When the client picks your least favorite design
Clients pay the bills — shouldn’t they get what they want? Yes! Clients should receive appropriate deliverables tied to the objectives identified at the project start. However, it is the designer’s job to offer design solutions and guide the visual communication. Designers typically suggest multiple approaches to visually support a solution and it is only human nature for a favorite to rise to the top. While it is ideal for the favorite to be selected, at times, clients will select an alternative design or ask for something completely different. How a designer listens to the client and responds is a critical dance in partnership.
Seasoned designers often learn to understand and appreciate subjectivity over time. All clients come to the table with personal experiences – feelings, opinions and tastes. By offering varying design solutions, a designer is looking to not only connect to the objectives, but to also connect with the decision-maker.
It is important for designers to actively listen to clients and understand their needs in order to provide varying options to meet the objectives. Reviewing objectives and other factors like target audience(s) with a client while looking at design options often helps to focus the conversation, allowing one or more design options to rise to the top.
Communicating why a particular design direction was chosen helps clients to understand a designer’s vision. Noting even subtle variances in options is important to showcase a thorough thought process which is often appreciated by clients, elevating the professional opinion of the designer.
Designers should provide multiple creative solutions for clients to consider. They are hired to solve visual communications problems and should only deliver appropriate creative they would be honored to share. Therefore, if a client happens to pick a least favorite design, it is still an option the designer will be proud to publish. In our experience, we often have clients blend elements from one option with another. This collaboration tends to lead to a strong outcome.
Sometimes a client asks for something outside of the options provided and contradictory the designer’s judgment (which is based on years of experience, yet still somewhat subjective). As a partner, designers should identify the issue for the change or suggestion, and note why, in their “professional design opinion”, a particular request may not offer the best solution. Additionally, a designer must be ready to explain what will work in reference to the suggestion, showing they are bridging their thoughts with the client’s ideas. Further discussion often leads to why an idea was requested and often assists in ultimately producing a strong visual option that will meet the campaign objectives and do so with the endorsement from both sides of the table.
The design is subjective and often can be emotionally charged by the client. As the design partner, we must always remember we are in a working relationship with a client and trust is built over time. It is our job to listen to the client, interpret their goals and objectives, and provide a visual interpretation everyone can embrace.