Being a great designer means always being on the lookout for ways to evolve. That means expanding your skills, honing your craft, and keeping up to date with trends in the industry. But the best designers take it a step further. As they grow, they help their clients evolve with them. They teach their clients lessons about good design as they go, leading to better project outcomes and more satisfying working relationships. Here’s a list of five lessons you should consider imparting to your clients if you want to take your work to the next level:

1. Design Isn’t Just Aesthetics.

As Steve Jobs famously said, design isn’t just what something looks like, design is how something works. When working on a rebrand, for example, your role isn’t just restricted to redesigning the logo. It’s about overseeing everything to do with how that client is viewed in consumer’s minds. And that means considering content, UX, digital strategy, and more. The stereotypical view of designers is of someone providing a fresh coat of paint. Sure, sometimes a visual refresh is all a client may ask for. The best designers dig deeper and see what else they can offer.

2. Design Meets A Need.

The biggest difference between successful and not-so-successful designers is problem-solving. Almost anyone with a copy of Photoshop can do a theoretical revamp of a website, or put together a mockup of a fake app. But great designers work on real problems, too. And that means working with clients to get around actual challenges they face as a business. Who is the target audience? What value needs to be communicated? What is the competition offering? Design is about collaborating with your clients as partners, investigating the core issue that needs to be solved, and answering these questions in the best way possible.

3. Design Isn’t Free.

Design has a price tag. When you’re a young designer looking to gain experience, there’s nothing wrong with doing projects at a discount in order to get ahead. But good design, no matter the project, is a valuable service that deserves appropriate compensation. Doing work for free – or spec work as it’s commonly known – hurts the industry. Spec work devalues the skill and craft that design practitioners offer. Accordingly, good designers educate their clients about the value of their work. No architect or dentist would offer their services for free, why should a designer?

4. Design Is About Communication.

More than almost any other profession, design is about good communication. Not just in the sense of communication of a client’s message to the audience, but communication between a designer and a client. Right from the start, good design requires a clear understanding about what’s expected of a project. It begins with a clear contract that lays out the monetary terms of the business relationship. It continues throughout the project with constant feedback and discussion about how the brief is being met. And it concludes with following up with the client about their level of satisfaction even after a project has wrapped up.

5. Design Is A Partnership.

It’s easy to blame clients when projects go wrong. Like when the worst option of the three presented is picked, or when the scope of a project spins wildly out of control. But the best designers take responsibility for every step of a brief, and work alongside their clients rather than against them. Good design relationships are collaborative, not adversarial. As tempting as it is to assume that all clients are less-than-smart, take the high road by guiding your clients past each design milestone, and having healthy, open discussions if (or when) things get difficult. Your clients will thank you.

There you have it, five Design 101 lessons you should work on imparting if you’d like to have a more successful relationship with your client. What lessons would you like your clients to learn? Let us know in the comments.

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