Life is moving at light speed these days and the pace is picking up. With this in mind, it is important to make sure that clients' needs are properly communicated as early as possible when starting a graphic design (or other creative) project. The following scenario depicts poor communication at the beginning of a project.
Ruth thought it would be great to have a flyer to promote the store's upcoming grand opening and contacted Chris to create the artwork. As the deadline neared, Ruth hadn't heard from Chris and was getting nervous. Was Chris on track? Was Chris even working on the flyer?
Wow! There could be a lot of different things going on here. The number one sin is a lack of communication. Here are five key elements that every graphic designer should consider when starting any assignment.
Understand the clients' objectives: Clients will come from different backgrounds and will definitely not communicate the same way as each other. To understand each client's objectives, graphic designers will have to do a little detective work. It should start with the basic questions of what, why, and when. If the client does not adequately express what they want to do, the graphic designer should ask as many questions as possible to understand what it is that the client wants to communicate. A close second is understanding why the client needs to communicate. Last, but not least, the graphic designer must understand when the project is due. It is important that the graphic designer document the answers, in as much detail as possible, and present the summary back to the client for verification. This is often done using a creative brief. In our example, Chris clearly did not follow through to ensure mutual understanding.
Understand the clients' motivations: Passion to excel at doing her job may be motivating the client. Or perhaps, it may be as simple as meeting a company deadline. Usually clients have good reasons to contract a graphic designer to work on a project--complete with business objectives. Ruth had a very basic need to inform the public about the grand opening. This type of assignment will have a firm deadline that must be met. Without Chris understanding the "when", he won't be motivated towards an end date.
Understand that clients may not be visually oriented: Graphic designers, by nature, are visual thinkers. When they review project requirements with clients, they often start drawing draft images of artwork in their minds. Because of this, it is extremely important that they have as many details as possible before starting any real layouts. By contrast, Ruth cannot imagine the potential outcome and needs to see draft designs from Chris. If Chris asked the right questions early on, he has a good chance of satisfying Ruth's requirements when designs are presented for review.
Understand that everyone has stylistic preferences: If this is the first time that the client and graphic designer are working together, it would be beneficial to understand this reality. Following the example above, Ruth has very traditional tastes and the store that she is promoting has traditional architectural and interior design details. Unfortunately, Chris did not ask enough questions and his designs often lean towards clean and contemporary. Remember, he is late in getting back to Ruth and by the time he presents his contemporary designs for the flyer, she will be extremely nervous--understandably so. It looks like Chris will be putting in some serious overtime to correct the flyer. The right questions and a consensus on approach would have avoided a lot of heart-burn for both parties.
Understand that clients need to feel that they can trust the graphic designer: As simple as this sounds, it often takes several projects for the client to feel comfortable with the designer. If communication is poor, as it is in this example, the first project may very well set the tone for the remainder of Ruth's and Chris' working relationship. Supposing that Chris manages to pull this project out of the fire, he will have to go out of his way to satisfy the client next time in order to begin building trust. Two strikes, and he'll be out.