Many a bright-eyed design student has stepped out into the real world, degree in hand, eager to make art for the clamoring masses. There is the expectation for obstacles and plenty of hard work, but also the learned habit of believing that once the designer has spoken, the project is done. And the project will be beautiful and perfect, and there will be applause and parades in its honor.
A sobering lesson designers quickly learn is that there is much more to a career in design than designing. One such responsibility is the need to collaborate with clients, and whether you’re working with a seasoned CMO or teenaged startup whiz, they will be critiquing your work and weighing in on the final product. Some input is helpful and improves the end result. It’s great. But inevitably, some input is… not. From a designer’s point of view, it can quickly become frustrating when a client’s suggestion seems to objectively diminish the aesthetics or functionality of the project at hand.
There is a natural reluctance to act against your better judgment, but the client foots the bill, and as the old adage suggests, “The customer is always right.” The challenge, then, is how to incorporate client suggestions while maintaining quality in design. Of course, the “in design” qualifier here can easily be dropped, as this constant client dance occurs in every corner of business.
Listed below are some key tips to delivering your best possible work while keeping the client happy. It reads an awful lot like a list of relationship tips, but to be fair, you are in a relationship with your client – for better or worse.
- Ask questions – You can avoid a lot of problems before the work even begins by asking thoughtful and specific questions. What is the end-goal of the project? Who are you trying to appeal to? Understanding the client’s intentions and getting on the same page goes a long way in making every small decision down the road.
- Listen – Asking questions doesn’t do any good unless you truly listen. Don’t have preconceived notions of where you want to take the project and don’t run all of the client’s input through a filter. There are no bad ideas before a project begins, so let the ego go and plan on at least attempting what is requested.
- Pick your battles – There are going to be subjective opinions that you don’t really agree with, and some that you really don’t agree with. Prioritize what needs to be addressed for the good of everyone, and gauge how your client responds to pushback and advice before tearing apart every questionable suggestion from their side.
- Compromise – This one can be especially difficult if you put too much emotional attachment into your decisions, but you’ll run into situations where you agree to disagree. It’s important not to internally throw your hands up and think “fine, it’ll be terrible but we’ll do it your way”; try to incorporate their feedback while leaving some of your influence intact. Meet in the middle.
- Be honest – Depending on your personality, it can be uncomfortable to speak up when you disagree with someone. Especially if you’re newer to the field, or maybe younger than your client, it can be easy to just bite your tongue and follow orders. Be confident and remember that you are being hired for your specific expertise. Your client wants you to be transparent, even if it counters what they believe. Just have some tact in your phrasing, which leads to the next point…
- Be respectful – Everyone learns this in preschool, yet, in the business world it is so often left behind. It’s easy! Be kind and empathetic towards everyone you are working with. Don’t discount someone’s opinion on “your area of expertise”; be open to learning and growing from different personalities and brain types. You’re all on the same team working towards the same goal, and a good rapport and mutual respect goes a long way in bringing any project home.
To see how your company can benefit from BLASTmedia’s design services, contact Lindsey Groepper.