January 22, 2019
Invite Clients into the Process3 min read
Saturday. The most perfect of days. The day you look forward to most after a long week. But alas, the laundry is piled to the ceiling, and the grass on the lawn threatens to envelope our cute little lap dog into the wilderness. Finally, we can’t stand it anymore, and we grudgingly spend the entire day cleaning, washing, polishing, drying, folding, mowing…
This, my friends, was one of those days.
I was hot, tired, and grumpy. After a day full of chores, I finally turned off the mower and crumbled onto the front porch steps like one of those puppet push up toys. Just as I was brushing the salty sting of sweat from my eyes, some neighborhood kids passed by on their bikes.
But they didn’t pass on the sidewalks. Oh no, they were making tracks right through my perfectly cut and manicured grass. I had just spent hours mowing and trimming, and now these kids were going to ride their dirt bikes through my yard? MY yard?
I tried to be patient, thinking they were bound to move along quickly. I looked up expectantly as I started working with the weed eater. They took the hint, and slowly made their way to another street.
A few days later, while I was watering the flowers in the front yard, I saw two young girls riding by on their bikes. I waved and smiled, but they hurried past, and to my horror I overheard one say, “There’s that mean old lady, let’s go!”
Mean. Old. Lady.
Okay. At the time, I was 25 YEARS OLD. I was generally known for being kind hearted and patient. But these kids had caught me on a bad day, and from then on out I had to work pretty hard to change their mind.
Design can sometimes get like this. Without realizing it, designers might hold on to a project with a vise grip, not wanting to let go for fear someone else may mess up all their hard work. We naturally resist letting others see our process; it can feel a little vulnerable. But this is not helpful to the design process, and definitely not inviting to clients.
Design works best when the design team and the client work together, instead of against one another.
Mutual trust and respect
The job of a client is so much more than simply praising our creative genius and checking the approval box. Clients should be invited into the design process, not just left waiting on the other side of an email from some place long ago and far, far away. The more time clients spend in exclusion from the design process, the less ownership they will feel over the project in the end. Which means they probably aren’t going to work with you on their next big project. And that’s just sad.
Understanding the business
This is, after all, their business. They know it best, so why not invite them in? Clients will spot obvious problems related to their industry much faster than we will. When we show an excitement to learn about and fully understand a client’s business, they are happy to share their expertise.
When we include clients throughout the design process, the thinking behind each design decision is better understood on both sides. When we don’t do this, we’re left trying to win over the client with a final product. Yet they don’t know why we picked that specific color of blue, or why a font is obviously the perfect fit for those titles. This could lead to the worst possible situation – starting over.
Working in a vacuum can seem like the easier route to take; we feel like we have full control of the design. Yet, collaborating along the way gives the client pride in the end result, creates a product relevant to their industry, and makes getting that final approval a smoother process.
A word of advice; don’t be the mean old lady telling people to get off your lawn. Welcome clients in to your design process, and arrive at the solution together.