4 insights every designer should know to successfully operate through value and nourish a long-term relationship with the client.
In a recent Clubhouse conversation, creative strategist Chris Locke and I collected our ideas and observations on the value of design in business. In this post, you’ll find four insights for your design or creative business paired with practical tips on implementing this useful information into your day-to-day business practice.
1. Designers are great listeners.
The value of your design is based on how well you understand your client’s goals and business context.
It’s important to understand that design is never a goal itself, but always a means to the goal. It helps communicate a message correctly, present a product attractively, and increase the usability of a service. The better the designer understands the business background of his/her client, the more effective the designer can customize his/her design service and deliver the best results.
To understand your client, you need to engage in a conversation. A good conversation starts with listening and asking a few trigger questions. Ideally, you use open questions that lead to the client doing the talking, and you getting a better understanding of the client’s needs when it comes to design.
Use a helpful ‘5x why’ technique. By asking several times why a certain goal is important, you’ll subtly guide the client into a deeper conversation about the core goals and acute needs.
2. Designers are problem-solvers.
The value of your design is based on how well you can measure the results.
Another important metric of your design’s value is measuring the results. There is always a business/ communication/ sales/ marketing result that the clients want to achieve (e.g. presenting the brand with what it stands for, communicating certain advantages of the product, standing out from the competitors, etc.)
The more specific the designer and client define which goal to reach, when (date) to measure, how to measure (which indicator) and what to do next (conclusions, follow-up steps), the more valuable & visible the design becomes.
Use a proven method (like design thinking) to structure and substantiate your design decisions.
Your creative process is iterative by its nature, repeating a combination of diverging and converging steps. Next to applying this creative work process to design work, you can also exercise it when Co-Creating, involving your clients, their clients and eventually relevant stakeholders. Design thinking and its condensed version, design sprint, are easy to learn and might offer a promising value proposition to your design proposition, especially when human-centred innovation is aimed for.
Make sure to determine specific and relevant KPIs (key performance indicators), SMART goals or metrics to assess results accurately, ensure transparent communication and support the client in further steps to the best of your abilities.
3. Designers co-design with clients
The value of your design is based on how well you communicate with your client.
Design is a creative process undertaken by the designer and the client in tandem. Involve your clients’ team. Guide them through the process and offer help where needed. Make sure that they (not you) make big decisions.
For the project’s success and the long-term flourishing relationship with the client, it’s essential that you communicate transparently and in the (business) language that your client understands.
As a designer, you can serve your clients on multiple levels. The most obvious and initial level is the development and delivery of products and services, e.g. an e-brochure, video animation or illustrated infographic. You receive a project with an accompanying brief and develop the product based on the goals and restrictions.
But you can also broaden the scale of your product/service. You could offer add-ons, such as a landing/sign-up page or a social media video of static graphics. Eventually, you’ll bring in professionals with contrasting expertise and complimenting experiences.
Also, you can level up your position, which requires business acumen and marketing experience. If you have both, you can serve as a business partner for developing a brand strategy.
Listen carefully to the terms used by your client and make sure you align on achieving the primary results.
4. Designers think and act strategically.
The value of your design is based on how well you can foresee the situation and adapt to the changes.
In the design process, many changes can happen along the way. It’s important to stay flexible and pivot whenever needed. Keep an inquisitive mind. Asking questions will help you stay aware of any new developments. Prototype fast and test often to minimize risks and maximize achieving goals.
Also, focus on the holistic customer experience: map out their journey and improve customer experience weak moments.
To learn more, read the book ‘Creative Strategy and the Business of Design’ by Douglas Davis.
Dare to position yourself as a creative / design business partner rather than a supplier of design services.
Want to gain more insights into creating business value through design?
Schedule a free discovery call HERE.