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The secret to a good client-designer relationship | Slangbusters Blog
Apr 30, '20

The secret to a good client-designer relationship

Is the client really over-expecting or is the designer failing them?

Date: April 22, 2020 at 2:44:05 AM PST
From: Michael Scott <mike@tantrum.com>
To: all@slangbusters.com
Subject: Design changes


This is regarding our call yesterday. I loved the presentation you did for the identity of my brand, and although I said I liked all the elements and we are good to go, I was pondering last night after the presentation and I would like some changes.

Let me know when can we schedule a call to discuss some concepts I have in mind.


Date: April 22, 2020 at 3:02:25 AM PST
From: Michael Scott <mike@tantrum.com>
To: all@slangbusters.com
Subject: Re: Design changes

You know what, let me give you the inputs here only, I might forget later, and this will keep the conversation in the records.

So the iconography, I feel is too unrecognizable? I would like moe Apple-esque round edges.

Date: April 22, 2020 at 3:06:01 AM PST
From: Michael Scott <mike@tantrum.com>
To: all@slangbusters.com
Subject: Re: Re: Design changes


Date: April 22nd, 2020 at 5:43:04 AM PST
From: Michael Scott <mike@tantrum.com>
To: all@slangbusters.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Design changes

Hey also, I know its a cliche and every designer’s nightmare, but we are losing up on the identity and potential recall value because the logo is not clearer on the homepage. Can we make it more profoundly visible, maybe by making it larger?


Date: April 22, 2020 at 8:39:11 AM PST
From: Michael Scott <mike@tantrum.com>
To: all@slangbusters.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Design changes

It’s me again.

The changes suggested previously were regarding the website. I personally have beta-tested the app as well, and I have some feedback for the designing done with the app, please address them as follows:

• Can we have more elements on the homepage that are more fresher and appeals to the eye of the user?
• Also, the menu bar, if it can be more attractive?
• Lastly, the app could use some realistic finishing.

Looking forward,

Disclaimer: This is written by a copywriter. I have made sure I remain unbiased because of which I was able to look at the issue as a whole. My experience comes from being in the same studio as designers who do their magic and my insight comes from the client presentations and calls between our design team and the clients, that I could be a part of.

What you read above was an example of a one-sided email conversation between a design team and a client. It is a classic case of how a project might suffer because of the relationship between the client and the design team.

If you would rather be working on an interaction that the client has suggested, you might not want to go through the piece and just go with one takeaway- empathize. This one quality can save a lot of time, money, effort, and resources for the client’s company as well as the designer’s studio. Listen, be honest, communicate frequently. This can and will save the project from doom.

There are classic loopholes in the client-designer relationship. Lack of communication, undefined roles and deliverables, lack of clarity in the objective, and the universal issue: ego. These do sound familiar, right? Just like any relationship- be it familial, romantic, or professional, tackling these issues can create a bond that is based on trust and understanding.

The blame game

To judge is human.

Our brains are on autopilot when we are making first impressions. We love to make judgments and preconceived notions about everyone. Designers and clients are not bereft of this human quality. We expect without communicating.

Ask a designer and they will not stop blaming the client. Ask a client and they will question the designer’s professionalism. It is always the other one. The designer is usually frustrated with the number of iterations and changes the client suggests and the client is irritated because they are not getting what they expect.

Know that the relationship between both is collaborative and not delegatory. Yes, the client is paying for a service, but they are also paying for the designer expertise and their experience also, not just a pixel pusher (an urban term for someone who is just savvy at the technical aspect, not the creative and design aspect)

How to avoid this situation is with clarity right before the project begins. Have clarity about your methodology as a designer and the client expectations in terms of the deliverables, phases of the project methodology, at what point the presentations will be made, every major detail. Be precise. Have feedback and iterations systems so that all communication is organized properly, and can be accessed and referred to easily. Don’t over-promise and learn to say yes or no whenever necessary. Avoid sitting on the fence, because that is an open invitation to confusion.

The value of design

If you go through any email conversation between a client and a designer, you will see changes being suggested, approved, and rejected. You will see multiple attachments with numerous iterations that have been CC’ed to a variety of people.

The only and the most important element missing would be the context, the reason, the function, of the design.

Before making any type of decision related to the design, both the client and the designer should consider the value of that design. We mostly perceive things for the eye and contextually, it might make no sense. “It will look better that way” is not a valid argument for another iteration. Ask some questions before making changes:

• How will the design benefit the end-user?

• How will the design solve that particular problem?

• How will the design benefit the business?

• Will the design comply with the brand identity?

There are many more aspects to a good design apart from it only being visually appealing. When you are communicating, use specific language to get the right answer. Instead of “Let me know what you think about this attachment.” Ask “How do you think users will react to this?”

Acknowledge the knowledge

(A still from Netflix series 13 reasons Why.)

Clients must know where the designer comes from, they must remind themselves why they have hired that designer out of the million others available in the industry. Designers must acknowledge where the client is coming from, they should be confident about their expertise, but also know that the client knows the end-user the best.

A lot of designers do not accept changes because it might not look good in their portfolio. A client might think of the designer as technical support for his idea. Know that both of these are wrong.

A designer’s job also entails explaining why they included or excluded certain elements, they cannot expect the client to blindly trust their decisions. Client input at every stage is very necessary since the outcome will always be better when it is collaborative, not outsourced.

A bike salesman knows everything about all the bikes available at the store. A parent who has come there to make a purchase for their kid will take the salesman's advice into account while making the decision, but the salesman’s knowledge cannot exceed the knowledge of what the end-user, the kid will like, what their preference and what their use is.

Show willingness to explain, enthusiasm to deliver, and stay honest with the client and you are in for a long term relationship.

Date: April 25, 2020 at 3:22:41 AM PST
From: Michael Scott <mike@tantrum.com>
To: all@slangbusters.com
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Design changes

Looks great! Can you share CDR file for print?

An excerpt from a real email conversation. Enthusiastic clients are a species loved by the designers.

The entire branding team at Slangbusters is in sync with this philosophy and our past clientele can vouch for that. Contact us now.

— by Manas, Content Strategist, Slangbusters Studio

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