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Include Clients in the Project Design Process

September 8, 2020 | Design

Most people agree teamwork is a good thing, but when it comes to project design, many creatives are wary and reluctant to collaborate with clients. Designers tend to understand the value of working with other designers – but with the client? Not so much. There is a pervasive belief in the design industry that clients ruin work with bad revisions and ideas.

Unfortunately, this does happen, and it happens quite frequently. Also unfortunately, they’re the ones paying for your work. However, if you collaborate with a client throughout the project design process, they could prove to be a great asset instead of a hindrance. 

How Collaboration Improves Design

It’s good business to collaborate with clients, but will the project design suffer as a result? Surprisingly, evidence points to the contrary. ClearCompany found that 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment in a team impacts a project’s outcome, and 86% credit lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. 

Collaboration is a crucial piece of the creative process. When working independently, it can be a little too easy to get caught up in your vision and lose sight of what you were trying to accomplish in the first place. After hours of looking at a design, this tunnel vision is almost a given; but a fresh set of eyes might notice something you didn’t. The same concept rings true in the brainstorming phases – sometimes, all it takes to escape a creative block is a different perspective. 

Perhaps the most significant advantage of collaborating is the insight a client can provide on their company. Well-informed design always beats ill-informed design, but it’s unrealistic to become an expert in every industry you make work for. Luckily, you already have experts on hand. No one knows a business better than the people who work there, so let the client be your fountain of knowledge. 

Why Should You Collaborate with Clients?

Fewer Redos

No one likes it when their project design gets rejected, especially when it takes extensive time and effort. The best way to avoid this is to include the client throughout the process. It’s easy to fix a problem early on if the client has a chance to point out the problem before you’ve invested too much time and energy. 

The Design is Important to the Client

Every designer will face a few ‘difficult’ clients, but at the end of the day, it’s the client’s opinion that matters the most. You could paint the Mona Lisa, but if the client wanted a Picasso, you’re fresh out of luck. Some clients may come off as overly particular, but this is simply because the project design you’re making is important to them. If design doesn’t work the way they hoped, it’s their business that will suffer. 

The collaboration between a designer and their client parallels the collaboration between an architect and a homeowner. Though the architect knows much more about building houses than the homeowner, it’s not the architect who has to live there. The architect’s job is more than just building a house, their job is to use their architectural knowledge to design the home their client wants.  

Better Client Relationships 

Imagine going on a first date with someone, and they discredit everything you say – you probably won’t be asking them on a second date (even if they’re hot). The same concept holds true in business; if the client doesn’t feel heard, they won’t keep using your services. Use your good judgement and work with your client to refine their ideas. If a client trusts you, they’ll be more inclined to consider your ideas, and hopefully, they’ll think of you for their next project. 

How to Collaborate Better

Learn as Much as Possible

In the initial meetings, it may be beneficial to ask the client their thoughts on the company: 

  • What need the company fills
  • How they are (or want to be) perceived
  • Strengths and weaknesses 
  • The goal of the project

While a client’s expertise is invaluable, it’s still necessary to do some research on your own. Before meeting with a client, you should have a good understanding of the business. Drawing your own conclusions as an outside observer will make it easier to spot any disconnect between how the client views their business and how the general public receives it. Only with knowledge of a disconnect can your project design work to minimize it. 

Communication is Everything

Communication is a crucial aspect of any project; and without strong communication, collaboration is impossible. It can be helpful to have a conversation with the client at the start of a project covering how, when, and how often you plan on communicating. Beginning the project with good communication will allow you to get faster feedback, more clarity on the client’s wishes, and prevent you from starting from scratch too late in the game. Demanding clients tend to be stressed clients, but transparency around the project may ease their anxiety (and consequently, yours). 

Good communication is a two-way street: while it is important to listen to the client, it’s equally important to have your voice heard. The client’s wishes are valuable, as is compromise – but sometimes, you have to stand firm. This can be tricky; it’s a fine line to walk between determination and obstinance, but it’s okay to be hard-headed on occasion. The key is providing evidence to back up your opinion; if the client wants a different font than the one you chose, explain why your font works best instead of just saying no. You’re the expert, show the client your knowledge.

Come Ashore & Get the Tools You Need

One of the biggest roadblocks to collaboration is a lack of organization – it can be difficult to manage just one project, and that difficulty is increased exponentially with additional work. Luckily, there are tools to help mitigate this challenge. With Ashore, designers can share collateral with clients, receive feedback, and get their project design approved in a fraction of the time. This makes the process more enjoyable for both the client and the artist – and with immediate feedback on projects, creatives can start making revisions as soon as they come in. 

Client/designer collaboration takes a lot of effort, and we’d love to take some of it off your hands. If the collaborative spirit is calling you, sign up for a free Ashore account today, and get back to creating! 

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