Special Tip – working with graphic designers

Special Tip – working with graphic designers

Getting a good product visual design is not a trivial task neither working with graphic designers. The product design progresses over time as more learning is being added, while changes needs to implemented fast.

When I first started to interview free-lance designers and designer firms to work with us at Totango I didn’t know a lot about what I’m looking for and how to define it. I wasn’t clear on the requirements and I confused those designers I met with.

My intention was simple (too me), I wanted a modern, clean and user centric design for the product. (Who wouldn’t want that?)

Through the process I learned how to create an aesthetic product design while working effectively with my designers. I’m happy to share with you my tips.


Most of us grew up in engineering, product management or marketing. We didn’t go to art schools and were not born with the right terminology, so for this reason it’s critical to work on communication with your designers from day 1. To objective it to make sure you’re able to clearly articulate what you want and for the designer to understand and follow you’re guidelines, while still keeping artistic freedom for innovation. More on the next point. Face time (or phone time) is mandatory for that matter. The second aspect which makes breaks communication barriers is to work in small incremental iterations, see next.

Iterative Design

Some design firms will limit the number of iterations to 2 or 3 in order to save labor cost. This is totally wrong! I created a new engagement with my designers where we’re working by a bi-weekly fixed contract. The reason is to be able to iterate as much as possible while nobody looses. The only way I found effective to work together and develop a common langage is for the designer to create a mockup quickly (few mockups per day) so I can comment and push the process forward. It’s faster, it’s more effective and it’s fun, as designers look for feedback fast and early before moving on.

Incremental Design (No Concept!)

In a lean startup, one of the key traits of the startup is it’s ability to pivot and switch concepts. The user interface, as being in front of the customers, will change most. So, there is no point in a contract based on a single concept (as some design companies want), as concepts change/shift over time and the design should support it. In addition, you don’t have enough information to feed conceptual design at the beginning.

By following these three concepts, building a common language, iterating fast and a lot, and working towards incremental product design, I was able to invest just what it needed to create a product design which was always aesthetic and professional and meets the current state of the product and company learning.

I hope this tip will help you, and I wish I knew this a year ago, once I started my journey, as it would have helped me a lot.

One last note, if you enjoy tips like this, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to share more.

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