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Ways to improve client communication

Communication is often the most challenging aspect of working as a graphic designer. Clients can be demanding, distracted and emotional (perhaps not without good reason) and any successful designer will need to be prepared to handle it.

Here are 10 tips to form a solid foundation in client communication.

1. Define the roles

Most designers have experienced at least one client who has tried to take over the design reigns. Unfortunately this undermines the integrity of the business relationship by dissolving trust. If a client tries to take creative control, a designer can communicate firmly but politely.

They can let the client know they are happy to look at their inspiration examples, but ultimately that the creative control needs to be in their hands for the relationship to maintain a healthy state – a state where both parties have trust in one and other.

2. Define the project scope

Designers know the amount of work that goes into any given component of a design job, whereas clients don’t. If the designer does not define the project scope, a client can easily pull the job outside its bounds and put stress on the designer. The first step in any communicative design relationship is setting a time length, payment terms, and the quantity of work to be produced.

If a client tries to bend the rules at any time, a designer can simply and politely reference the agreed upon outline. A nice way for a designer to phrase it is by telling a client that they are happy to talk about pricing and scheduling future work, but that the work at hand needs to be completed before any additional work is embarked upon.

3. Ask more questions

It seems as though designers are afraid to ask too many questions, as if it will make them look incompetent. In my experience, asking questions does the exact opposite. It makes a designer look thorough and attentive to detail. It also spares a designer from a potentially infinite amount of guess work.

Furthermore, asking questions is a heck of a lot faster than taking design shots in the dark. There’s no reason not to ask about dimensions, colors, styling, type styles – anything!

4. Use layman terms

In my previous article, “How to “sell” your designs to clients“, I mentioned the importance of using laymen’s terms – and the same advice applies to improving client communication. Avoid any terms that could be confusing for someone that’s not a designer.

Rather than using design-specific language, such as “kerning” or “bleed”, try to describe what you’re talking about so that the client can follow along easily. Well-written messages can say a lot more about a designer than using fancy words.