Jake Bradford, Senior Graphic Designer

Symposia Labs
July 19, 2018

Everyone knows the pain. Sometimes clients unknowingly interfere with the design process. It’s not their fault, and design is just one of those things that not everyone understands. But it can cause for a difficult interaction between designer and client.

“Can you put that above the fold?”

“Why is the type so small?”

“It’s not modern enough.”

This may sound familiar. While moving past uncomfortable experiences is one thing, it can become taxing to continue losing budget or compromising design integrity as a result of seemingly endless change requests. So what can we do?

 

Build Relationships

The ultimate objective when working with a client is to make them happy with exceptional work that achieves their goal. More often than not, this means producing less than the best possible design… Which is okay.

(Did I really just say that?)

As a designer myself, I know that this is inevitable, but there can be a good balance between the two. Taking the time to vet the client and ask questions up front can make a world of difference. If you know what they want from the start, it is much easier than jumping right in and hoping for the best. Gather as much context from them as you can early on and your odds of producing something that exceeds their expectations slants heavily in your favor. Not only will this leave you both satisfied but it will also prove as a solid foundation to keep working together in the future.

 

Say No, and Communicate

Sometimes you have to push back. Nobody likes being told “no,” but it is important to remember that you are the expert in this situation and if you feel deep down that what they are asking is a problem, then explain your reasoning. Do the client the service of educating them on why you may be pushing back. There needs to be give and take, and clients will respect that as long as you give them reason to. Just remember to be polite and professional. This may mean referring back to the contract you worked so hard on, clarifying the amount of revisions you are comfortable with, and explaining what is considered outside of scope.

 

Feed off of Criticism

Quite frankly, design is not for those that are sensitive and fragile. If that is you, then at this time you need to put that part of you away. Criticism is your friend and you need to listen to it and learn from it. It is very important that criticism is handled in a professional manner, and in the end, it provides the best opportunity to suit your client’s wants and needs.

 

Promise Only What You Can Deliver

First interactions with a client can be very exciting. There is drive to sell your services and to get clients thrilled to be working with you. It is important to remember that your reputation is on the line.

Something you don’t want to hear:

“But [designer name], you promised…”

If you do find yourself in this situation, promptly take responsibility and do all you can to repair the damage. Not all is lost at this point, but take measures to go above and beyond to fix what is broken.

 

………….. 

 

I think it can, at times, be far too easy for a designer to place blame on the client for causing problems with a design process. But I also believe it is very important to take a step back and really ponder how you handled the situation from the start. As stated above, there are many things that can be done to prevent a great project from becoming subpar.

And remember that your job as a designer is create the exceptional design that helps to achieve the client’s goal. This is the win.