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Most Design Clients Are Ignorant

When I say that most design clients are ignorant I'm not trying to be mean or derogatory. I'm simply stating a fact. The definition of “Ignorant” is someone who is lacking in knowledge or information as to a particular subject. That description is a perfect fit for design clients who often don't understand what it is you do, or how you do it.

Design clients don't understand how the creative process works. They don’t know how much effort goes into even the simplest of designs. They have no idea of what is involved in maintaining a website. In some cases, they don’t understand the language or terms you use. In all of these areas, design clients are ignorant.

It's OK if your design clients are ignorant because It’s not their job to understand what you do. Their job is to hire someone to handle the things they don't understand and on that part they're brilliant because they hired you.

And your job is to make sure that even though your clients are ignorant of what you do, they should not be confused by what you do. You have to put them at ease, so they know that hiring you was the right decision.

There’s a comedian by the name of Dane Cook that does a routine about dealing with auto mechanics. In his comedy routine, Cook says that when an auto mechanic explains what's wrong with a vehicle, most people smile and nod while hearing a little voice in their head saying “this guy could be feeding me B.S. and I wouldn’t know the difference.”

Don't be the designer that clients listen to and think “this guy could be feeding me B.S. and I wouldn't know the difference.”

Learn how to talk to design clients

One area that could confuse clients is the way you talk. Just like any industry or sector, you have a language as a designer filled with jargon and acronyms that most clients have never heard or don't know what they mean..

Clients are not designers; you shouldn’t expect them to think like designers. The best way to avoid this is to minimize or even eliminate the jargon, acronyms, and other industry words that could confuse them. Or, you need to educate them on the meaning of those confusing words and terms.

Terms we take for granted like SEO, Keywords, Back-end, Dashboard, SER, CMS, Bleeds, Plug-ins etc. need to be explained so that your client clearly understands what it is you are saying.

If you can explain design jargon and acronyms in a way that makes a client feel comfortable and doesn't make them feel ignorant, they'll appreciate you for it. If you can communicate in a way that they understand what it is you are telling them, they will feel comfortable dealing with you and are much more inclined to hire you for the job.

Learn how to listen to design clients

Sometimes a client comes to you with a clear idea of what they need. However, many times, the client doesn’t even know what it is they need or why they need it.

A client may contact you saying they need a website but when you ask them why, their answer is because everyone says they need a site. That's not a good reason.

In the last episode of the podcast, I talked about the Discovery Process and how the purpose of design is to solve a problem. Many clients don’t know what their problem is. Some don’t even realize there is a problem. Those that do may know there’s a problem, but they’re often looking for a solution to the wrong thing.

Your job as a designer is to get to the core of the problem and to provide the best solution.

Does your client need a website to bring awareness to their brand? Do they need one to automate service calls? Sell their products? Advertise an event?

Sometimes a client may think they want one thing when something entirely different might be a better solution.

A client comes to you looking for a folded brochure may not realize that their minimal text is better suited to a rack card. A client wanting a payment system on their website to accept multiple currencies may actually need a way to display their pricing in a visitor's native currency while still conducting the transaction in the client's currency.

That’s why discovery is so important. It allows you to converse with the client to discover the exact purpose of the item or feature it is they are asking of you.

Because design clients are ignorant, sometimes what they are asking for isn’t what they need. It won’t solve their problem. Part of your job as the designer is pinpointing their actual problem and communicating to them what can be done to address it.

When in doubt, ask for examples.

It can be difficult talking to clients. Especially when both sides think they are discussing the same thing while both are imagining something completely different. A “modern” looking design could have two entirely different looks depending on who is imagining it.

The easiest way to understand what a client is telling you is to ask for examples. Don’t leave things up to chance. Your homework is the discovery process. Give your client homework as well. Ask them to provide examples of the things they mention to you. What does “modern” or “edgy” or “rustic” look like to them? Getting examples from your client will help you in your design direction and save many miscommunication headaches down the road.

Learn the proper way to communicate with ignorant design clients, and you will go a long way to earn their trust and build a relationship with them.

Do you ever feel like your design clients are ignorant?

Let me know how you handle yourself when your design clients are ignorant to what it is you do. Leave me a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Alyssa

In web design I'm used to crediting myself via the footer and internal comments in the code.

How do you give yourself credit for graphic design? Adding a watermark would limit how the client can use the design. When you share your designs for comments from others, how do you prevent theft?

To find out what I told Alyssa you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Daisy Disk

Regain precious hard drive space with Daisy Disk, While working on your Mac you create and download lots of files, but rarely delete anything. At some point, you find that your startup disk is full. What to do? A larger disk will cost you a few hundred dollars. Yearly fee for cloud storage is about the same. Or simply get DaisyDisk at a fraction of the price and make plenty of space by removing old junk.

Daisy Disk is easy. Just scan a disk and see all of your files and folders as an interactive visual map. Find an unusually large file. Preview its content, and delete if you don’t need it anymore. It's that simple.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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