Thursday, October 17, 2013

3 Expectations Graphic Designers Must Manage Effectively

It's been quite a few years ago, but it still pains me to think about it.

My car was getting old at the time. I had no more car payments to make. However, my car started to sputter until I had to get it towed to a car repair shop. At that time, my wife and I had just moved into a new area, so we couldn't afford to tow it to my usual repair shop. We found one in the immediate area that was clean and efficient, and the repairman was kind and courteous.

I discussed with the repairman my situation. I didn't want to spend over $800, because I figured I would need a new car. But if the repair would be less than $800 I was willing to get the work done. So I asked the repairman to check the car out and let me know how much it would cost before doing any work. He let me know that other than the $150 to inspect the car, he would do just that.

A day later I got a call from the repairman that my car was ready. "What!" I was startled. I asked him why he didn't call me with an estimate? He ignored me and just went on to tell me I owed them around $2000. I demanded he explain why I should pay them. Long story short, after a series of angry exchanges, I ended up paying him the $2000 to get my car back. Needless to say, I never used them again, and I steer people away from them.

That repair shop made some errors in customer service that graphic designers can learn from. In the design profession it is critical to manage expectations well. Otherwise, we can disappoint or fail to deliver for our clients. This is bad business and bad for our reputations.

Clear communication is key

The key to managing expectations is clear communication about three expectations client's have of a project: the time, the features, and the budget.

Graphic designers need to understand what a client wants done, when they want it done, and how much they can afford to get it done. If the timeline is too tight, and the features and desires remain the same, this will affect the budget. It's the designers job to clearly inform the client of potential risks when one of these three aspects of a project don't match. This allows the client to understand the ramifications ahead of time and adjust their expectations appropriately.

Whenever a client asks for something that violates any of these three considerations, we must make sure to provide options that get all three expectations aligned with each other. It's important that we have a clear understanding of what the client ultimately wants, so that we will be in a better position to negotiate.

And last, we must do what we say we will do. If we consider all three of a client's expectations thoroughly, and we and the client are in agreement with what must be done, we must deliver. The client is trusting us.

So, we must make sure our estimates are accurate; we must consider how time, features, and budget impact each other; we must communicate clearly with the client; and we must follow-through.

Photo courtesy Cohdra of

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