A designer often knows when their design is a perfect fit for a client. They know when it will be successful in the real world and what it feels like to make that final tweak, relieving the fear of failure and triggering an adrenaline rush with nothing left to do but smile.

But more often than not, clients won’t get that feeling. Strong designs don’t sell themselves. Clients can be easily confused by the onslaught of contest submissions they go through or, in the case of 1-on-1 relationships, clients often are not sure what actually works for them.

At the end of the day, graphic design is a subjective art form. Through the eyes of a visually unpracticed client, it can be difficult to know which design is the right one. Here are some tips to put that same smile on your clients faces.

1. Show the visuals

One of the main concerns of any client is whether their design will hold up to the competitors’ designs in the real world. The good news is that if a designer knows that those traits hold true for their design, they can demonstrate them to the client using the following techniques:

compare

The example above depicts a situation where the client might be looking for a fashion/designer logo and has uploaded some of the above logos as inspiration in their brief (with the top left logo being the designer’s submission).

Presenting this type of comparison against design works that a client feels are strong can be a directly convincing way to “sell” the design. Not only does it show the client that the submission matches a certain level of aesthetic quality, it makes the client feel that your logo can be as successful as these other brands.

mockup

It can also be important to show the client what the design will look like on collateral that is relevant to their business (I’m not talking about the fire-branded leather or gold-stamped black paper).

A simple stationary mockup can make the design feel more tangible and can help turn some gears in the client’s mind. Note that elaborate or hyper realistic mockups can have the opposite effect, so staying honest and modest is key.

2. Give them space

couch

Wicker Paradise (via Flickr)

Think about the following analogy: Furniture stores are notorious for prodding salesmen insistent on walking customers through every piece of furniture, manufacturer, fabric type and wood, while pushing their personal opinions about each on you.

If I were buying a couch, personally, I wouldn’t care about any of those things initially. I would just need to calm my mind, put myself in a mentally at-home state and sit down on a bunch of couches.

With that in mind, designers should treat clients how they would like to be treated. Let them know you are happy to answer questions and even give some brief notes on the design indicating you are knowledgable, but ultimately give them space until they are ready to talk. Once they come around with some signs of interest, then the juicy details can be shared.

3. Use the right language

layman

Eneko Menica (via Flickr)

Here is a short list of terms that most clients will feel alienated by: vector, raster, small caps, kerning, tracking, leading, justification, DPI, PPI, bleed, slug, spot, process, stroke, and fill. These are all terms existing within the graphic design language that a client likely does not know. They will also not impress a client and therefore should be avoided.

It is important to consider the types of people clients are – designers must interact with farmers, lawyers, up-cyclers, beekeepers, and just about every other type. For this reason, the language of choice should be as universal as possible. Words like “tracking” can simply be referred to as “the space between letters”, or words like “bleed” can be refered to as “the printed area overlapping the cut edge”. Competence need not be abandoned, because well-written messages can say a lot more about a designer than using words like “kerning”.

Conclusion

Many of the techniques above simply lend to a direct, honest, confident and down to earth approach which clients are often very responsive to. It helps to make them feel like they are being taken care of by someone who is kind and sociable, but knows what they are doing. Give it a try!

Have another technique that helps you sell your designs to clients? Share it in the comments!

Cover: North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (via Flickr)