Other

Managing Design Projects – Surviving the Battle between Designer and Client

The Relationship between designer and client is often a contentious one! Designers can feel aggravated by the client’s lack of respect for their expertise and for their general lack of creative vision. As a designer, I’m sure you’ve had a few of those “I’m working for a complete moron” moments when nothing you do is pleasing to the client and all their suggestions and ideas seem ludicrous!

client_v_designer

In these maddening times, try to remember that this battle is not a one-sided affair. Your client is probably just as frustrated – growing ever more annoyed at their designer who is completely failing to listen to them.

Large design projects take a lot of planning and there is a lot of time and money invested on both sides of the design fence. With this in mind, it’s really important that a designer can give the client what they want and it’s also important that the designer is treated fairly for the time and effort that they put into a project.

158_2663770 The Designers corner

We have a designer with design knowledge and skill who knows design trends and design style. They have an artistic vision of what the client SHOULD have for their promotion, website, or brand. It’s difficult to break from this vision. They know what’s best – for the sake of the client and for their own artistic integrity.

BU010897The Clients corner
We have a client who knows their audience and business objectives. They have their own vision of what THEIR design should look like! They are paying for this design work, so why the hell shouldn’t they get what they ask for? They know what’s best for their own business!

In this clash of different personalities, the outcome is often unpleasant for one or all of the parties involved. Either the client will end up with a design that they don’t particularly like and that fails to live up to their vision, or the designer will surrender the battle and produce a design that they believe is “poorly designed” –reflecting badly on them as a design professional.

What each party usually fails to understand is that the whole process should be a collaborative one!

I’ve had quite a few battles with clients in the past. What I’ve learnt from these experiences is that with the right design approach, it’s possible to create a finished design that greatly benefits both parties. The ideal relationship is about cooperation rather than confrontation. To achieve design harmony, it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that the client is involved at every step of the design process. From concept to completion the client should be part of the “design journey”.

Here’s a list of steps that you should follow to make the design experience a more co productive effort:

1. Initial Meeting with Client
If possible, try to establish a relationship via a face-to-face talk. It will seem more like a “meeting of great minds” if you are able to meet in-person rather than trying to communicate your objectives down the phone or through a Skype call. During this meeting, you need to outline the parameters of the project:

  • Business objectives
  • Design objectives
  • Target audience and marketing objectives
  • Design look and feel
  • Price of Project

This meeting should define the project framework and plan the price, project dates, times, and deliverables. If each party knows exactly what is expected of them and the roles they are going to play in the delivery of the design, then the relationship will be much happier.

It will also give you chance to figure out the taste and motivation of the client. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to figure out a person’s predisposition for certain design concepts and styles when meeting them in person.

2. Create a Brief
If you’re smart, then you’ll have taken lots of notes in the initial client meeting. If the client does not present you with a brief, then write up your notes, and create your own brief for the project. Send a copy to the client, giving them the opportunity to change any parts of the brief that they don’t like. Once a brief is created, the design objective will become far clearer. Based on your initial meeting, the sections of the briefs should cover the following:

  • Budget
  • Design Objective
  • Target audience
  • Time scale
moodboard01
Create a mood board

4. Mood Boards
I hate the term “mood board” it sounds kind of “pink” and “fluffy”. However, a mood board is incredibly useful for establishing a mutually agreeable design direction. Jumping headlong into the design by presenting a series of rough drafts can be really time- consuming. By using a few mood boards that illustrate a few strong design ideas and approaches, you can quickly gauge the type of design features that the client likes and dislikes.

The intention of these mood boards is to include ideas and elements that might end up in the final design, rather than resembling the actual finished design. Include the following design bits and pieces in your mood board:

  • Typography
  • Color
  • Imagery and photographs
  • Phrases and straplines

Mood boards are quick to produce. They do a good job of defining the design aesthetic rather than content (starting with a strong sense of design style will generate a better design than a design that’s driven solely by the design content)
By creating a number of different mood boards, you can also present “choice” and “flexibility” (for example, the client can choose imagery from one mood board and combine it with typography from another)

Because mood boards are relatively straightforward to develop, it’s possible to perform several revisions if required.

3. Involve your Client in the Design
Mood boards are a good way to kick-off the design relationship with a client but when attempting a major design project, it’s imperative that you also involve the client in the “rough” stage of your work.

Don’t be afraid to include the client in the development of a design. For some reason, many designers are petrified of showing rough or unfinished work – they want to make it “just right” before showing it to the client. This is a BAD idea!!! You run a major risk of wasting hours upon hours of design time by creating a finished design that the client loathes!

The result is always the same when a designer creates an “unwanted” design. You either have to start all over again, or you can spend even more time changing different aspects of the design and compromising on minute details to try and appease the client. In this scenario, the design becomes this “hodge-podge” of different design threads that have no real strong aesthetic!

Depending on the type of design that you’re providing for a client, you should create a succession of “roughs” for the client’s approval. These should include:

Wireframes- if you’re creating a web design for a client, a collection of simple, hand-drawn sketches of some key pages should give your client and idea of the look and navigational aspects of the site.

