Before any contract is signed, any design program is opened, any dollar sign is seen, a conversation must take place between a designer/design firm and the potential client. You must have a love of these deep conversations because they are where relationships are established and much is learned.
Learn the person/people.
Are you a good match? You need to learn the person, or people, you are going to be working with. The client-designer relationship is like any other in that it requires a connection and trust. How much do they value design? How open are they to advice and consultation on the direction of the project? What is their personal investment in this particular project? How committed are they?
For example, designing for someone who is planning to build a small business or nonprofit from the ground up means crafting someone’s first impression. The origin of the brand itself may lie in their personal story. The project’s motivation is intertwined with their own personal ambition and history. Learning people means you better understand what they really want and need from you on a personal and professional level. The rapport you develop will make the project easier going forward and much more rewarding for all parties involved.
Learn the brand.
This means learning the product or service the project represents. Why does this exist? Who does this serve? What are the goals of this project? What is needed?
The true goals are not just what is initially asked of you. You are the investigator. Through conversation (as well as your own research), it is your job to find out the true needs of the client. You are the one with expertise so you must seek the responsibility of determining what they really need. Also, you need to make sure your skillset matches their needs. If they ask for just a logo but actually need a visual brand identity, present that option to them with reasoning as to why it’s needed. Learn as much as possible about the position they want the brand to be in then show them the path. The personal connection you’ve established will allow you to communicate with maximum impact.
Talk $ last.
Money is the very last thing that should be discussed. You want to make sure you have positioned yourself as an investment and not an expense. You can’t properly price your services until you understand what you are offering and why. If you bring money into the conversation too early, it will distract from the true goal: value. You don’t want them thinking, “How much is this going to cost me?” You want them thinking, “Wow! I am going to get a lot of value from this project!” Value is the name of the game. Whatever price you quote at the end should be a mere fraction of the lifelong value they will get from the work you provide. These conversations are so valuable because:
- It helps the client understand the necessity of the investment.
- It makes them comfortable trusting you with that investment.
- You become invested in their success.
Use the depth.
The catalog of knowledge about the people and the brand unlock design possibilities that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Going beyond the surface gives you an expanded pool of inspiration to pull from. You can include references to company history, use certain colors, etc. Use that depth to produce a truly unique, creative solution to the problem at hand.