In no way am I suggesting that design clients are dumb or immature, nor am I referring to a specific person. I have come up with these ideas/tips from my experiences, my colleague’s experiences, as well as various articles from design professionals on the web.
Even though there are hundreds of thousands of designers around the world; the general public are not designers. I took two years of Italian in college, but if I were to go to a part of Italy where they spoke fluent Italian, I would be completely lost. I could pick up a word or two, but in general, I would not have a clue what everyone was saying.
This same situation can be spun around client/designer relationships. For the most part, clients will have no clue what you are talking about if you start rattling off “design jargon.” Yes I’m sure there are clients that have done their research (or took five years of Italian in our example) and will understand all of technical speak a designer says; but this is rare.
Clients aren’t designers. If they were, they wouldn’t need you to do the job they are paying you to do. This being said, treating a client as if they are a peer in your profession (magazine design, web design, etc) is a mistake. To you, a fixed width 960px three-column layout makes perfect sense; but means absolutely nothing to the client. Rags and widows mean something completely different to a print designer as they would to a non-designer.
When a 5-year-old is standing in the toy aisle of a store and picks out a toy (that his mom said he could have), he doesn’t comprehend that the toy store doesn’t magically make these toys and they are just always there for him to take.
The toy most likely started in a factory. Raw material, whether plastic, metal, etc., are used to make each piece of the toy, which are then assembled into the finished product (of course with some finishing touches such as paint, sparkles, accessories, etc.) The toy is then packed up and shipped to the store, where it is unloaded and stocked onto the shelves for little Timmy to pick up while he is there.
The same thing can be said about client/designer relations. Clients will most likely not understand the time it takes to design a logo, website, business card, etc. There are many steps involved in designing a great logo: research, brainstorming, sketching, designing, tweaking, more sketching, more designing, etc, etc. A good rule-of-thumb is from the very beginning to layout a time-line of how the design will come to completion. Doing this will at least allow the client to have a general idea of how long everything will take.
The Vivid Ways logo that Chris Spooner designed is a great example. Even though Vivid Ways loved his design (which is great by the way), I could picture a client saying, “this is very simple, it looks like something my 12-year-old nephew could have done in thirty minutes in Microsoft Paint.” This is obviously not the case, as I’m sure Chris spent tons of time going through the steps (he describes his process in this article) to create this great identity.
So what should you do if you bill a client for your work and they don’t think the end product should have taken so long?
A five-year-old comes home from school and shows his mom what he did in art class that day. He is super excited about it and is so proud of himself for making such a wonderful masterpiece. His mom takes her child’s art piece and hangs it on the fridge so he feels even better about his work. It may only be a bunch of macaroni, glue, and sparkles; but to him its great.
A client might suggest to make the logo twice as large, add blinking text, and have a bunch of flash movies scattered throughout the page. The client thinks it is the best idea in the world and it will make the design so much better. To him, that’s his Picasso moment, because he doesn’t know any better. Most likely the client will not have extensive training in art or design or coding; which is why they hired you and didn’t do it themselves. Carefully explain to the “Picasso client” that they hired you and should trust your judgment of what is best for their design and their company.
A web designer would know that a smaller logo allows the users eye to flow through the page and straight to the content that matters. Remember, the smaller the logo/brand, the more confident you are in your business!
How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell by The Oatmeal is a great example of how a client can try to change the design to be his personal Picasso masterpiece. The cartoon is brilliant (in the eyes of a web designer) and really hilarious, but in the end, the client felt he was right and his ideas were better than sliced bread.
If you take away anything from this post, remember these three things.