Behind the Scenes: How Design Revisions Work
Being a designer a crap ton of fun but it also has its faults. And if you’re in the biz, you probably know where I’m going with this …! Every one of us has had “one of those” projects that just never ends. As a designer, you have probably had the experience of working with a client who repeatedly asks for revisions with no end in sight. It’s super frustrating, right? The nitpicking. The vague ideas which then turn into vague revisions. It makes one’s creativity fall to the wayside somedays.
But you just want to keep that client happy all the while trying not to drive yourself crazy. It’s important to understand how to avoid getting sucked into the vicious cycle of revisions or losing complete control over the project. There is no “one size fits all” solution but for the sake of your sanity as well as the sake of your clients (for those of you reading this who are “the client”) keep reading to find out a behind the scenes take on how design revision – and this goes for graphic and web design – actually work …
Let’s start with what I like to call step #1. Project Initiation: A Breakdown of the Details (during a kick-off meeting).
We want to work WITH YOU to narrow down your main hub of ideas by asking you the following questions:
- What is your main message? What is the tone?
- Who is your target audience you are trying to reach?
- What are the parameters (timeline, format, dimensions, content, budget, etc.)?
- Is there a specific action you want the end user to take (request more info/download, watch something, buy something, book a call/meeting/consult, etc.)?
- What is your end goal? How do you plan to gauge your success?
After the above details have been sifted, sorted and organized it is time to talk details. Not project-specific but design specific. And yes, by this I mean revisions. We don’t want our clients to make assumptions about what a revision is as everyone thinks differently so this word “revision” is not the same for everyone.
This is the step (#2) where we, the designer, clarifies the following (based on our expertise and contract). We clarify by discussing the following …
- How a revision is defined;
- How many are included during the project at hand; and
- How one will be billed for additional revisions beyond the scope agreed upon.
Remember, each one of your design decisions is strategically made to fulfill the project needs. We just don’t toss it all into a blank page and say, “here you go, this is what I like, the way I like it and feel it will work for you”. It’s not all on a whim. Our creative design work is based upon hours of expertise, creative talents and research.
Include revision time in your quotes so that you are not taken by surprise when a client requests a change (or a certain amount of them).
Set the limit up front with options for if they choose to go beyond the scope of the contract.
The moment your client realizes that revisions are not an all-you-can-eat buffet, suddenly they realize they are not hungry.
~ Lester Beall, Modernist Graphic Designer
Onto the next step (#3) … proofing and feedback.
Your clients are relying on your design skills, whether graphic, web or both, to help them achieve their main goal(s). They may have added pressure on their end to complete things in a certain fashion or within a certain timeline. And we, as designers, may never know if this is pressure on them from another (boss, partner, stakeholder) or from themselves. As entrepreneurs we’re all hard on ourselves so have to keep that in mind while working – no matter what your talents may be. Due to the added stress (and maybe even some anxiety around deadlines) the client may actually feel as though they’re being helpful but to us, poor/unnecessary feedback/revisions during a proofing stage may be quite overwhelming and a waste of time. Especially if we feel we conveyed their vision to the best of our ability or our artistic pride gets in the way.
Another thing to keep in mind during this stage is we may be overwhelming out client. And no, not with our great ideas … that’s a cause for celebration on both parts. But, when it comes to something our client may not understand. And with this I mean technology (e.g. a wireframe of their new website design) or perhaps even the method to your madness (aka. Design genius, LoL). So, make sure to always clarify what you’re looking for during each stage of the proofing/feedback process AND why you created something the way you did. Be clear.
Lastly, and yes, we’re still talking about the proofing stages here. Make sure to use a collaborative proofing tool. This process is one of the most stressful, time consuming parts of any project so finding an easy to use tool for everyone playing a part in the project is most beneficial. You want one that keeps this process stress-free. One where you can consolidate feedback across comments, video conferences, emails and yes, even chat! Everything is important and it’s best if nothing goes missing. NOTHING! Because if even one email slips through the cracks this could cost everyone involved a lot of wasted time, energy and added stress. And we all know, this is not what’s wanted. Stress creates a mess!
Plus, by using a better tool it allows both parties to provide clear and concise feedback directly onto the digital document. I personally have a few favourites that come to mind but for me it also depends on which client I’m working with. Not everyone likes to stay organized and keep on top of things the same way. Here’s 3 personalized examples …
We use Zoom meetings with a screenshare to go over all the details at the start of each project and then again later on when it’s time to begin fine tuning. Then for collaboration in between we use email as well as specifics via PDF files shared between Dropbox. This way the revisions are clearly stated on the document in the exact place the revision is needed. Dropbox sends my computer a notification (as well as to my email) that the client has updated the file or in some instances, added files to Dropbox to complete/revise the project at hand. Then we communicate the less intense details via email. This process rinses and repeats from project initiation to project completion.
The use of Trello organized by boards for a more visual aspect of larger scaled projects. This allows all parties to be able to see what the main idea is, the end goal, what’s being worked on, what’s missing in action, who’s working on what and what’s coming up next. Everyone is able to communicate in one hub and we all get emails updates from the application. Keeps everyone on board at all times.
The use of Asana but instead of being organized in a visual format, like the example in Client #2, everything is laid out in a checklist format. What the main task at hand is then when you click on that specific task (within the project) you can see an area with more descriptive details. Images and text files may also be included as well as the fun option of assigning the task(s) to an individual or a team. Deadlines can be set individually as well as in calendar format.
In reality, it’s all about preference. With your business, you may choose to only use one option as a collaboration tool. But this may become limiting if you plan on having more than one client. Just keep that in mind all the while trying to keep an open mind. Technology is always changing so it’s best to never stop learning.
No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it. ~ H.E. Luccock, Professor and Minister
So, what are the important takeaways of this blog post?
- Your design is for your client, not for you.
- Goals and results drive every decision. Especially when it comes to good design.
- Be clear on everything – this includes the proposal, contract, revisions and timelines.
- Keep your client updated on all next steps from initiation to completion.
- Clarify what you need/want from your client, so they can reciprocate.
- Provide clear direction at all times – this includes using a collaboration tool.
Remember, as a design we need to set expectations right from the get-go of things tend to get messy quickly. It’s part of your responsibility. Don’t leave anything out as this may cause client difficulty. And if that happens, it’s not really them – even though it may feel like it at the time – it’s the lack of information they were provide with at the start. When one sets out all the information one won’t need to explain as much later on!
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