By Design & Multimedia Specialist, Keely Smith

Twitter: @KeelySmith8

When it comes to designing for client partners, it’s not your skill that makes a successful design project, but how effectively you communicate about it. We’ve all been there: you work on a design and you feel confident in what you’ve created, but when it’s time to reveal your masterpiece to your client partner, lo and behold…they hate it! So what happened? Mishaps like these are often a result of a lack of communication or understanding goals and expectations. Here are some best practices to set yourself – and your client partners – up for success and clear conversations on any design project.

Have an open ear

Right off the bat, you need to listen to what your client partner is trying to achieve. It’s vital to understand what’s happening under the surface. By this, I mean what are the goals of the design project – is it to drive more leads? Increase engagement? Or simply to revamp a brand for marketing purposes? These are important questions that will naturally arise as you have an open exchange about ideas and expectations.

Flesh out the details

Once you’ve put your listening cap on and have gathered the feedback needed, it’s time to put it in writing. It’s vital to clearly outline project deliverables, responsibilities and projected timelines for project completion. These details can be included in or accompany a creative brief, which should explain the design goals and how success will be measured, if applicable.


Stay on track

Sometimes unexpected developments can throw a wrench into the system, but it’s important to keep to the initial timeline and stay within the scope of the project. If a client partner requests work that is out of scope, be sure to add to or revisit the deliverables that have been agreed upon by both parties. This is not only to to keep things on track, but so you can be a good steward of your client’s budget and dedicate your time appropriately to deliver a product that you are proud of and they love!

Say it loud and proud

Design is an expertise, and any given project has you spending hours mulling over the perfect typeface, colors, arrangement and so much more. If a client partner suggests something that doesn’t seem to align with the project goals, don’t be afraid to address it… just keep it professional. It’s easy to be an order taker, but you’d be selling yourself short if you gave into every idea or request. This also has the potential to avert the project from the initial goals. Having skill is one thing, but as we know, knowledge is power! Giving your client partner access to your knowledge on such things will benefit the overall success of the project.

With clear and intentional communication leading all of your endeavors with client partners, you and your team will cultivate a valued relationship based on professionalism, understanding, respect and, most important, eye-popping design work. Designers, what tips would you share to help keep fellow pros on track?

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