Solving the Mystery of Graphic Designers in 4 steps by Mahieu Spaid

Maybe you just graduated or decided to take on your own client for the first time.  Yes, you’re probably excited but what do you need to remember to stay professional for your first project?  It’s okay to fall back on things you learned in school.

1.  Create a client portfolio before you have your first meeting.  It never hurts to learn more about the person or company you are representing.  Visit their website and see what kind of work they used in the past.  This is when google images and web surfacing can be your friend.  What do you notice about past advertisements or projects? 

    Do they prefer photographs or illustrations?

    Do they prefer corporate or business themes?

    Are certain colors repeating?

    What does their company logo look like?

2.  Ask lots of questions and write them down for the client to answer.  I always make a 1page sheet for our first meeting.  Its similar to the one I received in one of the Graphic Design classes.  May a copy and hand it to your new client.  Take notes and use the notes they write down.  This will help prevent unnecessary emails or phones calls.  However, if you can’t remember always get in contact with them rather than guess.

    What is your overall Theme or Message?  Asking your client the purpose of this project or idea behind it is step one.

    What content or elements must be included?

        Do I need to include your logo in the poster?

        Do I need to include your company mission statement or any wording?

    What do you picture for this project?  Remember the more specific you can get them to be the more this will help you design something they like.



        People - Are they having fun or are they serious?


3.  Expect several proofs or drafts to go back and forth.  You will spend a good amount of time on creating several drafts.  I create thumbnails or quick graphics and then I choose 3-4 of the ones I think are best to send to the client or show in our next meeting.  If you’re hitting a block then go their past images and create new thumbnails from those.  Go to google images and type in “top graphic designs or illustrations”.  

    What kind of working is trending?  What do you see for your client now and in the future?  Will your design hold for the next 5-10 years?  The next part is up to you.  Draft, draft and draft again.  Remember, start in black and white if it will help.  The rule I remember in class was “if it doesn’t work in black and white, then it won’t work in color.”  You might be in a creative industry but what other people don’t tell you is that most of society is used to seeing corporate designs.  Basically, many clients may want the industry standard — the boring corporate brochure.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Show them what their logo could look like.  Show them their future design with the 3-4 designs they might like.  You never know.  They might choose your “crazy” design over the other ones.  

    Hopefully, you researched them enough to know which ones they would most likely choose.  New designs might be expected if they want to change their look.  Many companies change their brand designs every 5-10 years to stay looking fresh.  Although, lately the 10 year rule is getting shorter to compete with new start ups that cycle through campaigns quickly.

4.  Remember you may have to prompt your client.  They may not know what they want in the beginning or they may change their mind as you go through this process.  You are the guide to your client.  Yes, you might have to help them with the decision making process but ultimately, they are the ones paying for your services.  There is no problem in letting your genius go but the client may not have the same taste or idea in their head as you do.  Stand up for good design and explain it to them gently but the final decision is theirs.  Their trust of your abilities may take time and more than one project.  The most important thing you can do is show that you are willing to work with them.  Help them through the process and show them that you are professional even if your desk at home is a mess.

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