I’ll Know It When I See It

“I have no idea what I want… but I’ll know it when I see it.”

Have you ever said this phrase?

As a designer, I’ve heard it plenty of times.

Honestly, when I hear this, I immediately tag the person as a potential problem client. (Sorry!)


I know what you’re thinking, “But what if I really, truly, genuinely don’t know what I want my project to look like?”


Here are some ideas to help:

Option #1 – Relax and Let It Go

Remember – you’re hiring a designer because you’re not one (unless you’re an art director, that’s a different blog post).

And if you’re hiring a good designer or agency, you don’t need to know EXACTLY what you want your project to look like. That’s their realm of expertise. They will guide you.

Focus on the things you need to give the designer so they can work their magic. YOU NEED TO KNOW your marketing strategy, project purpose, target audience, brand guidelines (if you have them), copy/content (if needed), and any production guidelines or size requirements. Using this info, your designer will be able to create a piece that works for your business or give you a few options to choose from.


Option #2 – Focus on the Feelings You’re After, Not the Visuals

You don’t know how you want it to “look” but I bet you know how you want your audience to “feel” when they see it.

So don’t mention the word “look”, just let your designer know how you want your ideal customer to feel when they see it.

I suggest pulling together a variety of media that best represents the feelings you’re going for: words, poetry, stories, inspirational quotes, performance art, architecture, interior design, colors, patterns, fabric, textures, music, films, food, animation, TV shows, photos, fashion, books, magazines, display windows, etc.

Some people call this type of thing a mood board or a swipe file.

You can create your collection on Pinterest, Evernote, or even just gathering files into a folder.


Option #3 – Put Together Some Examples of Things You Don’t Like

I’m not sure if it has to do with negativity bias – but even if you don’t know what you want something to look like, I bet you have some ideas about what you DON’T want it to look like.

Pull those together and share them with your designer.


Option #4- Combine #1 and #2

If you can’t completely relax and let go but you also don’t have time to work on a mood board, ask your designer to create one for you before they get too deep into a project.

Then you can make sure you both agree on the feeling and general aesthetic of the project before wasting tons of time – on your side and theirs.

(Some designers already do this as a part of their design process, but don’t always share this phase with the client.)