How to get on a same page with your client

Inès Mir
Nimax
Published in
5 min readNov 22, 2016

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In an ideal world we all have sophisticated managers and clients on our projects, which are as involved in a process and educated in arts as we are. And sometimes we do, but let’s face it: we’re the most responsible person in our project in terms of visual.

Consequently, the success of a projects depends on how well a designer transmit their idea to a client through manager’s interpretation.

As a designer who have been working in agencies for 7 years and have been surrounded by managers all the time I found my own tips to do that.

A piece from my old project where we had to do 7 versions of a page in 3 itarations.

Interact before actual drawing

  1. Preparation is a part of communication too. Get prepared with the materials client gave you at previous stages. You might not need it, but if you work in a big agency you might know what I mean.
    For instance, in Nimax we have a whole separate branding department. It’s a common situation when client came to them first. Be sure you know how the story has begun, ask your collegues to share meeting reports, listen recordings from briefing.
    Better find this material rough then recycled through other’s vision. It may be quite tiresome to get through them all, yet I have noticed that some clients, that are easy to irritate, blow up if you ask for what segment of market they want their web site to be. Bam! They’ve told you already! No matter that it some blond guy and not you personally.
    The most commonly they see you not as a part of an another department with their own research processes but as one inseparable company. So, be prepare just in case.
  2. Do a small research yourself before going to a client first time. If you know nothing about Forex — go and google it. Make an impression you aware of client’s business fairly well. It will make things easier.
  3. Create a first vague picture of a future project in a client’s head.
    It’s become my firm rule long time ago — if a client have no brand guidelines I do reference research. Sometimes even before the first meeting.
  4. Talk about certain effect a project should create. We usually agree on some adjectives which will describe the future project.
    Try to be not so general, though. You may say that your project will be as incredible and awesome as Apple’s yet try to be more specific. Say, you want your project make an impression of a happy young family, were father woke up this morning to spend time with the kids and make breakfast to them while mom was having a peaceful time of hers. You can see this mood of light and easy joy flying around, can’t you? This is it.
    Again, use in over and over again in new words, never getting tired of it, it will help to follow the line.
  5. Of course, meet in person at every crucial point in your project. I even don’t know why to explain this. It just works.
    How often it’s necessary to meet you will understand after the first briefing. Some clients advanced and loyal enough to have a skype calls after that, some might be more tough and require a lot of presence. Experiment with that.

While designing

  1. Do some leaks. Remember every iPhone release? We usually hear some rumors about new features and when it comes — we already love it! But don’t make client too agitated, it could create high expectation which your design couldn’t face. Show some pieces of your work, new references and sketches to get them familiar with the final result as they already imagining that.
  2. Create an impression that you’re really enjoying the design you’re making. It especially works with internal project managers and other teammates and then they will transfer it to the client.
  3. After presenting your design don’t leave the client with it for a long time! I’ve noticed that when they look at it too long all alone they started to have questions and there is no one around to answer it.
    For example, we never present our work at Fridays, so that to have an opportunity to react instantly when it’s needed.

While working

  1. Send reports about the your workflow regulary. Set the frequency depending on client behavior. it usually comes with experience but the basic rule is that client didn’t have to ask you what you’re doing.
  2. If you afraid to show unfinished results — rid of this fear now! Discuss difficult moments and new ideas while designing.
  3. Write explanations to your design by yourself and ask manager to send this unedited. It really helps when your communication is held by a manager. .
  4. If something goes wrong and a client starts to reject your design, first thing ask the manager to show you a full e-mail or chat log. It was not once not twice when from this I could distinct doubts which can be prevented but was lost in client-manager-designer line.
  5. At last there is one filthy trick you could try sometime. It is called “The green dog”. The name goes from the tale where designers from some agency couldn’t get their design accepted. A client made a lot of edits in such a perfect layouts that wiped out the whole idea. So designers put an image of a green dog in it, everything exept that was perfect. So client said “Everithing is fine, guys, but this dog. Let’s rid of it”. The design was done as perfect as they intended and the client did their bit.
    Consider using this trick only if you can see the tendency of corrections in sake of corrections. Client managers sometimes want to feel they made a significant contribution to the project too. Let them feel that way. Beware the loyal client, though. Imagine that they will accept your design with that dog only because they trust you or ok with that.

To sum up, the main idea is to make a client (and every team member) a part of the team and get them a feeling they contribute to the design process. Hope it will help you to be on the same page with your clients and you will see no edits ever.

Thanks,
Inessa.

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Inès Mir
Nimax
Writer for

Principal product designer at Zalando and Instagram influencer @ines.ux