If you ask a designer what design means to them, the answer will probably vary from a creative to another. There are a few things though that they will agree on; design solves problems. Design is also a way to communicate ideas and messages. Taking that into consideration, it is paramount that the designer knows what the problem to solve is in order to find a solution to it.
A lot of bad designs result from the designer knowing too little about their client or employer. How can your designs not be bland if you do not know who you are creating it for? How will you pick the right colors, the right typography or the right images? How can you possibly come up with a perfect solution for a perfect stranger? In order to produce designs that reflect your clients, you have to know their goals and values.
Design is not just putting colors, text and shapes together. It’s a lot more, starting by coming up with the right solutions for your clients and their own clientele. And in order to do so, you must get to know them. Here’s how:
Just ask them!
People love to talk about themselves. So it shouldn’t be too hard to get your clients talking once you ask them who they are and what they like. Ask them where they come from as a business, where they are now and where they see themselves in a few years. What are their long-term goals? Who is their target market? Who are they trying to reach now?
You could also ask them about the previous campaigns they ran and how it went. If it didn’t do as well as they wished, ask them where they think it went wrong. Ask them what they would have liked as a result instead.
Ask and listen. The first step in the design process before any mock up is active listening. Process the information and draw conclusions. Once you know your client, it will be much easier to produce designs for them.
What difference does it make to know a client?
Whatever you will be hired to do, you will have to take decisions. Those decisions, whether they affect typography, alignment, colors, images or the general style of the product you’re designing, should be based on the message your client/employer wants to communicate to their own clientele.
Hypothetical scenario: You’re hired by a management solutions company to design a small pamphlet that will be handed to their clients. They are progressive amd they want to show that their clients can trust them. Their job is to manage projects and employees for other companies. What they want to convey in their brochure is structure, trust and success.
Here are two very simple pamphlets that have the exact same content but whose colors and typography differ:
The first one corresponds best to the client’s company. Here’s why: The blue color conveys trust and the sans-serif fonts (Alte Haas Grotesk and Myriad Pro) help to communicate structure as well as modernity. The second pamphlet is not bad; it actually looks almost exactly like the first. But the red makes it much more aggressive and the typography (Electra and Optima) is more traditional and elegant. It does not carry as well as the first the message the client requested.
Although knowing your clients won’t increase your talent or technique, it will make you a better designer. The solutions you will provide will be spot-on and adapted to each company, just as it should be. Every business owner aspires to something. Discover what it is and use their goals and aspirations to promote them.
Finally, consider their clientele in the design process too; put yourself in their shoes and think about what kind of design they would like to interact with. Don’t be scared to speak up and politely advise your client if you think some of his choices will not please the clientele as, ultimately, they hired you to produce the perfect solution, not something that doesn’t work.