Design is like music.

It evokes emotions as well as thoughts and everyone receives a different signal from it. While there are definitely principles that separate good design from bad, communicating with those who lack the vocabulary to articulate those feelings can be frustrating for both designer and client.

Some of these are inconceivable to designers! You keep using the words, but they do not mean what you think they mean.

Make the Design Pop

Let’s start with the most vague and least helpful. Make the design “pop.” Like this?

This is pop art. Andy Warhol and the 1960’s kind of “pop?” Or did you have something else in mind?

Did you mean you want it to be very colorful? Or did you want it to stand out from the rest of the wall it’s going on? Is there something in the design itself that you want the eye to be drawn to? Or do you just want it to be really different from other things the designer has made recently?

“Make it pop” doesn’t mean anything to a designer, much like the rest of these vague phrases. Designers need you to describe what you see in your head like you’ve wandered into an art museum with a blind friend and are trying to describe the art to him.

Oh, Phil, you’d love this one. It really pops.

Make the Design in 3D

When a designer hears this, they honestly don’t know what you mean. According to the definition of what 3D is, no design is truly 3D. Only movies where you have to wear special glasses. So what do we think you mean?

Powerpoint WordArt from 2002? Something with a lot of shading? Or do you want a flat design that’s actually on pegs that make it stand off the wall like a sign? Do you want a drop shadow? Do you want standoff letters that are attached flat to a wall but rise off the wall/paper a few inches?

My best hack to avoid this confusion is to never use the phrase 3D to describe a design, but to describe in details what you want the design to do/look like/feel like. Give examples or even sketch it out on a napkin. Whatever you can do to form the image that’s in your head in your designer’s head will help.

I’ll know it when I see it/I need options

The designer will probably roll their eyes at you. Why? Because it’s YOUR event/ministry/thing. If you don’t care enough to spend a few minutes envisioning what the design/feel/logo should look like or convey, why should they? You’ve put dream-work on a get stuff done person.

Normally, designers are happy to dream with you, but not after creating multiple failed designs. That’s a waste of time. You’re wasting their time if you’re asking for options.

My best hack to avoid this situation is to search a little around the internet for examples of what you’re looking for. Send those samples to the designer with an explanation of why or what you like about it that you want to capture in your design. Designers need inspiration as well as information to hit the target for you.

Work your magic

If you have given a designer parameters, (what you’re looking for, who the design is aimed at, how it will be used, colors to use, etc.) then it might be ok to say this as long as you intend to trust the designer to create within those parameters.

If you’ve given them nothing but “Here’s the event/thing and it needs to be cool,” then saying this phrase is impending doom to a designer. What it means is that they are going to have to shoot at an invisible target in the dark while riding a horse. They are dreading the fact that they are going to have to do this design multiple times, wasting hours of time and thousands of brain calories trying to guess what would work for you.

Designers don’t usually want to think through your design with you after they’ve designed something. That’s the cart pulling the horse. See “I’ll know it when I see it.”

Can you design something real quick?

Yes. Yes we can. But did you want it to be good also? I’m currently working on a poster for my office that says “Fast, Cheap, Good. Pick any two.”

This phrase might mean that you think since a designer is good at what they do, that it is for some reason, easy. But all the same directional questions still apply even if they are good and fast.

It also might make a designer feel like you don’t really think that what they do is valuable, since it’s not even worth giving them direction on up front so they can hit the target for you. It feels like whatever they make, just make it quick because it’s disposable.

Instead of asking if they can make something for you real quick, ask how much time they need to complete it. Negotiate. If a designer feels the pressure of an unreasonable deadline, they are likely to hustle for the deadline, not the quality. Then, because you didn’t give enough lead time to talk through it, give input, or make changes, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

Make it younger/older

Again, another phrase that means different things to different people. Most of the time, churches are working to appeal to the younger generation, so we often hear “make it feel/look younger.” I hope you see how relative, vague, and unhelpful this feedback really is.

One designer may think younger means crazy colors and sharp lines, while another might think younger is more hipster with natural tones. It depends on their experience. Design should not be determined by this.

Design should be directed by who the design is specifically for. Urban young? Hipster young? Country young? Northern? Southern? Midwestern? L.A. or Nashville? New York or Chicago?

And what’s “old?” 50’s? 60’s? 30’s? Make it younger or older isn’t helpful feedback.

I find that using someone that you or your designer knows in the demographic you’re trying to reach helps define this one more. So, it might be beneficial to have that person come in and look through design examples from Pinterest with you to get a feel for what appeals to them.

The Overall Best Solution (to start)

Here’s where I tell you how to bridge the gap between pastor and designers on most occasions. Ready?


Pastors, you need a pinterest account for when you’re trying to convey inspiration for a design idea. Copywriters call it a swipe file, but you need a place to save ideas for designs and looks that you like that you think will work until you’re able to navigate the lingo to communicate with a designer. You can follow a few of my boards below that I use to get an idea of what to do for your own.

Graphic Design



First Impressions

What did I leave out? Designers, what else do you hear that makes no sense to you as feedback? Pastors, what do you find the most difficult in communicating with designers? Let’s chat in my Facebook group about it! Thanks for reading!

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