I am a client of a designer. This is our first project/job for each party, and he is willing to do the design for me for free as long as I'm listed as his client on his site. So far so good, I'm happy with what he does. I guess he is a kind person.

I know our limits. He's fairly new with the business world and agrees to work for free to me. The point is, I want him to challenge my idea more. Every time he gives me his ideas, I give my feedback, and I really expect to have feedback on my feedback. I know that after all, he is doing the design for me, and if I say "I don't care what your idea is, just do it as I told you", then his job is to do it as I told him. However, I will never say that. I am aware that I have a lot of ignorance in designing. I believe that if we use rational, we will ultimately reach a consensus. I wonder that the lack of his feedback means that we have a consensus, or just he is doing what I want without making a feedback.

How do I get his feedback? How to get him to challenge my idea?

  • 2
    Although you've not said it, the "just do it as I told you" part worries me on a relationship level. You hire a designer to approach a problem that you cannot resolve yourself. Often designers have a particular style or method, and you as a client buy into this (even if you are getting work for free). If the designer isn't producing something to your tastes then I suggest ending the relationship and finding one more suited to your needs.
    – Bagseye
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 11:29
  • I'm trying my best to avoid that level. It's not only rude but also inhibit me from seeing the better designing. However, as you mentioned, if a designer doesn't product something to my tastes, then we should end the relationship. My question is: how do I know if the design is really not my tastes, or it's just me being ignorance?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 13:19
  • 1
    The designer is facing a different problem than you are as a client. You are thinking about what is going to please your target market, and sell your fish. The designer has two target markets. The first one is also your target market; but, before that can be pleased YOU, the second target market must be also pleased. The two are very different. That might give you some insight into the designer's point of view, the solution, and approach.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 20:42

5 Answers 5


A good designer should advise you in the choices you make. In the end, you are the one who decides what happens, but I think it's important that he uses his knowledge to tell you why some things may work or not. Since he is also new, this is something he needs to learn and you can tell him this. Tell him you need his advice on the matter, you don't want him to follow blindly. Tell him the way it's currently going will also be worse for him. It seems easy now, but he will likely produce something that does not work well and that's not a valuable addition to his portfolio at all.

This person was open and honest to you about his inexperience, so you can be open and honest about what you expect as well. And because of his inexperience he may need some more guidance. Then again, you are getting this for free.

There are two things you can do now:

  1. Help him, educate him. Since he is doing this for free, you can repay him by teaching him what the average client expects from him. Ask concrete questions. i.e. 'Why do you think this button works well in this position?'

  2. Hire a more experienced designer and tell them up front you are seeking for someone who is also able to challenge you and advice you.

To add to this, I think this is a great example of how free is never really free. You may get the design work for free but you will need to invest time and effort in the person doing the design work.


If this is your first project working together, you may be pushing the relationship too quickly. Your designer is trying to please you. You want your designer to disagree with you. That's asking a lot.

You know more about your business than your designer. Your designer knows more about graphic communication than you (most likely.)

The effect you're striving for is harmony, agreement, and results.

That being said, ask your designer for ideas and alternatives to the design problem at hand. Ask your designer to try different approaches and alternatives.

The best way to ask varies from individual to individual.

  • What do you think?
  • What do you suggest?
  • How could the idea be better?
  • What would you change?
  • Could you show me a few different approaches?
  • Is there a better way to show... (the title, the background, the product,…?
  • Am I trying to say too much in too little space?

As mentioned elsewhere, have you accepted the designer's brief and proposal and then started discussing the solution? Discussion should precede the agreement not after.

  • isn't the sample that he made already a design brief?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 4:16
  • A design brief is more detailed than a sample which presents itself superficially. A detailed brief deals with the approach, short list of variations in type, colour, style, consideration of the target market, possible fringe markets, etc. It takes more than a minute or two to prepare. Have a peek at the site for graphic designers for more about best practices and other resources. aiga.org/resources
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 4:37
  • @Ooker When presenting a design or pitching a concept to a client, there will be a time for some reaction from the client. This phase of the process has been called "defending your design" from the designer's point. A designer should be prepared to present a sound reason for each and every decision. Sometimes, an insecure individual will make an appeal to some design guru, authority, or rule of design. That may or not satisfy you. You may wish to discuss it further. You might decide to do it over. However you decide to pursue the project, have an agreed upon and agreeable exit strategy.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 22:29
  • so in this situation I'm an insecure client? Well yeah I don't have a sketched layout before talking to him, but I want to stay open. His idea may not be the same as I think, but it will give me a new perspective. I just want him to present a sound reason for every decision he made. I can learn from that. We can learn from that. That's what I mean. Also, how should I make an exit strategy, and tell him about that?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 4:28
  • @Ooker We're only talking about procedure and terminology. You must be able to discuss any issue. The designer must explain to you the "why" of the design. The term used for this is "defending" the design. You are not obliged to accept what a designer gives you just because they're holding the pencil. You're supposed to understand. You're supposed to ask questions. You're supposed to accept a solution. If you don't, then you must discuss an agreeable and effective solution. The exit strategy is what happens when you don't agree. (What's with the insecure client thing? Where did you get that?)
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 14:03

Leave the designer alone. You think he's agreed to work for you for nothing, and that putting you on his resume is payment. It's not.

And, further, the idea that you and the designer need to reach some kind of consensus on the design is also wrong. Give him/her all the information you can, and let them do their thing. If you don't like it, you don't need to use it, and they got the chance to stretch their creativity... everyone wins.

You're not a client. Just keep telling yourself that. Over and over.

  • I like this idea, maybe consider to accept it. But can you elaborate it? Why am I not his client? He directly said that in the email
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 4:17
  • You're both playing at make-believe, an imaginary relationship. There is no client, the designer is not yet famous and revered for his obvious talents and productivity, and you've propositioned a situation without recompense, either way.
    – user42915
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 5:39
  • You both know this, and you probably both wish it was more like 5th Avenue, but you're both missing the practical realities as a result of the delusions. Just let him do his absolute best, and discover his abilities for what they are, in the time he gives himself, with the tools he's got. What you get is what you get. You have no force to exert, and shouldn't be. And that includes attempting to force consensus or any other form of discussion.
    – user42915
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 5:41
  • 1
    @user42915 If the terms of an agreement suit both parties, IT IS PAYMENT. Pick someone you think is pretty cool and influential. Would you "value" being associated with that person in return for a small project? You bet you would. There are many different kinds of "compensation" that may or may not agree with your personal taste for your legal instruments.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 20:53

It sounds like you are expecting an experienced approach from an inexperienced designer.

If you both are able to make adjustments (you to lower your expectations and him to become more confident) then this may work out.

If adjustments are too difficult for either of you, then you may not be a good fit for each other.


Its good to hear client ideas though I would also add that a designer should be working off a design brief as well.

The design is about finding a solution to the problem, meeting key objectives.

  • 2
    I don't understand how this answers the question
    – Ooker
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 13:21
  • You can just ask the designer directly to challenge your ideas. It could be a part of the design brief.
    – Bjarni
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 20:34
  • +1 for mentioning the design brief. It's too often overlooked as a design tool.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 4:00

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