I’m creeping up on a decade as a professional designer, and while the list has dwindled, there are still a few things that I dread hearing from my clients. However, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not “I hate it.”
No, the worst thing you can say to your designer is “I don’t want to be difficult, but…”
Round these parts, we LOVE difficult clients. We love the clients that know who they are, what they want and are passionate enough about the work that we’re doing to express their opinions and invest the energy in our projects to make sure we get it just right.
The hardest part of a designer’s job is communication and interpretation. When we know and understand what the client is looking for, the ideas flow, Adobe Illustrator and our fingers start moving faster than our brains, and magic happens on the screen before us. The problem is that sometimes all of us lack the words to share our visions with those around us - and that’s when we need direct, clear feedback to get it back on track.
That’s one of the reasons we start every branding project with a mood board. We would never expect the client to be able to tell us what the finished design should look like, but every client knows how it should make them, and their customers, feel. It’s so important for us to find a common language in colors, textures and images.
When we hear from a client “I don’t want to be difficult…” or “sorry I’m such a pain…”, it’s a signal to us as designers that we haven’t done a good job opening up the project dialogue or setting the expectation for a few rounds of revisions. It makes me wonder what the client ISN’T saying - if you’re worried about being polite or protecting my feelings, are you settling for a finished product that’s not perfect?
That’s why we’re banning apologies when it comes to the creative process around here. You should never feel ashamed to tell your designer what you think, feel and hope for in your project. With open communication and a little grace and patience from both sides, we can truly make design miracles happen.
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them (honestly and directly ;) ) in the comments.