Graphic Designer Vs Client, Who Wins?

Some clients just have no eye for style or taste.  If you have been in the Graphic Design field for any amount of time you can definitely relate to this.    Often times you apply for the gig, the client has checked out your portfolio, they have a pretty solid understanding of your style and creative ability. They like what you can do and they want to move forward. You have your vision of the perfect layout and design, you’re excited to perform, they are excited to see what you can do. You get to work, putting every creative bone in your body to use, you finish.. It’s beautiful, it is professional, eye catching and clean. Excitedly you show your client your work of art.  They take a look they respond, “Wow I really like this BUT”.. This is where everything takes a turn for the worst. As your client goes through what they like and dislike you quickly begin to realize that your masterpiece is coming apart.

Can we change the header to this and can we make the colors that.. Oh and I was thinking what if we did this? Then the reality of the situation sets in your client has no style.

Sound familiar?

The question is do we let our client continue on this path to inevitable “brand self destruction” or do we somehow right the ship and steer them in the right direction?   There is no doubt that having an unprofessional and uninviting design for a website is one of the quickest ways to be unsuccessful in online business.    From a marketing and SEO perspective a website’s design and look is of the utmost importance. If your site does not look professional and pleasing to the eye it is difficult to establish immediate trust from a new visitor, and it can be very difficult to attain a brandable reputation and to thus difficult to attain back links.

In order to truly serve our clients best interest it is important to help them right the ship without causing client to relationship turmoil.  Here area a few pointers:

1.   Obviously we don’t want to offend our clients.   The best way to sidestep any kind of hurt feelings is simply to communicate what your thinking was involving the design and why you chose certain designs and site structures.   If you have given the design proper thought you will have come up with a design strategy that implements their mission, their brand, and their audience’s experience. If you can describe what you have done in detail, and you have a purpose for doing it, then the client will be much more likely to take your advice and expertise into consideration.

2.  Know your client.  What kind of experience does this person have in business, marketing or design?   If this is an experienced marketer that knows exactly what they want and what they are doing, then you may need to trust in your clients expertise a bit more and simply help to steer the look appropriately.   If your client is brand new to the web world you may have  a lot more work cut out for you.They may very well need a lot more advice on site direction.   Understand their needs and expertise when it comes to the design project and you will be in a better position to get their site in order.

3.  Show your client examples of prominent websites that are doing something similar to your designs.  Lets face it.. Companies with huge budgets can afford to hire some of the best designers and marketers in the industry. It is all right to use their designs to inspire you and your client’s direction.  Often times the client will feel more at ease when you are able to show them that certain other examples have had great success with certain layouts that fit what you are trying to do for them.

4.  It is your job to let your client know what your opinion is creatively. Your client is hiring you because as far as design goes you are considered the expert.   If they are making what you think is a mistake, don’t be afraid to let them know your expert opinion and why it is that you believe that it is wrong through your own experience.   Backing your opinion with expertise and explaining your thought process fully is the key to being non-offensive.  If they don’t take your advice that is of course up to them, but at least you have tried.

5.   Lastly it is important to step back and truly listen to what your client wants. Ask him or her for examples of what they like before beginning the project.   Often times we as designers can get caught up with what we like, and we fail to hear what the client likes.  While it is true that the client probably picked us as a result of liking our work in the first place, we still should be very aware of their needs and likes.  By hitting the design on the head in the first place, and incorporating their vision with your style and expertise you will be saving yourself from the obvious headaches that arise once they really take over the project.

There is a balance to the wild visions of our clients and to actual style. It is simply our jobs as designers to find that balance.  And while the continued battle between client and designer wages on, just remember whatever the end result of the project is, always remind yourself, this abomination is not your fault.

This article was contributed by the guys at who love to write on small business, hosting, web sevelopment, and web design.

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