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The graphic designer's guide to decoding client feedback

Client communication can be difficult for many graphic designers. Sometimes you get a client who understands the basics of design and knows exactly what they want (or what they don’t want). Other times, you get clients whose feedback resembles, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

Learning how to decode the client feedback from your freelance graphic design jobs can make your life as a designer a lot easier. It also results in happier clients and a faster workflow when feedback can be understood and acted upon quickly.

Below are a few common client scenarios you may have encountered (or have yet to). Keep reading to learn how to navigate each type of feedback. Let’s go!

Designer And Client 5 by DeeKay

“This looks great, except…”

What comes after “except” in this kind of feedback can be the difference between a simple tweak to the design and a suggestion that breaks the entire thing.

For example, when a client says, “This looks great, except the font is too small,” you may opt to just increase the base font size. In many designs, this will work without breaking the overall layout.

Other times, changing something like the font may throw off the entire scale of the design. In these cases, it’s best to show your client what will happen with a larger font (or whatever “minor” change they want to make) so that they can see why their suggestion to simply “make it larger” won’t work.

Get to the root of the problem

Sometimes, minor tweaks don’t solve whatever problem your client has brought up. In the example of the typeface being too small, the issue could also likely be related to readability. Instead of a larger typeface, you may be able to use a similar but more readable font—or make other tweaks to things like line-height or character spacing.

In some cases, it’s best to show your client what will happen if you follow their suggestion.

Sometimes what follows “except…” is a more major issue that will completely break the design and why it works. In these cases, it’s best to show your client what will happen if you follow their suggestion. Ask them what it is that they liked (or didn’t) like about the original design to get an idea of what other changes you might be able to make to address their underlying issue.

Designer And Client 3 by DeeKay

The micromanaging client

Micromanaging clients can be a designer’s biggest nightmare. They’re the clients who (virtually or physically) stand over your shoulder and start redesigning the work for you.

Scenario #1

Sometimes there’s something seriously wrong with the design you’ve created and your client is trying to fix it themselves.

In these cases, ask your client for more general feedback like their opinion of the overall design, what they like or don’t like specifically, etc. Using this information in addition to their existing feedback can help you get to the root of the problem so that you can fix it in a way that actually works.

Soliciting that kind of feedback often results in high-quality information that can elevate your designs and create something both you and the client love.

Scenario #2

Other times, your client may think of themselves as a designer and will micromanage the entire project. These clients will make your job incredibly difficult and frustrating.

If you can, avoid working with these clients in the first place. They’ll micromanage the entire design process and you may end up hating the design that results from it.

If you’re already stuck in this situation, remember this: You don’t have to include the design in your portfolio or otherwise attach your name to it in any way.

Designer And Client 2 by DeeKay

“This isn’t really our style…”

This kind of feedback can seem frustrating at first, but it’s actually really useful. It generally means your client likes the design itself, but just doesn’t think it fits with their brand.

In this case, ask them to give you some examples of the styles they think are a better fit. You can also ask them to describe what they’re looking for in terms of the personality of their brand or product. Is it fun or formal? Mysterious or straightforward? Glamorous or down to earth?

Once you get a good sense of the personality the client is after, you can make tweaks to the design to create something that’s more in line with what they had in mind.

Designer And Client 6 by DeeKay

“We don’t like it…”

While negative feedback can be hard to hear, it’s actually incredibly useful.

Ask your client about what they specifically dislike about the design. Is it the color palette? The layout? The images? Something else?

Take their feedback about what they don’t like and flip it around to figure out what they actually want.

Make it easy for your clients to provide feedback

It’s important to ask for feedback from clients, but it’s also important to educate them about the kinds of feedback that are useful. Giving clients specific things to offer opinions on, as well as guidelines for what kind of information is useful, can make the entire process easier.

Blog post artwork by DeeKay

Cameron Chapman About the Author — Cameron Chapman: Editor. Blogger. Author. Designer. Copywriter. Marketer. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Consultant. Coach. I wear a lot of hats. What most of them have in common, though, is storytelling.

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