But our clients are not, by and large, stupid. They have valid priorities for a project and, lest we forget, are paying for the privilege. So does it just come down to a problem of communication?
Nah. The perception problem is that because everybody sees design in their everyday lives, they believe they understand the art of creating it. This, of course, is horse plop. I see cars every day, but you wouldn’t want to drive one I built.
Communication, though, can help us solve the problem.
Take a breath
The worst way to get feedback is by email. You have zero vocal or body language clues to help you, and raw text criticising your hard work is hard to swallow. If you get feedback by email, make a policy not to answer immediately. Give yourself at least an hour to digest (and quite possibly calm down). It’s not instant messaging, and you’ll be able to compose your email, and yourself, better after a short gap.
Understand the problem
Most clients will be trying to give you a solution to a problem that they’re not equipped to solve, rather than just telling you what the problem is. In the graphic design world, the usual example is “Can you make our logo bigger?”, which is usually masking the problem “I don’t think our brand is prominent enough.” Your job is to reverse engineer the feedback so you can understand what the client’s actual concern is.
The correct response is always to ask questions. Make your client feel heard by referring to what they said, make them feel understood by identifying the problem behind it and make them feel reassured by presenting options backed up by your expertise.
Tie everything to the objectives
Feedback often spawns feedback, or worse, new ideas. This leads to scope creep, moving the project further and further away from the original brief.
It’s important to relate every piece of feedback to the original goals of the project. This will help to keep things on track and will show up irrelevant ideas. It’s much more effective to reply to a request to have all the flyer text in dazzling pink with:
”As you’ve said it’s important to make your brand recognisable in the flyer, we should stick to your brand colours for the text.”
There are probably dozens of reasons not to use dazzling pink for the text, but by choosing the reason that directly influences the client’s own objective, it keeps the conversation short and effective. And not murdery.