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Before you start typing on your keyboard, I know it's good practice to let a client know what you're doing by showing them WIP (Work In Progress) pictures of the artwork you're doing.

But sometimes this practice backfired on me and it nearly made me quit the commission once, because the continous small improvements from some self claimed art major aka client got very annoying. The ongoing requests for changes and follow up WIP pictures after you send them the first one, stack up so damn quick. Don't get me wrong, I really have no problem sending you WIP pictures, not at all. But please let me do my work, because I kinda know what I am doing.

From experience, my proposed suggestions that got turned down first, turned out great in the end when I did them against the customers will. Reactions often are

Oh wow. You were right. Sorry, that looks great!

So on one side, I understand that a client wants ongoing feedback so the project doesn't drift off in the wrong direction, I wouldn't want that either when I commission someone for good money. On the other hand, stop giving me your bs advices and don't tell me how to do my job, I am pretty sure I know how to do that myself thank you very much. /rant

And I am certain these come up because I show them WIP pictures, yeah well, WIP, doesn't mean finished. Why is that so hard to understand?

So to sum this up, what's a good rule of thumb of what to show your client and what not, and also - how much?

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If you're an artist, I don't think you should show them a WIP at all. If it's not up for debate, do not show it to your client. Show them the final work and then maybe give them an option to suggest changes to their liking.

If you do not want comments on your WIP, don't show them the WIP. Because yes, for a client it's very hard to understand that they can't give you any feedback on what you're showing them. This is not only like that for designers, but it's like that in almost any career.

Make a very clear agreement of what you're delivering to the client before you start. Tell them you will show them the finished artwork and that they can give feedback AFTER you've finished. If you want or if they really want it you can discuss making some rough sketches to determine you're on the same page with the artwork.

This is how I do it with my web design work at least. I give the designer a moodboard and wireframes to look at, if that's what they want. But they won't get to see the work before I'm done, because before that it's simply not the finished product yet.

To give an example of how little understanding of your WIP a client really has, webdesigners often have problems with using Lorem Ipsum. When I just started out I have often gotten the comment 'Why are you making my webpage in Latin, I need it to be in English??1!!1'. Even the concept of dummy content is often too far fetched for them. They have a vision for your end product and are probably scared it won't turn out how they want it to be.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Vincent Jul 26 '16 at 11:42
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Everyone's process is a bit different. When I'm designing, I create three comps, or rough versions, for the client to choose from. I make it clear that these are ROUGH designs, not final, specifically and explicitly to get client feedback on direction.

The client can muck about with comps all s/he likes, mix and match, go in another direction entirely. Comps are deliberately not finished (FPO photos, Greek text) so it's not a ton of my time invested.

This allows your client to put as many thumbprints as s/he needs to feel involved, gives you feedback so the project isn't going too far off the rails, and lets you both focus on something you know the client actually wants.

If you as an artist feel threatened by client feedback on a commissioned WIP, then you're in the wrong job. If you want to create something which is purely your artistic vision, then create your artwork and offer it for sale as a finished piece. But "commission" means you're being paid to realize someone else's vision. You can do your best work on that vision, you can offer your hard-earned experience to advise the client in the best execution of his/her goal, but ultimately if the client wants blinking glitter, it's your job to provide blinking glitter, not bitch about it.

  • 1
    Of course theres a sharp difference between a commissioned artwork or my own. I am by no means offended or easily annoyed by a clients requests, getting feedback is very important to guarantee you have a happy customer afterwards. But there was this one guy who wanted an animated artwork, and every little change I made after a request resulted in 4-5 more change requests, until it got to the point where I just pulled the damn thing through, because he was the cause I sat on a simple artwork for 10 hours, instead of my normal 1 or 2. And with a 10$ payment, my tolerance sank towards the end. – beggarboy Jul 26 '16 at 10:18
  • @beggarboy Oh absolutely, you have to decide if the client/project is worth your time. I think the case you're describing is an outlier, not a typical workflow. I'd have ditched him too. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Jul 26 '16 at 11:10
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    This is the correct answer! – Lightness Races with Monica Jul 26 '16 at 17:13
  • hey @LightnessRacesinOrbit, I didn't know you were on this stack! I see your wonderful answers on SFF all the time and wanted to tip my hat to you (and your snazzy MU T'Pol avatar ;) ). – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Jul 26 '16 at 19:31
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    @LaurenIpsum: Yo. :) Mirror T'Pol FTW – Lightness Races with Monica Jul 26 '16 at 20:52
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I come from a completely different realm being a programmer, but maybe sometimes it helps adopting something out-of-the box.

When I concept something I show my clients mockups of the final design. These mockups are close enough to the final results so the client gets what it all is about, but far enough (and a bit comical) so he won't argue with positioning single elements on the layout or discuss about things that aren't important in that stage.

An example: Mockup Example

I understand that you do not create web designs but artwork, but consider adopt part of this concept for your needs. Why not only show wireframes of your work instead of showing the full progress? This way the client can see what direction your artwork is going, but cannot argue with details.

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    Dah, you're actually not that far off and I can folllow you quite well. I can read and write C# quite well, I get what you mean. Scrolling through all the answers creating a rough sketch / wireframe at the start of the project to set the tracks in the right direction and agreeing that I can have the tracks go slightly left, right or even up or down, seems like the best solution to this. Thanks for sharing and demonstrating the concept with a hollow windows form! – beggarboy Jul 26 '16 at 14:30
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My advice is to finish the work and after show it to the client. If he wants changes he will make a list with them and it will be more easy for you, rather than keeping you on hold with a thing, modifying multiple times so that in the end to say "it looked better the first time". This way you can charge him for the number of reviews you do, so the client will be more careful when he sends you the modifications. You should agree from the beginning how the reviews are going to be made, some offer 1-2-3 free rounds of modifications and charge if the client needs more reviews.

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    But in the end, if it's the annoying type, the client will find a way to annoy and stress you. :) – User552853 Jul 26 '16 at 7:36
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As someone else already stated, I too, come from an entirely different universe, web development.
Still, I think this little piece of advice can be helpful in any case you "create" something for a client, no matter what you do.
As a personal observation, I noticed that the best results come from investing a little time in a rough design (as someone mentioned already a bit before).
Make sure you discuss with the client his preferences and they are clear. Show him options, expose new ideas and listen to his.
The next time you show him something is just before finishing, like when the project is 90-95% ready. That's the moment when he can put his fingerprint on the idea itslef and you will also avoid being frustrated from changing something AFTER when it's finished.
Again, from personal experience alone, I noticed this way the client feels that you involve him too in the creation process but at the same time you get the least bit annoyed as possible while maintaining a good communication with him.

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I'm surprised no one mentioned having a good portfolio. This should give the client a sense of your style and ability before the work is even commissioned. You also want to get as much feedback from the client before starting - preferred color schemes, styles, comparable artwork, etc. - to minimize any miscommunication.

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