Tips for avoiding miscommunication with your clients

September 1, 2009

mind readerHave you ever met with a new client (or old one) and they explain to you what they’d like to see in the final design? You go home, work your little heart out, and create somethingthat you’re proud to say is a finished work of art. Feeling pretty accomplished, you send it to the client and are met with a reply email saying how your design looks “OK” but the client is not satisfied …

What happened? You listened when they said not to use dark colors. You nodded emphatically when they said they hate Times New Roman font. And even after the consultation was over and hands were shook, you were sure you knew just what to do. I’ve got news for you: This cannot be avoided. When it comes to an industry based on opinion, you’re going to have clients who are indecisive, fickle, and downright clueless. I always say that 90 percent of my clients don’t really know what they want; they just know what they don’t want when they see it. Appreciation and attraction to art is relative. What looks great to you might not look as good to someone else. And even if they don’t say it to your face, most clients have some kind of idea of what they want the final product to look like. They might not be able to describe to you what that vision is exactly, but they have one. This is where your mind reading skills would really come in handy.

Most of us don’t have a crystal ball, so the best we can do is to be as clear with questions to our clients as possible. In addition to asking the client what they’re looking for, make them find examples of things that draw their eye. Before the consultation e-mail or call them and ask them to bring examples of logos or brochures that they like and to list what they like about them. It might also be a good idea for them to bring examples of what they don’t want as well. Ask them questions about text that they might not have thought about such as: What text should be the most important to the reader? Is it OK for days of the week to be abbreviated? If several logos are to be included (such as in an event flyer) are they to be placed in a specific order based on contribution, etc.? If people’s names are to be listed, are there specific courtesy titles or suffixes for the name that must be mentioned (such as the courtesy name Mrs. instead of Ms., or suffixes such as Esq., Ph.D., etc.). It is the little changes that can turn a perfectly good design process into a revision nightmare.

Be as specific as possible. It may seem silly at first, but when I ask questions like these to my clients, many of them are grateful and express that they never even took the time to think about them before hand. Don’t let a client say “just do whatever you want”. The more information that you receive from the client in the beginning, the easier it will be to produce something that the client will love.

What about you, how do you avoid miscommunication with your clients?

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