Design Process and Creative Control

As a UX designer when starting a project it’s not uncommon for me to hear the client say they know exactly what kind of design they want. At first when this happened, it seemed great because I felt like I had a clear vision of what the client wanted and thought I could probably create something quickly and efficiently that will meet the client’s needs. I felt that I could almost go straight to designing the project without having to mock up comps or meet in person to further discuss the ‘vision’.

It’s dangerous to fall into this line of thinking. If you do, here are three likely outcomes.

Scenario one:

It’s not actually easier. It’s very cumbersome and you don’t enjoy the process or the final product because you have not been able to become invested in it. You are producing and not designing or innovating.

Scenario two:

A few weeks after the design is finished, a client’s friend tells them the site looks bad and points out some obvious flaws that you may have also noticed but did not speak up about. This inevitably reflects on you, the designer, whether you feel that the design flaws were your fault or not. Your credibility is now damaged.

Scenario three:

You design and construct the site just how your client wants it and you hit the mark. You are able to make it somewhat unique. The client is happy. You aren’t very excited about the design but you can live with it. Everything seems great. This can be fine, but after the process is over the client may be left wondering what was so difficult about it and may question the need for your services.

Obviously these are just a few of many potential scenarios, but perhaps you have experienced something similar. These scenarios are not guaranteed, but I’ve experienced them from time to time. It’s worth taking the time to have more up front communication with clients even if there are disagreements on design.

Make upfront communication and brainstorming sessions a habit. It’s often easier in the short term not to, but long term it often pays off.

What I’ve found will help avoid these types of scenarios is to take the time to walk the client through the design process which includes exploring  options. It may be uncomfortable at times but your client will usually appreciate the process and see more intrinsic value in what you provide. At the end of the day, they may still decide to go with the original design they proposed, but at the very least they will know you are invested in their success and you are putting considerable thought into the work you create for them.

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