Every once in a while we as photographers get the chance to experience BEING the client instead of the one doing the work. It’s so strange to be on the opposite side of things, but it gives you a renewed appreciation for others’ crafts. For example, last spring (February of 2011) when I first set out to “get a logo and a website and stuff,” I figured it’d take my designer a day, maybe two, to come up with a logo for me. HA. It actually involved several rounds of edits, revisions, informal polls among friends to choose the best versions, then some intense education on keywording and SEO. By the end of it, I had an entirely new appreciation for graphic designers and everything that goes into creating the face of a brand. So this past Spring when I was looking around for another designer to embark on my new ShowIt site, I came in a little more prepared than I was last time. Here are a few incredibly valuable lesson I learned about working with designers and approaching a re-brand:
1) Be OPEN to change, even if it’s completely unexpected. I came into the game with a set idea of what I wanted- I knew the colors, themes, and even specific icons that I wanted to use throughout my site. I straight up told Kara & Rachael (of Earl & Layne) that I wasn’t interested in a re-brand because my brand was fine like it was. < Just a hint: that’s probably not something a designer wants to hear- you’ve chosen them to help you create a website because you can’t do it yourself, and it’s very possible that they might just have an idea that strays from your original concept that blows your mind. But if you’re not open to seeing new ideas, you’re going to lose out on tapping into your designer’s wealth of knowledge and creativity. The design that Kara & Rachael originally presented to me fell within everything I described that I’d wanted, and yet I hated it. I hated it because, plainly put, I’m NOT a designer, and I wasn’t letting them do their jobs to their full potential. It’s kind of like when a bride gives her photographer a four-page shot list- I wasn’t TRUSTING them to be able to do a good enough job on their own, which was completely moronic on my part. As soon as I relinquished control and let Kara and Rachael do what they do best, they came up with something completely new, completely different, and we ended with the website I have today. And I LOVE IT.
2) Be HONEST, but lovingly so. If something isn’t working for you, tell them! If you’re not crazy about the logo concept they’ve drawn up or even the inspiration board for your site design, tell them! Designers are NOT mind readers, and they need open channels of communication to deliver a product that you’re going to love. Tell them what you’re loving, and what you’re not loving, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The better your designer is able to understand what and how you’re thinking, the better the end result will be.
3) Be realistic. Know that a good website design is probably going to take several months, and learn to be ok with that. I am the QUEEN of impulse decisions and wanting things now, but I knew that my website was going to take time. It actually ended up taking longer than the three months we initially estimated because I decided I couldn’t stand what I originally wanted (again, MY fault, not theirs), but in the end I was so so so glad it took as long as it did because it allowed us to thoroughly flush out every bit of my website.
4) Be personable! Kara & Rachael sent me an initial questionnaire asking me pretty much everything about myself- my favorite colors, textures, stores, the list goes on. Give them as much detail as possible- I shudder to think how long my questionnaire answers were, but it gave Kara & Rachael a place to start. They knew my favorite texture is organic linen, and that I love to shop at Anthropologie and JCrew (outlet, duh). Using that information, along with all the other fodder I provided, they were able to get a real sense of who I am, allowing them to create a website and tailor my brand to be more centered around who I am as a PERSON, not just as a business.
5) Be prepared to invest. A good designer is worth his or her weight in gold- your website is your online presence and can determine people’s impression of you. You may have an incredible portfolio, but if your website doesn’t match that level of talent you may be turning people of or even attracting the wrong type of client for you. As soon as my new website launched, I noticed an immediate change in the frequency of client inquiries, but more importantly, I noticed a change in the TYPES of inquiries I was receiving. These new inquiries were from people who are more passionate about their wedding photography, more open about being quirky with their fiancé/e, and much more like who I am as a person- shopping at Anthro, JCrew, and loving movie popcorn almost as much as I do. A good designer knows how to infuse your personality into your site to attract your ideal audience, and having that sort of web presence is well worth what the going rate for a designer is.
If you’re thinking of overhauling your website, take some time to research different designers. You’ll find that you like some designers’ style better than others, so before you start emailing around asking for quotes, gather a list of 2-3 whose style you love and start with them. And remember to have FUN with it! Redesigning, while a huge undertaking, is also incredibly exciting! So get PUMPED!