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When I am designing a new website or application I am very meticulous to get every detail right so it is beautiful while still user friendly.

Almost always however, the client has better ideas. They request awful changes and by the time they are satisfied, I am ashamed to call it my work.

I end up wasting more time, and the product ends up looking less professional.

What can I do?

Is this a common problem to others? Is there a way to convince the client that you are the designer and they should trust your expertise (without sounding condescending)?

Am I just dealing with the wrong type of clients?

Or is this just the way it is, and the sooner I accept it, the better it will be?

What are your experiences?

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clientsfromhell.net So funny/sad because it's true. Reading that usually lightens up my mood when dealing with a CFH. –  koiyu Apr 4 '11 at 15:16
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theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell –  jhocking Apr 8 '11 at 18:42
    
@jhocking thank you for sharing, that link made my day. I have had some of the exact same experiences. –  JD Isaacks Apr 8 '11 at 18:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Yes, this is a typical issue. At its core, it's a client thinking that their solution should be designed around their personal tastes rather than around particular business requirements that will meet the needs of their customers.

The key is to talk in business terms, not in subjective art terms. Be prepared. Study your customer's business, their industry, and, ideally, their customers. Back up your design decisions with as much objective reasoning as you can rather than subjective tastes.

Graphic design, itself, can be considered an art and a craft. The industry, though, is all about selling. You need to sell your solution. Put on your sales hat. Do your research, and show the client why your solution is the one that will work for them.

Of course, there are still clients that just want you to make that home page with purple and pink stripes and an 8 minute animated flash intro no matter what you say. For those clients, you do the work, bill them, then scratch them off your list of customers you will do business with again. ;)

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+1 for "back up your design decisions". Me being on the other end of the picture (coder & project manager), if the designer gives sound reasoning for design details, it's a lot more compelling. Don't assume the client is wrong, consider their ideas (as no one's perfect), but if they are wrong, then clear reasoning that lines up with their goals is your best bet. –  andrewb Jun 5 at 0:39

Nope. You're the only one who runs into this.

The thing is, when a client comes to you (or me, or any other designer) what they're looking to do is rent specific design skills to realize their view of a particular design. Some folks may have more of a specific clue vis a vis color, layout, etc. but don't have the skills to actually put that idea onto paper. Others may only have a vague idea of what they want and may just be looking for a bunch of ideas to point them down a particular path.

Art / design / aesthetics is usually very personal. I regularly have arguments about art with non-design office mates (Jackson Pollock regularly comes to mind) in which I try to explain that the value of art or design lies in the ability to evoke an emotional response. While you've no doubt worked hard to understand color theory, aesthetics, page flow, etc. most folks haven't. There are going to be a lot of folks who work on the theory of "I just like some stuff when I see it".

Add into the mix the personal preferences and emotions we bring into any design (by necessity; design without emotion is sort of like bacon without the pork) and it can be pretty tough to deal with someone trashing the design you worked hard on.

Your choices are pretty limited. If you choose to say "These folks don't like MY approach to their web site / brochure / ad campaign so I won't take their money" you probably will need to find another line of work to supplement your design income. Or you could accept the fact that there are going to be people who think the leopard-print Snuggie is the greatest innovation of our time, do your best to provide them with good design, and in the end give them their violent purple and orange leopard print web page background and cash their check.

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There's two ways to approach working as a graphic designer. You can be a hired production artist, and just literally implement a customers idea, or you can work more as a consultant, where you produce a solution based on your expertise, research, and skills. Art != design, even though they are related. Design has a lot of subjectivity to it, but also plenty of objectivity. For example, no everyone likes pink unicorns, but if your demographic is 7 year old girls, it may still be a valid design decision from a business perspective even if not a client's personal art tastes perspective. –  DA01 Apr 4 '11 at 15:53
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and that's not to say the production artist route is a bad route. It's just a different way to approach things. In the end, most of us end up doing both at some different points in our career. –  DA01 Apr 4 '11 at 15:54
    
agree to lawndartcather –  Jack Apr 5 '11 at 4:41

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