As a designer the key to success is getting your customers the final product they want. Often this can be difficult because we all can communicate in very different ways. Without the ability to understand your customer’s desires, you will find the creative process very time consuming if not impossible to complete.
While there are no hard rules that apply to every design situation, there are some guidelines you can follow that will make the creative process faster and more enjoyable for both you and your customers.
Why are we here?
If a customer is approaching you for services then something prompted them to this. What inspired them to start this project, and second, to contact you? It may be that they saw a competitor with a new logo or website and they realized that they need to compete with them. If so you can follow up with what they liked about their competitors work and what they disliked as well.
Ask them why they chose you. Was it your price quote (if you were bidding) or was it something in your portfolio. This is great feedback as it not only helps you understand what is working as you market yourself, but also can be a great starting ground for the project. If the customer says they really liked how you did a logo for example, you know what the process was to make that logo and it gives you a big leap in the design process.
What experiences have you had?
Ask them what, if any, past experiences they may have had for this project or other design projects. Doing this will reveal any possible issues that occurred and help you avoid the same future issues. In addition, the previous projects may have revealed some preferences the customer desires and help you complete their project.
If the customer is new to the process and has not had previous design work done, then use it as an opportunity to create their identity. They are now a blank canvas in need of your ability to take them to the next level.
What has grabbed your attention?
For customers that are new to the process and have little to go on, ask them to talk to you about what commercials or ads or companies have grabbed their attention in the past. Ask them why they think it grabbed them and follow with what may have turned them off. This process helps you as well as the customer because you get to point out what is happening in those situations. For example, if they love the “Got Milk?” ads then you can point out that they seem to prefer the “simple is better” approach.
Tell me more…
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of starting a project is really talking in detail with the customer about their business or project. By getting customers to tell you more about what they are doing you are going to reveal more about what is key to them in the project. If it is a topic you have experience with then the ball can really get rolling and take the design to great new areas. However, if the project is something you are not familiar with then try to find a common way to relate. The best example I can give for this comes from a recent project I was working on. I used Star Wars to try and bridge the gap in understanding and it was they key to opening up the entire project. It led to revealing that color was a major component in identity. This completely changed the scope of the project.
The last part of this process is to be honest with yourself. Sometimes, despite all best efforts, you just cannot communicate well with a customer. This is not your fault or the fault of the customer. It just happens and it happens to everyone at some point. Any number of factors can be the cause but understanding that is not as important as knowing when both of you have tried as much as you can, but now it’s time to move on.
Following a few guidelines can make a huge difference in any project. It can reduce work time, create a better relationship with your customer and can result in a terrific final product. This is a business and the best process for any business is to provide a great service and experience for the customer.