How To Work With Non-Designers As Clients
In my experience as a graphic designer, there are three types of clients:
1. The “Know-How” Client
This client knows exactly what they want. The have already picked out the font, color scheme, mood, wording, and in some extreme cases, they have already designed the layout. This client has design in their blood and either don’t have the time to create it themselves or simply don’t know the how to use the programs. The “Know-Hows” are great to work with, they basically have already done all the work!
2. The “Yeah, Sure” Client
These guys tell you the name of the company and say “run with it”. They give you almost complete creative freedom, which can be a great thing and sometimes it can be a challenge. You show them mood boards or simple drafts and they respond with “yeah, sure!”, with no real direction or feedback. So, you keep going with the design and when you give them the final product they either love it or say “yeah…sure…”.
3. The “Needs-a-Hand” Client
We all know this client, their favorite font is papyrus, and they really like the idea of neon red text on a vibrant blue background to show, you know, a little personality. This client is the classic non-designer and doesn’t have a design background at all. They could really use a guiding hand. The “Needs-a-Hands” clients are actually my favorite clients to work with! At the end of the project, we both walk away with a little education and a great experience.
Here are just a few tips on how I work with the “Needs-a-Hand” clients to create an excellent design and experience:
I cannot stress that enough (well, I could but we designers know never to stretch the font). You should do research for all of your clients, but it is even more important when dealing with the “Needs-a-Hand” clients that are non-designers. Figure out what the company is all about: what their product is, the style of their company, who their target audience is. Write all of this down and bring it with you to your client meeting; that way when the client says “I would really love to use a curly font!” you can say “That may not reach the right audience for your fishing gear company; you might want to use a more masculine font.” Research is a key element when dealing with a client who doesn’t have a strong design background.
Get To Know Your Client
Yes, the client, not just the company and the product, but the client! Notice if he/she is wearing brightly colored clothes, has lots of patterns on, wears funky jewelry or no jewelry; just noticing little things like that can help you come up with a design that fits both the company and the client. Your design should always speak your clients’ design language. If they like bright colors and patterns, try to incorporate that into the design in a simplified way; this will help them understand that the design doesn’t have to be cluttered to have personality!
This is where you can really show the client that the design does not need to have neon text on a blue background to show the audience that it’s fun. Create some mood-boards with written descriptions of why you choose those moods and how they fit the company. This can give the client options and sometimes it can spark their imagination, and they may even come up with some nice design ideas. It also shows them that you can convey a certain vibe without overdoing it with colors and exaggerated fonts.
Always be open for communication and feedback; you don’t want to make a design that doesn’t meet the client’s expectations. If they really want red text on a blue background, by all means, give them the blue, just explain to them the pros and cons of the design decision. Sometimes you do get a “Needs-a-Hands” who thinks they are a “Know How”, and that can really be a challenge.
This type of client takes patience, you have to be willing to work with non-designer clients and be open to their ideas. These projects don’t just happen overnight. Take your time, explain your design choices. This particular client doesn’t understand that graphic design is about setting a mood and reaching the audience.
Even though the “Needs-a-Hand” Client is one of the harder ones to work with, it really does pay off in the end. If you do the research, that shows they client you are invested in the project and they will be more willing to hear your ideas. If you speak their design language, you can communicate on a completely different level.
The more options you show the more your non-designer client can be persuaded into a more fitting design. Opening those communication gates will open a whole new side of your client, a side that has good ideas! Finally, being patient and understanding will make your non-designer client feel comfortable and relax, which in turn will make them more open to design ideas. If your client is open to design options, and you are willing to commit the time and energy, then both you and the client will walk away as better designers, and in my experience, friends!