This week in the world of design, I have learned something very valuable.
The design process is a very important thing and can constantly be improved upon. Your design process is just as important as your skill and your reputation. it can easily manipulate either one of them. Now, of course, I learned the creative process while in college. but like many things in college you have to practice and improve upon those things as you grow in your field. In doing so I have come to realize I have been doing it all wrong.
Now, there are many different ways of thinking of a creative process but what I want to share with you, is that the beginning of your creative process should start with education. I'm not talking about research. This whole time I thought it started with research and thumb nails but I have finally realized you need to first educate your client on your creative process.
When A client calls and needs a design. they say they need the design in a month. you look at your calander and you realize you have space open to finish this type of work, in this amount of time. You happily accept the job and ask them questions via your nifty creative brief, which is there to help you (as a designer) figure out what your client needs. After your conversation, you begin your thumb nails and then straight on through to the end product. Now if you have done this process more then a few times you have noticed that there may be a lot of changes and maybe even some upset clients who were expecting something different. This can for the most part, be fixed.
You just have to inform the client on what YOU need from THEM.
The majority of Graphic Designers and Illustrators are introverted and don't enjoy discussing what they need to finish the job, but it is absolutely essential for a professional. and it should be talked about with the first meeting you have with the client if possible.
Here are a few things I have missed in the past.
every designer should know about how long it will take to finish a certain project. You should be able to give your client a round about estimate on how long it will take if your designing per hour.
If you design with flat rates you need to be able to know how to bid the job so you don't over work for little pay. for this job I figured out their deadline and knew I could hit it, no questions asked.
The part I forgot:
While doing this particular job I forgot to give them MY deadlines. Every job that requires the client to send information such as text, graphics or fonts needs deadlines on both ends.
What I should have done:
After They had let me know the deadline on the finished product I should have calculated about how long my process would take. Then I could have told them when I would need a finished copy of the text, graphics, or fonts. As a designer you think this might be an obvious idea but you have to realize the client may not understand your work as well as you do. So let them know their deadlines as well so you can get their work done when they need it.
A lot of projects I have done in the past get embarrassingly far before I breakdown and asked them what there budget is. Money was THE hardest thing for me to talk about. There was a time I didn't have the confidence to tell them what I expected for payment. This is just bad business.
One way I have solved this problem is to ask them on the first meeting, what the budget for the project is. There are three types of answers I have gotten from this question.
1. I dont know
2. what do you charge?
3. I have also gotten their budget.
Option three is my favorite. When option one and two happens it takes a bit more work. Explain your prices and don't forget to tell them when you will need payment. I always try to do a half now half before the final file is given. It is best to get this out on the table as soon as possible.
PREVIOUSLY CONCEIVED IDEAS
depending on who you are and where your at as a designer, this may or may not be a good thing.
I used to enjoy a lot of direction, But the more experienced I get the more I realize they should not know what your going to make before you make it.
If you go this rout you absolutely must send them explanations on design decisions, when you send the proof. This will help them understand why you do things and that you have their best interests in mind. It's also great customer service and most clients enjoy learning about the design. You still might be making aesthetic changes but this will in most cases drastically limit the amount.
There are many needed Previously Conceived Ideas though. Just as you know more about your field your client knows more about their field. You may be using red because it means passion, but the client realizes his target audience relates that exact red with the competition. Since you missed it in your creative brief it is kind of your fault.
I feel the best way to handle this is to make their changes and rewrite your creative brief to include stronger questions.
ONE POINT OF CONTACT
There was a point in time where I was working on a few projects that had multiple contacts. It is extremely difficult and frustrating when multiple people are simultaneously asking you to change the same thing in different ways. Another bad part about this is while they are both proof reading they are both sending you changes at different times of day making for way more changes then expected.
If you run into this as a freelancer, try to cut it off as soon as you can. try to explain to the client that it will make the process quicker if you have one point of contact. Explain to them that it will cut down on design time and mistakes made.
AMOUNT OF CHANGES
I have had a few clients who made an amazing amount of changes. It would have been awesome if I were charging by the hour but I charge flat rates.
the part I forgot:
I calculated the project and forgot to discuss what happens when it takes longer then the bid covers.
What I should have done:
I should have explained to the clients in our first meeting the number of free changes I was willing to make. Then when the the number of changes had been reached I should have explained to them my policy on extra changes. Then I could have given them a per hour price for changes made. this may not be the absolute best way to deal with it but it is way better then the way I handled it.
Well, as my fiance says, "it takes two to tangle" whatever that means, haha. I hope this has helped someone because it has helped me quite a bit. Of course I am still learning. I know there are many things I have not touched on. Let us know other good client process.
Designer & Illustrator