Creative projects done for a business are a delicate thing. There’s nothing worse than getting creative work back that you don’t like, especially when you’re not even sure what it is you would have liked instead. Hours of work, overtime pay, and missed deadlines are the painful costs of a poorly coordinated project. Communication is key. If you can’t make your expectations clear, even the best project can turn from productive to frustrating, quickly.

It’s important to be clear, decisive, and specific, and to demand the same from the people handling your designs. We’ve put together this list of three tips to communicate better with your designer:

1. Set expectations upfront

This is a tip that goes without saying, which means it’s the most important one to say, right up front. Establish deadlines, a budget, and a maximum or minimum numbers of revisions. Make sure everybody knows the rules, and that there’s no room for confusion.
Set clear expectations from the first day on the project. And be specific: if this is an hourly project, layout the number of hours you’re expecting completed, and in what phases. Establish how many revisions you are allowed to ask for, and never leave yourself open to the “until the client is happy” trap. If you don’t need to stop at a certain number, you could well find yourself revising it forever, and that’s a sign of ineffective specifications – or you pick the wrong designer.

Also, write up a concise payment plan. Will it be a lump sum? What services and deductions are included? Negotiate and conditions you’re both happy with.

2. Be visual. Be specific.

Providing visual references helps a lot to illustrate what you want for your new website, app, or brand. Consider, though, referencing specific elements from the references you provided. You might like the design style of Instagram, for instance, but what you really mean by that is that you enjoy Instagram’s gradient colors. Make yourself clear, and you’ll get the most out of your creative brief.

3. Break the project into smaller stages.

Define project milestones and avoid frustration, for you and your designer. They won’t waste much time creating drafts you won’t want to use, and you won’t have to turn as many suggestions down. Consider structuring your project around deliverable stages. For a website project, have one stage to define a sitemap and content, and another stage for wireframes and the UX (treat these like building blocks, black and white versions of the site). For the final stage, establish the visual design or styling, such as colors and photos.