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.

5 thought on “Special Tip – working with graphic designers”

  1. Ivailo says:

    While I see your reasons, I must say your approach is… messed. Was going to lay down my counterpoints, but would like to see where all this has lead you first, so will wait for an invitation. Always open for a discussion on the interface/service/product design topic, though.

    1. Guy Nirpaz says:

      Hi. Thanks for your comment (sort of I guess ;-). From going to your website I do see why you see things differently.

      My approach tries to address incremental design and concept changes while going through a product/market fit process. While the big top/down approach may work once you are more knowledgable about your product domain, this is simply not feasible when the amount of uncertainty is big and the resources are scarce.

      I’ll be happy to have you as part of our private beta, so you’ll be able the results for yourself and comment further…

      1. Ivailo says:

        As they say, “You can take the girl out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the girl”. It’s pretty much the same with design and one’s state of mind when they have spent their most valuable years in the field 🙂 But as I was going to point, it’s all about communication and people being on the same page. Rest is details. Will be looking forward to that invitation. Cheers.

        1. Guy Nirpaz says:

          On that we’re totally in agreement. It’s all about communication and being on the same page.

          About the beta signup – please drop us a line at http://www.saaspulse.com and we’ll happily create a user for you.


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