Hey Designer, get it right!

Having run my business for merely three years I’ve learned a hell of a lot of things, changed many, stumbled often and learned many new secrets along the way. Come closer to your monitor, I have another secret to share:

Get it right – the first time! Clients often ask Designers if they can update them daily, bi-daily, or other timeframes that suits their craving. Designers, stop doing this. For good reason, I promise.

Designing is a process – a process that often adapts and transforms along the way. During this process, I’m sure I’m not the only designer that hates how it looks in the early stages. If I’m not proud or feel the decisions I made are the right solutions, why show the client? I can guarantee if you aren’t happy the client won’t be either.

It makes them nervous. A nervousness that leads to unnecessary changes early on which halts the entire system’s process. Great discoveries are often made through refined decisions. If clients are stopping them before they take shape, they take the steam out of the process and the designer. Not to mention the other effects nervous client syndrome results in (ticky-tack changes; endless phone calls; mockups over your mockup using MS Paint – you know what I’m saying). Setting the tone and exceptions early on is important to long term project success.

I’d be a liar if I sat here and told you I get it 100% right every time, every day, but you’d be amazed how a client respects your decision making and opinion if the first showing is something you can stand behind, support and feel confident presenting. As designers we have this unique ability to see beyond the process and into the final results. Clients often need to see to believe.

Discussion and Comments

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  1. Simon Foster says:

    Very true sir. I’ve come to a similar conclusion recently :)

  2. Lucio says:

    Great article. A lot of new designers feel pressured by the client to show them every single step. I learned really quick from the art director at my first job, to not show anything unless you’re comfortable and can stand behind it.

  3. Andrew says:

    Yep, you couldn’t have said it any better Brian.

  4. Paul Randall says:

    I’ve been thinking of a similar thing recently: http://prandall.com/2012/05/07/selling-design-to-clients/

    Pretty much summed up as:
    Clients know their business better than you do.
    You know design better they they do.

    Make sure that any contributions the client makes relate to business goals set up, and not design decisions.

  5. D. Nettleton says:

    I totally agree! I find using simple things like Style Tiles (styletil.es)can help the client feel informed and in control, while still allowing me the opportunity to completely change my direction at the last minute.

  6. Niki says:

    Love this article for opening my eyes.

    I always thought designers HAD to show their clients their work throughout the process—that it was necessary to get their feedback at every step. But when this happens, the design always veers further and further away from the direction I was originally headed. Now I know why.


  7. Jamie says:

    I want feedback from the client as early as I can get it. Sure, with some clients that means only presenting a polished piece of work, but with others they can be included much sooner. Consider the context for the project and the clients sophistication- you may find that client feedback is required to get it right.

  8. ZAM says:

    A truth well explained. This kind-of an approach is what every designer should crop. Its not necessary to have 100% success rate in everything you do, every time. But when it does turn out good and you are sure about that – you need to have solid reasons why it is so.

    I hope this article helps designers control their nervousness as well as to iterate the process of design till they get something that really works & with a reason – “why it works?”.


  9. This is so true, yet we should at least provide a little more insight into the process and WHY we don’t update our clients on a highly frequent basis.

  10. Brian says:

    I tell my clients exactly what my blog post is about. If I’m not happy with it or it doesn’t show a clear vision for where it’s heading, no need to show at that point.

  11. Brian says:

    Don’t get my wrong. I get tons of feedback and work with my clients very close. Many of the essential details I gather way before I open Photoshop or start the wireframes. Also, no need to send a “polished piece” over to a client. The work just needs to either show a clear understanding of where it’s heading, not the fumbles and trials along the way. If the designer’s not comfortable or happy showing it at a certain point, chances are the client will feel the same.

  12. @Brian: I’m sure you do, just pointing out that ‘nervous clients’ should be soothed a little with something like you have written up in here.

  13. Totally agreed Brian. I’ve the same issues with some clients and I realize that on my last job. Great post!!!

  14. yes, I spend a lot of time stressing about the client & staying in contact with them & if the work is rushed & I am stressed it reflects 100%. Well said & great advice.

  15. Sinisa says:

    Brian, doing this for long time and ofc you need to repeat what you said every time :)… like old saying “first you have to educate client”.. after that is easier..

  16. Yes! “Design is a process” clients don’t always understand this but it must be communicated. Great post.

  17. Holly Wilcox says:

    I just found your blog! What a useful tool this will be. Thank you! I am a Graphic Designer located in Chicago and I feel like my career is in transition at the moment. The desire to grow and be better is at the forefront more so than ever…anyway, thank you! Keep up the great work!

  18. Brian, you know exactly how to inspire others. Thank you so much for this little secret. I look forward to more advice from you in the near future.

Brian Hoff
About Brian Hoff: Designer, Writer and Speaker

I’m a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York who loves creating compelling and useful websites and memorable interactions across the web. When I’m not designing I can be found writing, speaking and occasionally part-time teaching at colleges — all on the subject of design. I started this blog to share my passion and experiences with designers and clients. I'm most active on Twitter; say hello: