One of the most challenging tasks for any designer is ensuring that designs match what the client is looking for. Tastes in design vary a great deal from person to person. However, with the right process, client satisfaction is almost guaranteed.
It’s helpful to get as much information as possible when working on a new design. I take several steps to get a feel for what a client wants and needs in their design:
- I have an organizational identity questionnaire that I give to my logo design clients. For websites, I talk to clients to find out what they want their website to accomplish.
- I look through any existing publications or brand guidelines. Organizational materials should feel like they match each other. Looking at an existing website, even if it’s outdated, will also tell me a lot about the content needs of new clients.
- Most importantly, I ask my client to find 3-5 examples of logos or websites that they like. Most people can’t put their preferences about design into words, but they know what they want when they see it. Once I see their examples, I can easily extrapolate what design elements they are looking for. This can also be a great way to get members of a committee on the same page. They’ll have to settle differences in design opinions when picking out their examples, making them more prepared to review my designs.
Design, Review, Redesign
After I get all the input I need, I begin working on a design. Unlike some other designers, I only create one option for the client, rather than several to choose from. I have several reasons for this:
- Clients always like my designs, making more options unnecessary.
- If I made multiple options, one would probably be better than the others. I prefer to show clients only the best one.
- It would take more time to make several options, and that in turn would cost my clients more money.
Though I only present one option, my clients get unlimited revisions of that option. While theoretically that could be a huge time sink for me, it isn’t in practice, because my designs have such a high approval rate. Generally designs go through one or two rounds of small changes before they are finished. I do have one restriction for revisions – I ask my clients to stick to their decisions. Waffling back and forth becomes expensive very quickly.
At the end of the design phase of a website project, there will be several finished images of what different pages on the site will look like. I use this as a reference as I build the site.
For other design projects, I offer a variety of image versions depending on production needs. I am happy to hand over a working file of the design (generally a Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign file). Many designers do not offer a working version; they don’t want anyone else modifying their designs. Clients who work with these designers have to return and hire them to make any changes. I do not engage in this practice; I empower my clients to take charge of their own materials. Clients are free to take the work I’ve done for them and either modify it themselves or hand it off to another contractor.