Very often, clients are pressed for time and are unable to provide sufficient details to help get a design project successfully underway. When this happens, our project managers and designers must fumble through a trial-and-error process of experimentation and elimination, trying to figure out what the client wants and struggling to deliver a meaningful solution. The process is made far worse when the deadline is short and the client is unavailable to answer questions.

One example is a recent animation project. The client provided general details: “Cute, lovely, charming and colorful.” These words just aren’t enough to go on. It’s as if someone said, “Go buy me a pet, and make sure it’s cute.” A better set of instructions would be, “I’d like a dog, two feet tall, black, with short hair.”

Many times clients simply don’t have a clear idea of what they are looking for. Too often, designers are left guessing: designing their best idea of what “might” work; then showing it (and several iterations) to the client; then finally getting the right kind of feedback that will put the project on the proper path to completion. There’s a better way.

Take advantage of the initial design consultation. Make time up front to talk through expectations and get as many parameters in place as possible. It’s not the best idea to have this conversation at the end of the design process.  

Give us a rough sketch. One of the best ways to give direction to a design firm is to draw the concept in rough outline (napkin sketches are perfectly acceptable) and PDF or fax it to the design firm. No one will judge the drawing and it can give the designer a huge boost in the right direction. Yet most people won’t take this simple step. If they did, it’s possible costs could cut by as much as 25–35%.

Be available for questions. We don’t want to take up much of your time, but your input and answers can be vital. We may need to get an answer quickly in order to meet deadlines. It helps to have direct access numbers and heads-up on out-of-the office schedules.