There are countless articles on designer-client relationships on the Internet: how to talk to your designer, 5 signs that your web designer sucks, how to get new clients, how to start getting clients. They occupy an infinite space in the Universe of Internet, neighboring the century old Planet How to Make Money, and orbited by perpetual Satellite What Is Love. (Here is your answer, by the way)
Most of them are written from the point of view of the designers, addressing issues like, how to be a good client (from a designer’s point of view), how to vet a designer (from a fellow designer’s point of view, who wants to make you lose your job), or how to start getting clients (from a successful designer’s point of view, because they are so successful being a designer that they have so much time writing personal blogs)
A lot of these articles assume that you are actually a good designer, who posts your own work on Dribbble, hoping to get discovered, while I know a lot of designers out there choose to get odd jobs on Odesk or work for a design company in order to “grind for more experience.” In the end, design is an art, like all arts, perfected by practice.
So here is an article written from a client’s point of view to those designers that are getting the baby jobs because you need more grinding.
Study the information your client gives you.
You have received the online questionnaire from your client, which I can only hope, not only covers their payment details and billing address, but also their business’s target audience, competition, and company name.
Study this information. Most commercial designs, be it a web design or a printed poster, want to be different but the same. Remember how you feel in high school? You wanted to be yourself, but fit in; you wanted to appear unique, but cut your hair like Rachel.
Your client wants that. Something that is tailored to the target audience’s aesthetics, which is what their competition is doing, and yet at the same time, stands out from the crowd of competition.
And what better way to start digging into the story of their corporate identity by Googling them and their competition?
As backwards and stereotypical as it sounds, the majority of middle age men are not going to be appealed to the style that appeals me.
This is a fairly straightforward point, but you will be surprised how many times I have to tell the designer, as a twenty something young woman, I love the design, but our target audience is 40-year-old men. As backwards and stereotypical as it sounds, the majority of middle age men are not going to be appealed to the style that appeals me.
Ask questions and take notes, simultaneously
Everyone’s number one piece of advice to designers, ask questions. Yes, it is paramount to ask as many questions about your client’s business’s as possible to make sure that you get the first-hand scoop on all the corporate information from your client. However, what most articles don’t mention is the importance of note taking while you are asking questions, especially if you are on a phone conversation.
In everything is perfect land, you ask your client 10 questions, and your client gives you 10 answers plus 2 more explanations and 3 references, and because your memory, like everything else in that land, is perfect, you can recall everything 3 days later when you are relating your client’s every whim and fancy to your developer.
In everything is not so perfect land, aka, reality, you probably won’t remember more than 5 answers your client tells you. So take notes while they are answering. Your clients don’t have all day to answer your repeated questions.
A sketch is just a sketch, not a design.
This point is what sparks that inspiration (frustration) in me to write this article. I hope my rant can be somehow educational.
Inevitably, from time to time, your client will use visual aids to illustrate their idea, because sometimes ideas are just clearer as an image than as words, or because they have told you their idea on the phone and you didn’t take notes.
Whether your client uses rudimentary tools like Microsoft Paint and Word or advanced programs like Adobe Illustrator, if they tell you that this is just a sketch of the idea, then it is nothing but a sketch of the idea.
You are paid to turn that 5 minute sketch into a 5 hour design.
Unless you are specifically instructed otherwise with commands like, use this, or I want it to look exactly like this, chances are a sketch is just a sketch. Your client spent 5 minutes piecing together elements in MS Paint to show you their idea; your client didn’t just make the design for you, because a sketch is not a design.
You are paid to turn that 5 minute sketch into a 5 hour design. So imagine the disappointment when we see your final design looks exactly like the sketch that we made.
I understand that almost nothing is impossible, in terms of web design, if we offer enough money and give you enough time. But all those Pidgey and Rattata that jump out at you from the grass will contribute to a little bit of experience point increase; you can choose to fight it or you can run.
So here, my thoughts on what designers should pay more attention to from a client’s point of view.
Your Marketing Client