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understanding graphic design

Understanding Graphic Design: Advice and Insight from the Pros (Part 2)

AMA Baltimore
April 30, 2019 |
7 minute read

The increased emphasis on digital communications has increased demands on marketers and designers. Being able to connect with target audiences 24/7 requires marketers to be agile and act quickly to their customers’ changing preferences and demands. How can marketers work effectively with designers to respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ever-evolving digital world?

In part two of this blog series, our design experts share their thoughts on how marketers and designers can build productive relationships and how they can harness the expertise of others to meet the demands of multi-channel marketing in today’s digital-driven environment.

Panel of Experts:

  • Emily Goldstein, Principal, M Design
  • Julie Kostic, Creative Director, JK Creative
  • Kendall Ludwig, President and Principal Designer, CurlyRed
  • Paul Bianco, Owner, ORANGEHAT
  • Jen Kozak, Primcipal Creative and Founder, KLUTCH
  • Joe Natoli, Independent UX Consultant, Give Good UX



Emily Goldstein: Every project usually needs several hands – designer, photographer, writer. Bringing everyone together at the beginning lets you discuss the concept, lay it out, and ensure that everyone can use their talents to carry out the project.

Julie Kostic: Involve designers as early as you can. Designers have a lot of strategic sense and bring knowledge of trends and past experiences. For example, it’s easy to get a logo without a designer, and sometimes clients will ask us to design based on the existing branding, but it’s so much better to bring in a designer from the beginning so we can design fresh and create the brand. Also, the more information we have on the strategy, audience and messaging, the more effective we can be. Lastly, trust your designer and be open to exploration.

Kendall Ludwig: I want clients to be completely honest and communicate as much as they need to. Recognize they are hiring me for my experience, but at the same time, I need the client to articulate what works and what doesn’t when it comes to proposed design ideas. Specific feedback helps me understand what they are looking for. I would advise marketers to be intentional about setting themselves apart. If you start with a brand that is distinct, you will get attention, and people will take notice. Companies that get attention are visually different from their competitors. Plus, it’s more fun to be different.

Paul Bianco: Our projects need to be a collaborative effort. Everyone should bring their ideas to the table. The more people you involve and can bounce ideas off each other – marketers, designers, writers, digital strategists – the more people have a feeling of ownership, and you’ll get more excitement from the client. I like to feel like I’m part of the marketing team. But let us stay in our realm. Don’t tie the designer’s hands. Bring us the metrics, and then let us do our thing with our skill sets. We’ll get there.

Jen Kozak: Conversation and collaboration. The best results happen when designers and marketers are partners — when everyone asks questions, listens, collaborates, and even concepts together. Handing off a written outline of objectives or creative brief isn’t enough. Have a dialogue with the designer and give clear, concise information on your goals and objectives. Then, we can toss around ideas and get feedback. I find that marketing people are very creative and have plenty of ideas. It’s fun to see their perspective.

Joe Natoli: Instead of giving direction, tell the designer the problem you are trying to solve. Explain what needs to be communicated, what the audience needs to walk away thinking, and then let them go do it. Resist the urge to tell designers what to do; instead, tell them what you’re trying to accomplish. Take your personal preferences out of the equation. It doesn’t matter whether or not you like a particular photo or color or typeface or layout; it’s about whether all of that sends the right message to its audience, tells them what they need to know, evokes the right emotion, and motivates them to act. At the end of the day, it delivers the desired outcome everyone is after.



Emily Goldstein: More people need to work together; design is no longer a one-person shop. Designers are working together with digital and social media experts and information architects. But computers can’t develop a concept. Good design is still good design — colors, the concept, and the writing, all come first. You still need to have a clear concept in your mind and figure out the best way to disseminate it.

Julie Kostic: Things are definitely moving faster. You need to be more agile and stay up to date on trends. You can’t spend months developing a social media campaign; you need to move quickly, but you also need to test along the way. It feels like the Wild West sometimes. You need to be flexible. And it’s good to have the budget to run more ads, as your data from your initial ads comes in. Website design has gotten simpler, with more emphasis on content and function.

Kendall Ludwig: Any design for a website has to also work on mobile. I make my clients’ digital presence a priority, after their branding. Their online presence needs to be in line with their branding, and social media and ads should be at the same level as the website.

Paul Bianco: We used to only think about design in terms of print. Now we’ve changed from press-ready PDFs to web-ready graphics. As designers, we need to offer more variety and use different graphics on a client’s website vs their social media. We need to be careful not to regurgitate content – the content of emails needs to be different than social media posts. Educate your designer about the intended use for each piece of content. Be patient with your designer as they develop different graphics for different channels and create graphics that match the content.

Jen Kozak: The growth of digital has expanded the opportunity for marketing and design. Design principles are the same, but there are more channels to distribute and consume information. Branding and messaging needs to be consistent across all mediums — print, digital and audio. What you do for print will not translate directly to digital — less copy, but more opportunity for animation. But print should not be pushed aside. When you get something in the mail — ex: catalog — that stands out visually, and people remember. Haptics is a great example of the science of touch with printed materials.

Joe Natoli: The same principles that dictate good design in print also apply to digital, but the digital realm is a lot less forgiving. You get one chance to make the impression you want because so much is at an audience’s fingertips. They know there are other choices, and they know it takes zero effort to seek them out instead of you. It’s essential to know what your audience expects and needs. And that doesn’t mean what they say they need. The majority of your time should be spent thinking about and observing consumer behavior, instead of relying on surveys or Net Promoter Scores (NPS), both of which are misleading. You need data from face-to-face interaction with users; you need to see their behaviors and reactions firsthand. It is absolutely essential to do this research up front.


Missed part 1 this series? Get more tips and insights in Understanding Graphic Design: Advice and Insight from the Pros (Part 1).


AMA Baltimore

The American Marketing Association Baltimore Chapter (AMA Baltimore) is Maryland’s leading provider of networking, educational programming, and resources for marketing professionals. AMA Baltimore provides extensive opportunities for marketers to expand their networks, grow professionally and learn about current industry trends.
The American Marketing Association Baltimore Chapter (AMA Baltimore) is Maryland’s leading provider of networking, educational programming, and resources for marketing professionals. AMA Baltimore provides extensive opportunities for marketers to expand their networks, grow professionally and learn about current industry trends.


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