4 common design challenges + how to solve them
A strong and clear design process is one of the most important parts of creating a brand — everything from conceptualizing a logo that grabs people’s attention to building a delightful user interface that keeps users coming back involves design.
This work is as challenging as it is impactful. We asked our very own design team — Abby Frankola, Ivette Felix Uy, and Maribel Gil — about the most common challenges they face on the job and what tools they use to overcome them.
Aligning your creative vision with client expectations
“One of the biggest design challenges is just to align whatever the customer expects with what you visualize as a solution for them,” Mari explains.
It’s not uncommon for the designer and the client to have different interpretations of the same idea, according to Mari. The difficulty lies in both parties being able to translate the abstract concepts they have in mind into something tangible and mutually communicable.
“For example, if you tell me initially that the theme is magic, you could be thinking about a rabbit inside a hat, and I could be thinking about Harry Potter. We could have completely different conceptions of the same thing,” says Mari. “The more you grow and mature as a designer, the better you get at interpreting those ideas. But you still can’t read people’s minds.”
The solution to this problem is to have conversations with clients to get everyone on the same page. Mari says that she usually starts off all her projects, regardless of whether they’re related to branding, website design, or product design, by doing some research and building a mood board. This serves as a common frame of reference that helps stakeholders reach a shared understanding.
“So instead of me saying, ‘Imagine this,’ I’m showing you what I was envisioning. So you can tell me, ‘Yes, that’s what I was thinking too,’ or ‘No, that’s not how I was imagining it.’ It ensures that everyone is on the same page.”
According to Ivette, another challenge is positioning your creative process within constraints such as time, budget, and feasibility.
“I think artists have the freedom to create whatever they want. With designers, it’s a bit different because you have all these constraints. So it’s important to design within the framework of what your client wants, rather than you just expressing your feelings,” Ivette says. “You have a business goal — and you want to meet that through your designs.”
Lacking context and copy
Not having enough context from the client going into a project can make a designer’s job difficult as well.
Especially when designing something that relies on content being produced by a marketer or copywriter, like a flyer or website graphic, it’s harder to start designing without seeing what that content is.
“The customer never gives you content on time. But it’s really important to have if you want the designs to communicate what you want them to,” Mari says.
The lack of context can stem from the lack of a defined process when assigning projects to designers, according to Ivette.
“Someone might Slack you and say ‘Hey, can you do this? I need it in two days.’ But the lack of process means that the information is usually incomplete,” Ivette explains.
The best way to solve this problem is to ask for a detailed design brief from the client before the project starts. This brief is a document that lays out the project and informs the designer of all of the information and expectations they need to know before they can start designing. This can include deadlines, design specs such as size and format, expected deliverables, written copy of what will accompany the designs, who the target audience is, and so on.
“I think a conversation still needs to happen to get everyone on the same page,” Ivette says. “But a design brief gives you context before that conversation happens, so you know what questions to ask.”
Abby says the major challenges she’s experienced are related to handoff and transparency. When collaborating with other team members, especially on projects where you have to hand off parts of your work, it’s important to communicate effectively so that the design process can be more productive.
“When working with a team, you can’t be territorial over designs, even if it’s uncomfortable to pass off your designs to someone else. You can feel like ‘I miss it, I want to finish it,’ but that’s very different from being like ‘I’m not going to share my information, respond to feedback, or collaborate,’” Abby says.
The other difficulty with handoff is making it easy for the next person to pick up where you left off. Abby’s solution is to document everything and communicate frequently.
Different people have different systems of how they like to document and organize their work. There doesn’t need to be a rigid, one-size-fits-all method that’s imposed on everyone. As long as there's open communication and room to clarify questions, the handoff process should be smooth.
“Frankly, we just message each other all day, every day. We have a Slack chat where we’re constantly sending links, screenshots, and questions back and forth. Whatever has us talking in the most immediate way is what works,” Abby says.
Abby also likes to make Loom videos explaining her designs and workflow to make the handoff process easier.
“With asynchronous projects, I do a Loom walkthrough of the prototype after I finish my designs. So that way, the engineers can reference me talking through it any time they want. It’s like if you want to reference what my thoughts are, here’s me actually saying my thoughts.”
Air is the perfect tool to store resources such as these, especially photos and video recordings, for other team members to access whenever they want. Abby says that all of her handoff files live on Air, where they’re organized and instantly searchable.
Organizing team assets and resources in one place is critical to every aspect of the collaborative design process, not just handoffs.
“If I’m not organized, I feel really uneasy. If you’re building a body of different screenshots and recordings for inspiration or problem-solving, especially as a shared resource, it’s really annoying to have to look through your files,” Ivette says.
Ivette and Abby found the ideal organization solution in Air. They add all of their inspiration, brainstorm sketches, and tutorials to Air boards, so everything is in one place, where they (and their collaborators) can instantly find what they need.
“I never liked Google Drive for creative assets. For a lot of the previous companies I worked at, that’s where their assets lived. It was super hard to search and look at things. Assets would always get lost; you needed to have a link to find anything. And it just wasn’t visual enough,” Ivette points out.
Ivette explains that she used to pull her screen recordings and screenshots from Google Drive and try to house them elsewhere. She would put photos on Figma and videos on Notion (Figma doesn’t support video storage), but didn’t like having to manage her assets on two different platforms.
“I was always looking for solutions to this problem. At my previous companies, I tried to pitch them digital asset management software so we didn’t have to use Google Drive or multiple other platforms. But [DAMs] were too expensive for startups.”
Too expensive — until she discovered Air.
“Air solves the problem of keeping everything in one place and always having my inspiration ready. And it lets my teammates access those assets and contribute as well,” Ivette says.
Air is a lightweight, intuitive DAM for all of your creative needs, without the hefty costs and other barriers that come with traditional DAMs. Make creativity and collaboration easy, fast, and fun with Air.
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