There are plenty of stories on the internet about how designers deal with clients. They range from horror stories like “Clients From Hell” to to great advice like this podcast from the Honest Designers Show. I wanted to take a different approach to the issue of designer/client communication. What are the pain points experienced by clients when dealing with designers, and what do clients need to know to get the most for their investment in design?
Many small business owners or solopreneurs have never worked with designers or marketing experts before. They often have misconceptions on what to expect, and what is needed to develop effective visual communication.
One complaint clients have is, “designers only design for their personal portfolio.” Unless the designer is working “pro bono,” no designer should be working to fill up their own portfolio. Most likely, there is a miscommunication regarding who the target audience is. Here are some steps to take with your designer that will mitigate such miscommunications.
- Have a clear creative brief. If you are unfamiliar with how to prepare a brief, work with your designer to develop one first.
- Have a clear understanding of your business’ public persona. Part of developing a creative brief is explaining to the designer “who” your business is… are you the friendly mom & pop corner shop, or the uptown fashionista?
- Have a clear focus on who the end consumer is. With whom are you talking to in your marketing efforts? What are your customers’ wants and needs? What consumer objections must you overcome with your marketing materials?
By answering these questions before meeting with or working with your designer, you will both arrive at a great visual solution sooner, and with less misstarts.
A similar misunderstanding is “designers don’t take my personal tastes into consideration.” For many designers, I must admit, “guilty as charged.” But don’t misunderstand, the designer’s own personal sense of esthetics is not the issue either. Designers are focused on the end consumer; how the design will be perceived, used, and/or consumed by the public, what cultural considerations there are, and what the competition is doing in your area. Maybe that photo of a cute kitten is not the best way to sell industrial hydraulic systems.
Another complaint is, “designers do not understand my business/industry.” Here is where doing a little homework will pay off. Although there are many designers that specialize in certain industries, you may be better served by choosing a designer that fits your brand persona. Finding that one designer who works with industrial hydraulic systems, for example, may be less important than finding a designer who understands how to express your solution to any layman (side note: industry jargon seldom sells).
I hope this helps demystify some of what graphic designers have to offer. I think we as designers need to do a better job explaining to clients what we are actually doing when we do our work. It will help clients and designers focus on the same end goals.