7 Deadly Graphic Designer Sins (And 4 Ways to Atone)
By WDD Staff
March 13, 2020
Not growing your design client list? Your personality is more likely to blame than your skill set.
Who Are These Designers Anyway?Now you might be looking at that 64% and saying, “No way that includes me; I’m not one of those designers.” But it’s more likely than you’d like to think. To get some context on who these communication-challenged designers were, we also asked respondents about how they found their designer. Here’s a breakdown of the results: As you can see online marketplaces are the main source of designers, at 34%, which could explain some of the complaints clients had. Online marketplaces are a notorious gamble for clients, since anyone can create an account, upload a portfolio, and start looking for design jobs. But, between referrals from friends and family members and friends and family members themselves, personal connections win out as the main source of designers for this survey, accounting for almost 45% of the designers discussed by respondents. What does this tell us? Two things:
- Even with the rise of online marketplaces, like Upwork or Freelancer, referrals and network connections are still the most popular way for designers and clients to find each other;
- Just because designers have a personal connection to their clients doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to work together without issue, poor communication isn’t something a personal connection can solve.
The Worst Parts About Working With a DesignerTo give customers adequate room to air their designer grievances, we left the response field to this question completely open, allowing them to write as much (or as little) as they wanted. After reviewing the responses, we found that complaints typically fell within one or more of these seven categories. Or, as we like to call them, the seven deadly designer sins:
- Poor communication;
- Missed deadlines;
- Difficulty trusting the designer;
- Limited revisions;
- Business needs not taken into account;
- Not feeling like a priority.
Designers vs. Artificial IntelligenceIn the past few years, AI-powered or Computer Assisted Design has been making advances in designing everything golf clubs to websites. There are some aspects of AI-powered design that human designers won’t be able to outcompete. Things like a lower cost, unlimited revisions, and never missing a deadline aren’t the most practical selling points for a human who has to pay rent and sleep. But those are only a small part of the complaints clients have. If you’re a designer looking to compete against an increasing array of AI-powered design options, it’s time to start taking client relations seriously. When you’re competing against AI, your humanity is your selling point.
Becoming a Better Designer (Without Learning Any New Design Skills)If you need any more convincing before you roll up your sleeves and start improving your communication skills, here’s another response from our survey, this time to the question: What’s the most important thing about working with a designer? There it is, straight from the client’s mouth: communication is more important than skill when working with designers. But let’s go back to the worst parts about working with a designer. After analyzing customer answers, we found a few common communication-related issues that designers can easily remedy.
Practicing Better CommunicationComplaint: “It is difficult to accurately express one’s thoughts so that they can understand as needed to create a logo that works and meets our needs and desires.” Solution: When you’re first trying to get an idea of what your client wants, don’t rush. They typically don’t have the same design vocabulary you do, so take your time to explain the ways that you can bring their vision to life. Focus on closing the communication gap early on and keep clients in the loop with regular updates. The more you communicate what you’re doing, the more they’ll feel connected to the final product.
Building TrustComplaint: “Building the trust to allow the designer to do his thing. Letting someone outside make decisions independently was hard for us and we had to learn to accept outside advice and decisions.” Solution: For most clients, trust comes down to communication. Can you demonstrate that you understand their needs and goals for this project? Can you show them that you care about producing great work for them? Demonstrate a deeper connection to your client’s business and how your design fits into their goals. While you might not be on their payroll, you should show the same kind of commitment to the company an employee would have. The more you can invest yourself in a project beyond just collecting your payment, the more likely clients are to trust your judgment when you need to make a difficult design call.
Taking Business Needs Into AccountComplaint: “It felt he was more focused on what would look good on his portfolio rather than what was appropriate for our business needs.” Solution: We all want to produce work that will look good in our portfolios, but you need to remember you’re designing for your clients—not yourself. Put the effort into understanding the context of a project, what a client is looking to accomplish, any trends in their industry, the audience they want to attract, and the metrics they want to achieve. As AI-powered design becomes more powerful, your capacity to act both as a consultant and a designer for your clients will give you an edge.
Making Every Client Feel Like a PriorityComplaint: “My designer had more than one project on the go so we were not always his priority.” Solution: You’re likely always going to have a few projects on the go at the same time, but your clients don’t need to know that. When you’re on a call, in a meeting, or even just responding to their emails, give them your full attention. While you won’t be able to be at their beck and call 24/7 (however much they might want you to be), showing attention and enthusiasm during your interactions will help clients to feel like you care about them and their project.
Moving Past Your Design SinsIf you’ve made it to the bottom of this article, it’s fair to say you’re ready to remedy some of your designer sins to better serve your clients. But even if you do everything right, you’re still bound to get a few client complaints—and that’s okay. As much as you can improve your designer-client relations by being more human, it’s also human nature for clients to find something to complain about. As long as you’re continuously working on your communication, you’ll be able to stay one step ahead of other designers—both human and AI. Featured image via Unsplash.
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