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As creative professionals, we all know that it’s not always easy to communicate the thinking behind design solutions to a client. There are several reasons for this. If it’s a new client, they may have yet to trust your expertise, or you have yet to earn their trust. Another scenario, is that the client may not have enough experience or knowledge of design and branding. Lastly, it could be because the creative you presented pushes the client beyond their comfort level.

No matter what the reason, there are going to be times when you need to make that extra effort to communicate just exactly why your fantastic concept is so… well, fantastic. Chances are, if the client is reluctant in any way, you won’t sell them on the idea. So, in order to avoid going back to the drawing board, try to minimize the margin of error with better client communication.

Here’s 5 tips to maximize your client communication…

1. Start with the basics.
Refer back to the brief. Knowing and having an understanding of the goals the client had in mind is crucial to achieving a solution. Reiterate what was first given as the creative and strategic mandate and tie it directly into the creative solution you’re offering. After that, explain the thinking process that took place for you to reach your creative solution.

2. Don’t use too much design lingo.
Many clients don’t have a background in marketing or design, so it’s best to refrain from throwing out terms that the client may not be familiar with; it’ll only lead to more confusion and frustration on their part. Instead of talking about hierarchy, typography, negative space or Gestalt principles, express these intentions in more universal terms like “focus,” “eye path” and “emphasis.”


3. Show it.
Most clients – and people for that matter – are much more inclined towards visuals than words. Present clear, polished creative options to your client. But don’t just leave it at one solution. It may require a lot more legwork, but an effective and professional client presentation means providing multiple options. As we as creative professionals know, there’s always more than one way to achieve a solution. Give your client the opportunity to see those other options.

4. Throw in a little 101.
Although you don’t want to overwhelm them with industry jargon, you do want your client to get a peak at the method behind the madness. Sometimes that means educating them about the principles of design and the strategy behind the marketing. If your client doesn’t understand these strategies or principles, try explaining it to them. But again, break it down into ideas and terms they can relate to.

5. Listen and address concerns.

Sometimes the brief may have been followed to a ‘T’, but ends up not ringing true for what the client actually wanted. In that case, ask questions and listen to the answers. What’s not working for them? How are your concepts different from what they expected? Dig around a little and find out where you and your client’s thinking differs. It may mean taking a step back to reevaluate the goals and possibly reworking the creative. But it’s important to realize and respond to these concerns so you have more effective communication in the future.

Bottom line: The communication you have with your client can make the difference between a good relationship with them or a bad one. You want them to trust in your expertise. The easier you make it for them to do that, the better it will be for you both. However different your backgrounds may be, finding that common ground will allow for the possibility of greater success on both sides.

What other tips can you share about successful client communication?