When starting out as a graphic design professional (or intern for that matter) the client can be an intimidating aspect of your new career. Remind yourself of two truths and your interaction with clients will become less daunting. First, remember the client is in your office because you and your colleagues are professionals with the knowledge that your client lacks. You, indeed, are the expert. Secondly, as long as you keep the client’s interest above all else, even if you need to provide them with a solution that they currently reject, they will appreciate and understand the reasoning behind the push in this direction.
These two truths will help you to not only relax, but they can provide you the much needed confidence that tends to escape new designers when face-to-face with a client for the first time. Do you remember that feeling in the pit of your stomach the first time you experienced a college critique? Well, sadly that feeling might not be completely dormant quite yet, no matter how many critiques you’ve conquered. With clients, however, it’s somehow different — better. Because you’ve come to the table with answers. Admittedly not all the answers, but solid, thought provoking answers that solve issues and provide solutions.
It’s time now to put on your educator hat and start teaching. You read that correctly — teaching. Some clients are seasoned when it comes to marketing, design and branding, but many – more than you might first think – need some guidance when it comes to what you are about to present. So do yourself a favor, talk to the client, not at them and study their reactions as you guide them through the details of your solutions. Their eyes will tell you if there’s a gap in their understanding. At that moment, pause and find a new way to explain what they seemed to question and ask them if they have any issues or questions at that point. Give them a chance to interact with you as well as digest what you have shown.
Far too often I find even seasoned designers presenting a concept, a design, a website – for instance – and they just move to fast. It’s difficult, because as the designer you’ve lived this for possibly a few days and you fully understand it. Not every person in the room does, and you always have to remember that. Don’t leave your client in the dust, confused and questioning your thought process, your design will never survive and your credibility will be tarnished. Not for the lack of your design abilities, but for the perception that you are rushing through the client’s pride and joy. That perception can make you appear as though you are uncaring of their company or product, and thus why should they trust you with this design need they currently have, Take the time to educate and engage your client, it will be time well spent.
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