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Successfully Designing Under Client Direction

Successfully Designing Under Client Direction

Elisha-Rio Apilado

Dealing with clients, whether when you’re a freelance designer or an in-house designer for a company, can have its ups and downs. The clients who approve everything that you create and don’t always come back with more revisions should be sent to heaven. The ones who are indecisive, are simply that, indecisive. Sometimes they may want you to do one thing, and when you design to their liking and present it to them, they may want something opposite — usually at the last minute (so be on your toes for possible all-nighters to meet a deadline).

Or maybe they want you to add a last minute thing that would mess up your design you worked so very hard on (i.e. centered text, a distracting image behind text, or drop shadow text. Yes, as you can tell, I’ve dealt with many trouble clients in my time). All of a sudden, all those rules you’ve learned in design school, thanks to the client, seem to be thrown out of the window. How insulting right? Unfortunately just like in retail, the customer/client is always right.

When clients pull stunts like these, what do you do? Stay sane and professional. Never argue with them or ever, EVER tell them anything insulting. I mean, it is THEIR work and they’re the ones paying you to do it. You can always comeback with an explanation of why what they’re pitching may not be needed. Just like you justify why you chose a particular color set or font, you can ADVISE (remember, advise not argue) why those particular design don’ts may not be successful. As what my old marketing director once told me at my advertising internship, “Always design as if people were born under a rock,” which means always keep in mind that not everybody knows the same thing or will be on the same page as you. Bolding a typeface may be a totally new concept to one person. So design as if that client was born under a rock,. Design clearly and communicate effectively.

Another thing experience has taught me? Clients like variety. A variety of options is always good. It gives them the freedom to look over different kinds of design elements and choose bits and pieces to be used in the final piece. I know it may sound like a lot of work, but it’s beneficial in the end. Not only do you get to experiment with different ideas, you also show the client that you care enough to do so. Design a piece that has your imagination written all over it. Even if the creative piece your client chooses as the final piece is not to your design liking, keep that design for yourself and for your portfolio. There are going to be those clients who don’t care much for creativity, and just want a piece that is textual and will sell to the audience. And as painful as it may be to have to give up a part of your creative mind to design that, you’ve got to do it. I’ve seen sometimes that a designer’s ego is bruised because of it, but don’t take it personally. Remember, not everybody was gifted with the same creative mindset as you.

I hope I didn’t scare you off, but I wanted to be real about some particular clients you may come across in your design career. Not all clients are bad apples. There are always benefits that come with the clients. Bouncing back and forth creative ideas sharpens your communication skills. It tests how you can explain a concept to a client in a clear way. Think of it as pitching an idea to a potential buyer. Even though you may not have gone to school for marketing, no matter what, designers are always selling their work and trying to persuade somebody, somehow.

So keep designing, keep trying to sell those ideas and keep yourself sane. Remember, in the end, you’re helping out your client and they’re grateful.


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