A Designer’s Response to Seth Godin’s “Working with a designer (four paths)”

In Seth Godin’s Working with a designer (four paths), he’s educating people on different things to have considered and come to terms with before approaching a designer.

Go ahead and read his post if you haven’t before continuing here. It won’t take long.

As a designer, I think he’s spot on about the (at least) four different kinds of clients. I’ve definitely worked with clients of the four different postures he describes. However, a big part of being a designer is teaching your client how to be a good client. You don’t learn that in school, and you’re not often in a situation of being a client on a design project.

The first thing I do when designing for a project is to establish a goal. What are we actually trying to accomplish with the design, and why? This is incredibly helpful for people to be able to think concretely about different designs.

For example, if a client is starting a pet grooming business and they need a logo, I’d start with a goal discussion of what they’re trying to do. After a few long discussions, we figure out that their goal is: “Provide a pampered, trustworthy and first-name basis (well, only-name basis for most animals) experience for your animal.”

Now that the goal is established, we can base design decisions on this instead of a vague “what the client likes.” Without a goal, questions tend to be based on the look, such as “Which logo do you like better?” But, what they “like” isn’t necessarily what the best logo is for what they’re trying to accomplish.

If you have a goal already defined, then you can ask more useful questions like:

  • “Which logo seems more trustworthy?”
  • “Which logo suggests that you’ll pamper their animal like four-legged royalty?”

Whichever type of client you are, don’t worry about it too much. A good, experienced designer will help you clarify your goals and teach you how to be a great client.

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