I'm working towards a career change. I'm a good artist, but I've found that this does NOT translate into being a "good designer". Recently I took on a couple of jobs to test the water. I did two logo design projects and one web design project to see if I really liked this line of work.

I found that I LIKED the work, but the customers had mixed feelings about me. One logo project was awesome and I knocked it out of the park. The next one took me about 50 iterations to finally make the customer happy. (I would never recommend working with committees now...)

On the website I used some of my own philosophies in what I like in web sites and web apps and what I thought would look and function good, but the customer didn't seem to like certain things and we had a rough time seeing "eye to eye". It was a hard experience for me after putting so much of my heart and soul into the project. In the end I had to use a template and they were happy! It was horrible in that regard.

What I came away learning from these is that I clearly need to get a better grasp of what is actually expected of me. If I (obviously) don't think like other people, then I need to learn to think like them, or at least fake it, so I can produce expected results.

Unfortunately I can't afford course work like bloc.io's 8 month program. I have to figure it out on my own: methodology, best practices, tools and all.

Does anyone have an outline of the steps to follow in a pragmatic fashion to go from effectively a learner to practitioner?

I feel like this topic has been discussed a lot (such as here or here), but to be frank, most of what I see online both here and elsewhere in the form of tutorials are just click bait and talking heads. I want some real meat and potatoes that can guide me on a quest or comprehensive learning process instead of just getting inspired and ending up back to confusion and missing a solid platform for growth and really understanding the psychology behind this field in both the actual design goals, workflows and customers' minds.

One thing to remember: I don't need help to become a good artist. I've got that. I'm pretty gifted when it comes to art - I need to down and dirty grind/practitioner side of the skill development.

  • Please remember, I don't feel like this question has been answered sufficiently in other answers that are given here on this site, so please do not close my question for whatever reason - give me a chance to make my question better OR please help me since I don't really know what you want with crystal clarity! – kewardicle Sep 3 at 0:22
  • In cases where you have to do many iterations and/or have difficulty 'seeing eye to eye' with the customer, the issue generally boils down to the fact that you didn't get a clear enough idea of what they wanted in the beginning, so my recommendation would be to ask lots of questions to really and fully understand the customers expectations before you do much, if any, of the actual work. – 3D1T0R Oct 3 at 23:59

"Committee" clients are always a nightmare. I avoid them as much as financially possible.

It's not you.. it's the fact that there are multiple people with multiple visions and multiple opinions all trying to get what they want. You simply cannot please them all. And it's up to them to determine whose opinion or vision is less important.

If you have good rapport with individual clients and make them happy, then there's nothing wrong with your communication.

If you find you aren't getting clear direction with individual clients, then there may be something at fault with your overall communication skills. Rest assured though, it's all about communication.


I can't specifically tell you how to communicate with clients. everyone is different and I have no clue about who you are, your experience, your skill set, your preferences, etc. So there's no feasible way to give specifics.

In short, you need to ask questions and have a conversation with clients in order to get a general understanding of not only the specifics of what they are asking for (as in size, color, production/delivery method, etc), but to get a "feel" for the unspoken.

Some ballparks.....

  • What is the economic demographic the piece is being designed for? Wealthier viewers will be more sold on a higher-end, more professional, "corporate" design. Whereas high-end/professional may not sell well to the "Monster Truck Rally" audience. Knowing the demographic should greatly influence the overall design.
  • What is the nature of the item being design? Is it a healthcare product/service? A financial product? A consumable? Color, type, etc may all be altered due to that. This again, should influence design.
  • What is the size of the client's business? Is this to be designed for a national/international demographic or merely a local "mom and pop" business?
  • This one is merely perception and not really anything you would ask the client. How does the client come across to you? Do they seem overly serious, perhaps a tad pretentious? Are they aloof, often using slang or swearing in conversations? You can't design something "hip, modern, loud, and exceptionally dynamic" for overly serious clients much of the time, unless that is specifically what they are asking for.

It's things like that which will lead you to seemingly intuitively get close to a client's vision from the start. Much of this you may not need to ask the client directly. Rather you merely pay attention to the type of person the client comes across as and their description of their business or their customers.

In the end it's really, really, really difficult to "design X" with no information about who the design will be read/used by. You are shooting blindfolded at a target if you don't understand the audience (Both the client and the consumer).

Don't let that experience with one client put you off. What you describe has happened to me. Decision by committee is often a terrible experience to have to deal with. Also, unreasonable clients do exist, and there are some you will never please. That's part of the challenge of the job.

That said, one of the things I have found helpful is to find a way to communicate effectively with your clients such that you can discover what they actually want before you begin designing anything - that can be half the battle. Also be aware that tastes do differ, and part of your journey of discovery is to find out what taste your client has. However you will find clients who struggle even with that, and some who have no idea what they want, or who simply can't describe it.

It's just unfortunate that one of those difficult clients happened to turn up on day two of your foray into the world of graphic design. If it's any consolation, I have found that generally speaking, the good clients vastly outnumber the bad ones.

  • Your advice is encouraging - thank you for that insight. That gives me some courage to keep pressing ahead. One thing I feel that I lack is just a general sense of "standards". That seems to be what happened w/this website design client. It was like they were upset because I wanted to make things look too custom - and yes - they were one of those clients who has no idea what they really wanted. It almost seems like when you start off with a client you should go in with a folder of options to kickstart discussions (and those folders would depend on whether they're a store or blog for example). – kewardicle Sep 3 at 14:05
  • Another thing I might need is general design "etiquette" & workflow. It might be that I don't have an effective process to follow with clients and my own skills. Sometimes I feel like I'm an artistic authority, but in the end that doesn't matter if the client's own desires aren't captured or exceeded. For example, I don't like flat design - I find it abhorrent, but it seems standard right now and that is a hard pill for me to swallow even if a client wants it. Maybe a "process" will help me to overcome that and help me to develop an internal dichotomy...? – kewardicle Sep 3 at 14:10
  • @kewardicle Yes, a folder full of options to choose from, like some standard templates might be one way to start off with clients like that. You will find that some clients want boring "beige", while at the other extreme some will expect a work of creative genius. As for etiquette, it's difficult sometimes. I've put my foot in it a couple of times with over-touchy clients. One in particular I remember, a client who had "designed" his own logo, which I attempted to clean up because it was so badly drawn, and caused such offence that he left the building never to return! – Billy Kerr Sep 3 at 14:14
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    @kewardicle - I'm with you 100% by the way. Flat design has been done to death . . . – Billy Kerr Sep 3 at 14:16
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    Hahahahahaha, wow, your comment on flat design just made my day. I thought I was a bad person or something crazy! Maybe the crazies are just ruling the roost right now and we'll head back to sanity soon'ish. :D You've given some really good guideposts here. I think this is doable. I know I need to learn the tools of the trade better, but I need to "systematize" an approach. Maybe since I have the "art" side down, then it's more about getting real client experience now vs "going to school". – kewardicle Sep 3 at 15:24

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