Sharpie roughs – If you’re doing print work or advertising, then a variation of quickly created sharpie roughs that illustrate different concepts, art direction, and other ideas will give the client an idea of “where you’re going” with a design. They don’t have to look finished in any way, shape, or form. Give the client some credit for knowing the difference between “ideas” and “fully completed design work.”

Initial Pencil sketches and thumbnails – If you’re creating branding work or you’re doing illustration work for a client, then presenting all your rough pencil sketch work will give the client a chance to see something that they like. This may require a lot of revision sketches to finalize a design concept that you are both in agreement with, but it’s important that you give the client a chance to “see something that they really like.”

Presenting the client with mood boards and rough sketch work may seem like a lot of “extra-work”, but it really isn’t. It’s the smart way to deliver a major design project. You will avoid endless revision work that can cost you a great deal in the long run. In comparison to presenting fully finished work without showing your rough work, the benefits are obvious:

  • You will avoid the “crossed fingers” and “I hope they like it!” design anxiety
  • You will avoid giving the client a nasty shock! (a design they don’t like)
  • It will give both you and the client a source of reference throughout the design process
  • You’ve clearly outlined your design intent in the rough work. You’re not giving the client anything that they haven’t agreed to!

4. Scheduling a design
Not being able to deliver a design on time can REALLY sour your relationship with your client. Managing your time on a project is really hard because of the subjective nature of being a designer. There’s no way to exactly predict how long it will take you to produce a design that the client will approve. So make sure that you allocate AT LEAST a quarter of your whole design time to revision work!

Before you start a major design project you really should timetable your design time to include regular meetings with the client at each stage of the design process. Time allocated for revisions should also be included. Give a copy of this “design and meet schedule” to your client, so that they can also see how long the process is and the design deadlines that you BOTH should be meeting!

Good management of a design project will help to consolidate the relationship between both parties.

These tips for creating a better relationship with a client will hopefully aid you in all your design work to come. As a designer, it’s important to understand that you are not just a designer; you are also a businessperson who can’t afford to waste time and effort on unnecessary design revisions. By keeping in close contact with your client throughout the design process you will be able to create a design that makes your client (and yourself) much happier.

You Might Also Like

Harness the Power of National Optimism Month for your Small Business

Get Buzzy With Business Cards

New Promo Items Are Available At Overnight Prints

Is Snail Mail Making a Comeback?

Why use Digital Printing in Las Vegas?

Creative Ways To Decorate With Leftover Print Materials

New Year, New Marketing Materials.

Tips on Creating Direct Mail Services for your Small Business

Brilliant Art & Design Work

Be A Showstopper At This Years Las Vegas MAGIC Convention

A Tribute to Ben Franklin

Design O’ the Times

5 Best Custom Business Card ideas from Small Business Customers!

FAQ’s about QR Codes

Be our No.1 fan of Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr and Win!

Super Invitations for the Super Big Game!

Back to School Ideas

MonaVie- A Product With A Purpose

Tell Your Story With A Business Card

New Years Party Essentials!

Print Marketing:What is your goal?

Taking Stock of Your Business Card Paper

A Tasty Deal

Roses are Red

Create a design portfolio booklet at Overnight Prints

20 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Books First

“For being so awesome” 30% off MICA discount!

Overnight Prints is the fastest printer in the Universe!

Make your Mark with Fresh Father’s Day Marketing

How To Execute A Great Las Vegas Summer Wedding

It’s Not Too Late To Order Your Holiday Essentials!

Comp Cards – What they are and how to print them!

New Custom T-Shirts Designer Is Available!

Advertise Your Business Seamlessly With Chinese New Year!

The Importance of Good Print quality when creating Photo Postcards

Expand Your Booklet Horizon

A Sea of Santa’s..on Harleys-Small Businesses Giving Back

Overnight Prints Business Cards – Rated #1 for overall quality

Brochure Minimalism

Greeting Card design inspiration for Mothers Day

Crazy March Media, Money & Marketing

More Wedding Products For Your Special Day!

Brochure Bonus Week

How one photographer used savvy marketing to skyrocket his leads

Business Cards: Here today…Not Gone Tomorrow

Start Being The Best You!

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the prices are so delightful!

Summer Cleaning (Had Me a Blast)

The Perfect Greeting Card

A Business Card Different Than The Rest

The Pragmatic Entrepreneur: The Importance of Calculating CLV

Get creative with mini cards

Best Business Cards from Around the Web

Blogger beware

Should I Mobilize my Small Business Website

12 Handy Print Marketing Tips for Better Branding

What Chlorine Free Means

Spice up your Love Life with a Flirting Card

Plan a Unique, Memorable Birthday Bash for your Little One

Black Friday Promotion – Spend $50 get $50

What Can A Booklet Do For You?

Small / Local Businesses Should Take Advantage Of EDDM

Free Halloween Party Flyer!!!

