Breaking The Communication Barrier Of Design

I have been designing for over 15 years. During this time, I’ve been the afforded the gift of acquiring experience working with clients from all walks of life. It hasn’t always been easy. Starting out, I was so eager to land a design gig that I failed to research essential functions of client relations and […]

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What I Learned


I have been designing for over 15 years. During this time, I’ve been the afforded the gift of acquiring experience working with clients from all walks of life. It hasn’t always been easy. Starting out, I was so eager to land a design gig that I failed to research essential functions of client relations and management. I even started some projects without getting a complete understanding of what the client actually wanted. These turned out to be huge mistakes that cost me time and, in some instances, money.

The most vital aspect of a design project is not determining the best software to use (although this IS important as well). It’s also not sketching out your ideas on paper, or conducting research on the project. The most critical part of any design project is client communication. You have to gain a FULL understanding of your client’s needs in order to give them reasonable expectations. This requires a collaborative effort from the both of you.

In some cases, this is easier said than done. Sure, there’ll be some clients that know exactly what they want, sometimes to a fault. But, there will also be times when you literally have to hold your client’s hand through the process because they have no idea about what goes into a design – they just want it done. These can be some of the best scenarios because you have the opportunity to educate your client on your processes and potentially get visual aids to assist in your design development.  The following three areas should always be addressed before committing to any design project.

Ask for Reference Materials
Most clients don’t know technical terms to convey what they want. But, they can usually show you what they want. For example,  if you’re determining whether or not to take a web design project, don’t be afraid to ask your potential client to send links of websites they like. Conversely, you can also request links of websites they don’t like to give you indication of what NOT to do with their project.  Asking for reference materials before committing to a project will save you time and aggravation, because you don’t want to begin a project and then realize you don’t have the capabilities or the resources to deliver as promised.

Request To Review Their Content
This may be a sensitive area for some clients, as they may not want to provide their content for their project to you without you being committed as a designer. But, this is also a good way to gauge the amount of time you’ll be spending on the design project, therefore setting realistic turn around times and progress checkpoints.

Stress The Importance Of Their Cooperation
Some clients think that designers are magicians, and that anything we don’t have access to, we can make magically appear with the use of Adobe Creative Suite. This is not the case. It’s always good practice to make your potential clients aware before the project’s inception that their feedback is vital to their project being completed efficiently and in a timely fashion. They should know that if takes them 2 weeks to provide feedback on a flyer design (yes, that does happen), or if they provide a 6kb logo for use as a website background that it will adversely impact the overall completion date, and/or quality of the project.

Covering these three areas will not only give you a better understanding of your potential client’s needs, but it will also give you the confidence to move forward with the design on the best possible note.

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