Five Common Client Phrases Decoded
Photo by simononly.
It may be easy for two design professionals to discuss hierarchy and layout, but it can be very frustrating for a client. During my experience, I’ve noticed a few patterns when it comes to client feedback and the phrases they choose when trying to communicate. Below are five common remarks I’ve picked up on and have translated into designer-speak.
“Can We Make This Bigger?” = Not Enough Emphasis
As designers we’re trained to give the most important elements in a piece the largest physical size. This gives the component priority and as a result, it becomes the focal point. So what happens when your client is asking you to make just about everything in the work bigger?
Chances are, they’re trying to tell you that the emphasis is on the wrong item or there’s just not enough in general. Ask the client to rank the content in terms of importance. What should be the chief element in the design? The second? Third? By getting your hands on this list, you and your client are both on the same page about what should be the largest/have the most importance.
“Let’s Move This Here, And This Here, And This…” = The Layout is Off
If you’ve presented your client with a design concept and they immediately start trying to rearrange the elements, something is wrong. Take a look at the placement of your design – is it well balanced? Are the correct pieces being emphasized accordingly? Do you have enough negative space so everything doesn’t feel so cluttered and the eye has a place to rest?
Your client isn’t trying to annoy you or take over. They’re simply noticing a problem and are trying to offer a solution. If they feel something is off, it’s likely others might see the same thing. Talk it through with your client and look for keywords such as “crowded,” “busy,” “boring,” “empty,” etc.
“I Created My Own Design For You to Work From” = They Know What They Want
It’s understandable for a client to be nervous about trusting an outside party with their business image; try putting yourself in their shoes. So when it comes to this scenario, I often find I have to prove myself and my design solutions a little bit more than usual. Take this as an opportunity to show your skills. If a client hands you their own mock-up, listen to what they have to say — really. Then offer your own additions.
“You know what we could add…” or “This is great but I’m a little nervous about this section, and here’s why…” are great conversation openers. By talking with the client before designing anything, you’re showing the ability to think on your feet, your knowledge of design and your willingness to hand-hold a little bit through the process. I’ve found that sooner than later, the skepticism wears off and you’re on your own.
“I’m Just Not Loving This” = The Design Solution Isn’t What They’re Looking For
This is when it’s helpful to use a Creative Brief. A Creative Brief is a document you and your client should develop at the beginning of any project. Basically, it requests the following information:
- What elements need to be included in the design (i.e., logo, contact info, etc.)?
- What is the demographic this piece is geared towards?
- What is the main message that needs to be conveyed?
- What is the overall objective of the piece?
- What is the due date of the project?
- What is the budget for this piece?
By making these objectives clear in the beginning, you’re able to go back and revisit it later on when situations like these arise. Your client may not be loving the design, but if it’s meeting all of their objectives, why toss it? When it comes right down to it, you and your client are two different people with different brains, thus different ideas. If you’re on the same page about the project requirements and the needs of the piece are being met, try talking to your client about why the design works. Don’t waste your time just arguing style; it’s too subjective.
No Response at All = Not Good
This last approach is pretty rare and, hopefully, you won’t encounter this any time soon. If you’ve submitted a design to your client for approval and they just plain aren’t responding, that’s a big red flag. No response, most of the time, is a passive way the client may be telling you they’re done. This is a very unfortunate scenario as there’s nothing to gain for anyone. You’re out time and a client. The client is out money and a finished piece.
Continue checking in as much as possible to show your dedication and professionalism. Worse case scenario, check your contract for dealing with these situations and to find out how compensation for your work should be received.
The above examples are simply taken from patterns I’ve noticed in my experience; of course all clients are different and respond uniquely. However, by remembering that your customers aren’t design professionals, and by adapting your language to their wave length, you’re sure to run into less communication barriers, resulting in a smoother project work flow, an effective solution and a happy client.