Healthy designer-client relationship tips
Simple, yet true: the very best designs are born from the best client-designer relationships, not from designers calling the shots or clients trying to play designer. Open communication, clear role definition and trust are three integral aspects of fostering a great connection between the two parties. These are true partnerships, with a healthy respect for what one another brings to the project.
Here, our senior UI/UX designer, Charlotte Conqueror, shares her thoughts on how to foster a winning designer-client team.
Trust each other’s expertise
As designers, we understand and respect that the client knows their business and audience sectors inside-out, just as our clients realise we’re the experts in design, user tendencies, and so on. Essentially, clients become an extension of our team, learning the bones of our design process over time. While that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sitting themselves down next to us and shadowing us during the working week, it does mean showcasing updates, new versions, and obtaining their feedback on the regular as we play, tweak, and tinker with the designs.
We all know the pain of client interference with the design process, often bringing with it questions such as “can you make the logo a bit bigger?”, “can you make X pop?” and “can you put that above the fold?”. Even so, entitling our clients with choice and an active role in the design process helps ensure their project is totally understood and helps designers stay on the right track. As a client, it’s likely you’ve chosen to work with your designers because you like the work they’re producing. Therefore, it’s important not to get too caught up in subjective design discussions and trust the expertise and knowledge of your designer. We like to take charge of the client’s vision and use our expertise and years of knowledge to make it a reality.
Get off on the right foot
Kickoff meetings and brand workshops are crucial and ensure a great start to the process with a new client. Those meetings help pin down answers to business questions such as who the target audience is and what problem the brand solves for them, as well as design questions such as preferred fonts and colours. What’s more, being able to witness what a client is really passionate about is the energy that fills the first major design burst. Clearly stating and outlining the expectations and visions at the start of the project is what feeds creativity, and creativity is what drives fully functional, beautiful design.
Keep up the collaboration
Through close collaboration with clients on design, we bring about a sense of control and also educate them on our design process. We can’t just run off with a project brief and return with a finished product because clients would be unaware of how we’ve arrived at the end solution. Collaboration is always better started earlier than later. That way, clients are given the chance to spot problems early. When involved from the get-go, clients are kept in the loop and learning along the way. Therefore, there’s no need to move the goalposts at the last minute because clients are aware and fully engaged in the process, spotting any issues earlier, with fewer iterations.
Every client and project is totally unique and the key to maintaining a great relationship is fuelling constant open communication. Design is subjective and clients might not always be fulfilled with the designs presented, but understanding their preferences and pinpointing areas to improve helps. When clients point out things they’d like to revise, it’s the job of the designer to explain why decisions were made and guide them through the process of how we got to that result, so we can hone in on the best solutions. Designers need to discuss new ideas and ask for a client’s input, share regular updates, and be transparent with workload and project timings. Maintaining regular open-ended communication minimises the chances of serious issues or major revisions at the last minute. Essentially, we need to help clients navigate the design world.
Plan in time for regular feedback
Regularly probe for critical feedback – the earlier it’s received, the easier it is to accommodate. Providing a plan and getting more feedback sessions in the diary are fundamental. This might be something as simple as loose sketches, wireframes or early conceptual scamps to indicate a direction and paint a visual, but it marks a significant place in the process for a client.
Clients choose to work with designers for a reason – to provide guidance and beautiful visual solutions – but also to hear their feedback and suggested alternatives. Yes, designers can explain their reasons for doing things, the pros and cons of different options and concerns for certain approaches, but ultimately, designers and clients should reach decisions together – and ones that really work.
Designing for a client who fully trusts us is pretty much the icing on the cake for designers. A harmonious relationship is a rewarding one – we get to sink our teeth into exciting projects and the client receives effective design solutions that can help their business succeed. It’s our reason for being.
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Written by Charlotte Conqueror
UI/UX designer Charlotte is your go-to girl for simple and effective design that’ll capture your audience’s attention in an instant.