The art of design communication can be difficult to communicate itself. As a designer, I know from experience what might and might not work, but as a client, how do you know that hiring me will help you? More importantly before hiring a designer, you might not even realise you need one because you don’t feel as if your customers will know or care about the difference in tone of voice of all of your marketing materials.
It’s hard to quantify good design because it can only be really be measured in the success of the business it’s meant to help. If I was a plumber and you had a leak, you would know that I had solved the problem because the leak no longer exists but what about the problem of sales? Improving the overall profitability of a business is not something that is a quick fix and takes months and maybe years to truly realise. With that in mind, the value, necessity and cost of good design can be very difficult to justify, which is why so many people choose not to liaise with a designer and instead try and promote themselves on their own. In terms of necessity, a plumber is still very much ‘above’ a designer. A plumber’s work is quantifiable right there and then, but a designer? That can be subjective.
There a few things that both the client and designer can do to form a good working relationship, reduce the amount of doubt in working together and increase the likelihood of a successful project:
Don’t hold back
Above all else, communication is incredibly important and this communication goes both ways. Before any contracts are signed, both the client and designer need a good idea of what they’re signing up for. There are times when a client knows they need a designer, but they’re not actually sure what for. Other times, they might think they need a logo, but actually, they need something to put that logo on first. Any good designer should think about the bigger picture and try to offer suggestions on how to improve on what the client may have initially asked for.
Offer previous results as proof of success (or failure)
Unlike a plumber, designers have the advantage of being able to show how effective they have been in the past. Some of my clients have hired me based solely on work that might be similar to the work they want me to carry out. For example, the wedding invitations I created for some friends were seen by a client who wanted something similar but with a twist. In another example, I was able to convince a client not to use QR codes because having used them previously on projects, I found them to be useless. (Sidenote: 87.6% of all mobile phones sold worldwide do not come preloaded with a QR scanner – Are you going to target 88% of people who can’t use a QR code?)
I’ve noticed that sometimes, even though that website or leaflet or logo might be pink with yellow spots to begin with, as the client works more with you and you’re able to show them comparisons of their vision and yours, they often see that your initial idea has merit. You might not get everything your own way, but with enough of an educated explanation as to why A is better than B, the client does often see the light.
Sometimes, the argument comes up that because a client’s customers might be too old/young/male/female/poor/rich that they won’t see or appreciate good design. As a designer, I know this to be incorrect, but it’s hard to fight this argument on the spot without some really good stats at the ready and even then it can be a case of the client not seeing how the stats are relevant to their own business because their business might be smaller or bigger or in a different industry than the stat. In a perfect world, you would be able to do market research on whether someone prefers version A or B of whatever you’ve designed but of course in the real world, the client wants it done yesterday and for minimum cost and so compromises must be made. It can sometimes be a case of allowing the client to have whatever they wanted, set it free into the public, see that it can be improved and then come back to you to make it better, sometimes reverting to whatever you already had on file originally. It can of course be frustrating and tempting to tell the client “I told you so!” – I’ll leave that to you to avoid.