Trust Me: How Marketers and Designers Work Together

Though marketers and designers seem to fall on different ends of the spectrum, they can have a great working relationship. Those partnerships are on full display when a campaign is visually pleasing and backed by all the right data.

Marketing News spoke with two marketers (Rebecca Sears, CMO of Plantation Products, and John Lewellan, senior director of marketing operations at Informatica) and two designers (Amy Brusselback, principal of design at B&B Responses, and Trish Olives, creative freelancer and consultant​) about how they can ensure a great working relationship. These conversations have been edited for clarity and length.

How is communicating within your discipline different from communicating with a marketer or designer?

Sears: Regardless of who you’re speaking with, it’s always helpful to put yourself in their shoes. How does their brain work? What does this person care about? How are they rewarded? When you understand what makes someone tick, you’re more likely to connect. For example, with a previous design colleague I found it worked best to communicate ideas via visual mood boards versus a written brief because that’s how they processed information best.

Brusselback: One surprising difference in communicating with designers and marketers is how tactical conversations vary from strategic conversations. When a marketer talks about a color choice, they’re often talking about their personal preference. When a designer talks about a color choice, they’re usually commenting on strategy. Designers speak in shorthand with each other because they assume the receiver knows the “Why?” behind the choice: “The yellow isn’t working.” But when a designer is communicating with a marketer, it’s critical to connect the design choices to the strategy and user: “The yellow lacks the sophistication needed for this consumer and price point.”

Lewellan: Everyone is sensitive to criticism of their work. For marketers, you can point out that they missed an audience segment, that timing a launch during a holiday week won’t drive the results they want, or that they didn’t look at the data of a previous campaign that would inform them on improving this one. Communicating with designers should be no different: If there are data or best practices that the piece doesn’t meet, if there are branding guidelines they didn’t follow, or if they didn’t read the creative brief, point it out. There shouldn’t be hard feelings. Where conversations get heated or people feel attacked is when the feedback they are given is “I don’t like that picture” or “Green isn’t my favorite color.” When your colleague from product or sales approaches you in the hallway and says, “I’ve got a great idea for a campaign,” we bristle. The same thing happens when marketers approach designers with a bag of personal preferences.


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