17 Pot O’ Gold St. Patrick’s Day Promotions for Small Businesses

Overnight Prints Keeps it Green…You Can, too

Make A Statement With Your Business Card

Become our No.1 Fan on Flickr, Twitter, or Facebook and Win 500 Free Business Cards!

Host The Perfect Event – Using Overnight Prints

LISTOMANIA!!!!!!

In Las Vegas, Bigger is Better!

Top 5 list of Digital Designers you should know about!

New Product – Disappearing ink!

Las Vegas Quality Print Advertising

Mini Business Cards

Promote yourself – 50 self-promotional tips for Graphic Designers & Freelancers

Postcard Marketing 101 – Using Customer Testimonials

Halloween Print Products for October Promotions

Establishing A Design, Establishes Your Company.

Mommy Cards for Mothers Day

Kathy LaFollett- Customer Spotlight

Overnight Prints Introduces Wrapping Paper To Product Line

Setting and Attaining Realistic Goals

We want to see your Design work!

5 ESSENTIAL TIPS ON CREATING MESSAGING FOR COMPANY GREETING CARDS

Postcard Marketing German Style:postkarten-drucken

Bookmarks/ Think Outside The Box

Steve Jobs 1979 business card

It’s Time To Prepare For Spring Break In Las Vegas

Digital Printing vs. Offset Printing

Overnight Prints Magazine Discount

Avoid a marketing meltdown

Best business cards

Overnight Prints Web Commercial – how we made it!

Artistic Genius Ben Kwok Speaks

Give Your Friends And Family More Than A Gift This Holiday Season

Magnetic Advertising

Notepads now available from Overnight Prints

QR Codes in Posters and Mini BCs

Address Labels are now available at OvernightPrints.com

Overnight Prints is the fastest printer in the Universe!

Limited Edition Hero Cards to Commemorate Medal of Honor Recipients

Save the Planet and your Bottom Line

Gaining Awareness Without Breaking Your Bank

PROMOTE YOUR DESIGN WORK ON FLICKR

Create an ‘Etsy style’ Greeting Card in Photoshop

Don’t Let Your Appetite Down

Facebook Like and Dislike Stamps!

Stand Out From The Crowd By Using Spot-UV

Skip The Rush By Shopping Small This Year

CREATE PERSONALIZED NEW YEARS GREETING CARDS

Top Sites and Useful Resources for Freelancers

Make Some Green with St. Patrick’s Day Sales Ideas

Invitations & Announcements for Dads & Grads

Rack Cards With A Twist

What To Consider When Creating A Logo And How Our Design Services Can Help

The Secret of QR Codes

Stop Bailing on Mailing (Services)

Flyer design – upload Photoshop flyer for free

Maryland Institute College Illustration Artists

Increase The Productivity Of Your Business

Stop traffic with captivating headlines

Networking for Introverts

postcard vs e-postcard

A Paperless Society

Help Keep America Green with Print Marketing

Family Business Cards

Unleash you creativity and sleep peacefully

How to design and print custom CDs

Death of the Business Card?

We Welcome all Overnight Prints Customers to our Blog

Find Art Show

Presenting the Pocket Folder

Support Your Local Artists with Find Art Magazine

Give Something Special This Valentine’s Day

Shop the Story!

12 Comments

  1. Managing Design Projects – Surviving the Battle between Designer …

    […] See the rest here:  Managing Design Projects – Surviving the Battle between Designer … […]

  2. Managing Design Projects – Surviving the Battle between Designer … | Apex Designs

    […] See the original post: Managing Design Projects – Surviving the Battle between Designer … […]

  3. Design Elements Your Blog Should Have | WeCharts.com

    […] Managing Design Projects – Surviving the Battle between Designer … […]

  4. Managing Design Projects « Alloy Satellite

    […] Managing Design Projects 2010 March 9 by Serena Designer and Client Relationship advice […]

  5. Milton Glaser & Chip Kidd In Conversation

    […] American author Philip Roth. Glaser went beyond dissecting the actual designs and focused on the relationship between a designer and a client. He mentioned that his design partnership with Roth began many years ago through a chance meeting […]

  6. Freelance Learning – Rockett's Laboratory

    […] the same lines, another article, discussing the often-opposing views of client and designer. It gives an outline for good process, […]

  7. Very valuable, thank you. I am going to follow this, great tips.

  8. Thanks the author for article. The main thing do not forget about users, and continue in the same spirit.

  9. A real nightmare indeed ^^
    To better handle change and to not be surprised we’ve been using Planningforce for quite a long time.(http://www.planningforce-express.com)

  10. Armida Theodorov

    Cool site you have, the posts here are very helpful.

  11. There’s a lot of varying ideas on design and style that it’s not possible to please everyone unfortunately…

  12. Marcelina Castner

    Hey, I really enjoyed this thread. There are a lot of great comments here. I am going to do a little studying on this and stop back and contribute something.

    I will be stopping back soon to check out more articles like this and this site as well.

    In the meantime…. Don’t Stop blogging!

Leave a Reply