Let me guess — probably at least once in your designer’s life you felt unhappy because the client ditched the idea you’ve been working on with incredible engagement. He decided to go with something that you didn’t recommend. Something less functional and less visually appealing. Well, we’ve all been there.
But did you really do everything to avoid it? Let’s look at how you, the designer, can encourage the client to consider and (hopefully) approve your solution. And all that without broken hearts, tears and bribes.
Nobody wants to be late
Bad news. If the argumentation for choosing a project you care about is prepared by you after designing everything, it means that you are late. A preliminary analysis has to be done at the beginning of your process. For me, it’s the first meeting or call with the client. This is the moment when you try to find out who the person you are talking to is. Using empathy here is crucial. Listen carefully, ask questions, take notes, try and do understand. Find common ground between you two.
This knowledge you’re gathering will help you prepare the project in a way that minimizes the likelihood of missing the client’s taste and needs.
Tell them about your design process and experience of working on similar projects. Thanks to this, you will not only put yourself in the position of a person who knows what they’re doing — the client will feel cared for and will know what and when they can expect from you. They will feel that choosing your company was a good idea. Oh, and the excitement for what’s to come!
No research is ever quite complete
“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” — Wernher von Braun once said. And since such words were given by a German scientist responsible indirectly for the conquest of space, there must be something in it, right? Research phase allows you to design based on facts and not assumptions. It provides you with the first set of arguments that you will use when translating your design decisions to the client. It’s also time for you to think about who you design for.
The beloved ‘less is more’ principle and ubiquitous minimalism will not work for every project. Don’t forget about the client’s business goals — after all, their opinion will ultimately determine whether what you have prepared will be accepted and released for development. Remember to ask yourself — what problem am I trying to solve? Why is this solution better? How will it affect the user? If you feel that the direction you are going in is not good, smile at your teammate. A 5-minute conversation can be more helpful than you think (and who doesn’t love coffee breaks?).
Ego trip: a journey to nowhere
Let’s get the facts straight — in most cases, your clients know the business in which they work more than well, but they are not experts in product design. And that’s okay! It may turn out that you come from two worlds that do not have much in common, but remember — just because your client does not know what a vector is, does not mean that they should. They know their profession just like you do yours. So why are you trying so hard to exclude him from the design process?
Overcome the fear of showing your work in progress and share it with your client. Have a discussion, make them feel that they are a part of it. Use specialistic vocabulary but try to explain it in a way that is easy to understand. Try to shift their views on users, not their personal preferences. You’ve done your research so you know what they need and how to provide it. If your client still disagrees with you — don’t worry. After all, every great project is done thanks to collaborating and interaction.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough
If I had to choose one word that causes an accelerated heartbeat in most designers, it would be ‘deadline’. Unfortunately, time goes by quickly when you devote it to designing something you truly believe in. The presentation of your project is just as important as the design process itself. Of course, some may say that good design defends itself, but in my opinion, the ability to sell your work is necessary.
When pitching your final project, treat this time as storytelling. There is a high probability that your client does not remember all the findings between you two from the past, after every iteration that you’ve completed. So tell your client about the design brief, inspiration and in-depth research you conducted. By presenting an analysis of all your observations, you show that what you are about to display on the screen has not come from anywhere. I always ask the client to refrain from giving you feedback until the presentation ends — thanks to that we can have a broader discussion after I presented everything in a way that I intended — to the point.
Here we go again
No matter how hard you tried, things didn’t go as planned? Well, remember what I told you at the beginning of this article? We’ve all been there, trust me. Leveling up how you present your work takes time and practice, but it is entirely possible. And sometimes even being Steve Jobs of presentations is not enough. Treat your failure as another experience, draw conclusions, open Sketch, click file -> create new… and a new story begins.