aren’t sure. Non-Designers: try your hardest to show or tell your designer what might be missing. Show examples or draw a picture. We can’t read your mind!


  1. Can you make it like this (Show design of past designer)

I’ve never encountered this one personally because my team has never had a past designer. But our Student Designer Ashlee has, so she suggested it for the post. Here’s what she has to say about it.

I was working with a client for designing a T-shirt graphic and she sent me past designs from YEARS ago and asked me to make the designs look like so-and-so’s design. Clients, please do yourselves a favor and trust your designer! They stay current with designs. It’s their job. Not only was I then asked to create something that I would not be proud of but I was in a situation where I was essentially taking someone else’s design and making mine look similar. Each designer is different. If you hire a designer, let them do the research, and let them use their creative aesthetic and I promise you it’ll be worth it!

  1. You can have this done this afternoon right?

Deadlines are necessary, don’t get me wrong. However, it is extremely important to consult with your designer before you commit their services in a timeframe that would require them to stay at their desk overnight and buy stock in caramel macchiatos. Like any other art form, a graphic designer needs time to create their pieces. Putting a large amount of strain on them and their work will produce a grouchy employee and sub-par work. We (designers) like a good challenge, so we’re open to rushing the clock every once in awhile, but asking your designer to get something done in an absurdly short amount of time is unfair to them as well as the client.


  1. I edited it and emailed it back to you.

I can vividly remember the first time this happened to me. I was a junior pursuing my undergraduate design degree. My dad asked me to do some work for his company and I was happy to help out. I created a t-shirt design and sent it his way. Then, only a few hours later, every designer’s nightmare became a reality in my life.

“Hi sweetie. I made some changes in Paint. Let me know what you think.”

Was this a joke? Was I being Punk’d? Where is Ashton Kutcher?! Lo and behold, my sweet dad had no idea how absurd this was to me as an aspiring designer. Try and avoid this with your in-house designer by using your words to ask for changes. Like I mentioned earlier, designers are their own breed and they don’t fare well when non-designers touch their pixels.  



I hope this post gave you a quick glimpse into the mind of a designer. It’s a crazy place filled with color hexadecimal values and modern typefaces, but it’s a beautiful place nonetheless.

Are you a designer or work with an in-house designer? Where do you find that the communication gets a bit messy? Comment below!

Savannah is a Graphic Design Professor at Gila Community College, and is passionate about using design to better the world around her. She believes in researched design, and is a major proponent of paper before pixel. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, designing for small businesses and non-profits, and attempting any DIY she finds on Pinterest.

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