by Corey Venable

Communication can work in many different ways. Coming with a visual communication design background, I have to remember that as a designer, I communicate visually and verbally at the same time. Many people do. So when I’m speaking with a client, how do I make sure that what I say and what I’ve designed line up? It’s hard, and sometimes I forget it’s my job to be the expert and guide these conversations. Here are some thoughts that I need to occasionally remind myself of for clearing up the communication process.

1. Use language and terms that are simple, don’t try to sound fancy and a know-it-all.

Sometimes, admittedly, I like to talk about when to use the en or the em dash, the leading in a paragraph, the meaning of colors and how that fits into my latest design, or the orphan on the page. But really, when does a client want to hear about these things? Sure, I can talk about it but do they need to know? Not really, and it might just lead to confusion, so it’s easiest to keep things simple in our conversations to progress in a timely manner. Communication should be straightforward, and there shouldn’t be any design jargon. I need to be simple: “Too many colors can be overwhelming.” “Spacing this out more makes it easier to read.” Words can mean different things to different people, so it’s always good to be clear and concise, and form an understanding of what is being talked about.

2. Let them know this is a process, and be clear about what needs to be talked about right now.

Design is time-consuming. There are first drafts, second drafts, revisions and conversations along the way. Designs don’t come together overnight, and many times clients don’t fall in love with the first try. Letting them know that there will be time to discuss other aspects of the design further down the road is a good thing. We’re all human, and it can be hard to make multiple decisions at once, especially when something can look different in so many ways. Having a conversation about one aspect of the design at a time is the best way to manage this. First we’ll discuss the font, then the color, then the mark and so on. It’s like creating an itinerary for a meeting. By showing only one thing at a time and discussing things one by one, it allows for a complete understanding of what’s in discussion.

3. Keep communication lines open and keep the designs fresh in their minds.

When working in marketing and design, it’s easy to feel put on the back burner, or at the end of the list of things clients have to do. By keeping in touch with the client on a regular basis, we can keep the process moving. Different clients also might require different ways of keeping them involved. Sometimes it’s about learning how to effectively communicate best with each one individually. Maybe it’s easiest with one client to bring them in each week to discuss what work has been done for their project and where it’s headed. Another time, maybe email is simplest and the best route for communication. It’s about tailoring what feedback you need to have with who you are working with. If a client hasn’t responded in awhile, shoot them another email or call them and ask what would be the best method of communication. It’s in their best interest, and yours.

In the end, everyone wants to wind up with a great design the client loves. The best way to do that is with simple, open and honest communication.