It’s Not Personal: Detaching Yourself from Design to Cater to the Target Audience

Posted: September 2, 2015

When going into a new project, it is expected that the client will want the best possible product. When going to a new project, it should also be expected for the designer to deliver the best possible product.

In order to obtain the highest quality end-product (which is always our goal here at VisionPoint Marketing), a number of things need to happen. One of the most important things, as we see it, is that the client be involved as a true partner throughout the process. I could write a lot about our approach to partnering with clients and all the benefits of this approach, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to focus on just one aspect: providing feedback throughout the process … especially as it relates to design.

There are times during a project when a client may not agree with the visual approach that is being taken, and it is important for the client to express their concerns. However, this can be challenging for many clients for a number of reasons. Clients may not be versed in design and don’t have the vocabulary to express what they’re feeling in a way that translates to the designer. This is actually okay because the way we look at it, you shouldn’t have to be a designer to tell us what you’re feeling about a design. It’s our job to translate for you.

Another challenge we see clients face a lot is that they take the designs too “personally”. This means that they look at something visual and apply their own aesthetic likes or dislikes. Many times we hear things like: “I don’t like green.” or “That reminds me of something from my childhood.” or “Ooooh, that’s cool, I love it.”

The last thing we want our clients to do is feel inhibited to say what’s on their mind, and even when they absolutely LOVE our work, we try to get them to articulate what they love about it. We will always encourage our clients to freely articulate their likes and dislikes, but one important thing we also ask them to do is to keep their target audience in mind (e.g. Don’t take it personally.).

Investment into a project is a must for a client. When becoming invested into a project a client has a better chance of understanding the overall concept of the product being produced. This can at times lead to a client becoming too individually invested into the product.

With that, I’d like to offer up a few things to consider when reviewing design deliverables:

Am I thinking about the institution?

For example “I do not like the color of the look of the website,” sounds extremely personal. It sounds like the client personally does not like the website. This can cause conflict with whomever is recording the feedback. It is unsure why there is a negative reaction to the product. All that is known is that someone does not like something about it.

A better approach would be “I feel like the website does not reflect the institution’s style because ….” This is also personal feedback but it is taking the goals and culture of the institution into account.

Am I thinking about my audience?

Another thing to consider is whether or not the feedback will help in reaching the target audience. It is rare that the client (someone who is usually entrenched in the internal workings of the institution) will automatically be able to empathize with the institution’s target audiences. A designer will focus on creating a product for the specific audiences, and there may be a disconnect between what the client “likes” and what will attract or motivate the target audience.

Why do I like or dislike something?

This might seem like an overly simple question but if a client is getting ready to give feedback it is best to have a reason. Someone might feel like they do not need to a give as to why they like or dislike something but in this situation they do.

We understand that this approach can be a paradigm shift for many, but when thoughtful feedback is given it moves the project above and beyond what may have been originally expected!