As a Communicator, It’s Your Job to Help the Client See

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with nearly 30 years of experience designing communications for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

Give Your Client Reading Glasses.

The road ahead is dark and clients cannot see with your help. You need to illuminate it.

Help them understand what you are thinking; they cannot read minds. Unfortunately, the client has an inability to visualize concepts without reviewing a layout or comp. Just assume that the client is not right-brained and cannot imagine what you are proposing.  Provide a conceptual roadmap.

patient at oculist

Create a map to the finish line
This starts the ball rolling. Some clients are unwilling to commit on a proposal or don’t know where to start. By jumping in feet first and developing some concepts, you give them a better way to get engaged with the project and to have a map to the finish line.
Provide a treasure at the end of the rainbow
By providing comps, the marketing firm can give the project manager all the necessary tools to sell the concept and get the “buy-off” from their superiors. The project manager can also “firm up” the budget for the project once an accepted design direction is chosen. This then “frees up” the creative firm to get bids on printing, advertising, promotions and/or media.

Facilitate the development of on-point edits
Yes, there may be more rounds of edits with preliminary comps but at least they will be more on target and focused. Clients generally like to make edits once they have a visual. The fact that you have given them “eyesight” now allows them to see what they need to change. Making every round of edits readily available often results in more edits than not but it also helps to keep a project on track and moving along.

Steps to take:

  1. Make a schematic of the direction you are going.  This can be as simple as a  quickly drawn flowchart or sketch.
  2. Write a brief description of  three ideas or concepts. It doesn’t have to be a dissertation. Keep it short and to the point. Send this to the client along with the schematic and get their “buy-off” on the initial direction.
  3. Create color comps of three concepts. Try mocking up the cover and one or two spreads so that the client can get a visual “picture” to sink their teeth onto. Take their input and incorporate it into a full-blown visual rendering that includes all text and photos. Make this the first draft. Then allow the client to review and mark-up with their input.
  4. Present concepts. Walk the client through each conceptual idea step by step. Hold their hand. Pitch the idea and make them feel comfortable with it. In short, SELL the concept to them. Don’t just blindly send the comp without taking the time to present. Hearing a client’s auditory cues will actually give you valuable feedback and direction.
  5. Solicit input from the client.  This is essential to moving forward. The client needs to review and approve the photo choices, the colors, the layout, size, folds, and overall designBe sure that the piece fits within the corporate brand. Show them how it does.

specspatternrevisedDon’t go blindly into a project. The client needs to know where you are going and you need to get their approval at each step of the project. It is always best to avoid surprises. By providing  great communication up-front you will gain your client’s confidence.  This will  help to make the process smother and create customer satisfaction when the end-product is finally unveiled.


If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique solution for a promotion or marketing campaign, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more, please visit

Harlan West is the author of and has been working as a creative director and design professional for nearly 30 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes. HWDS and Associates, Inc. has been in business for 25 years.

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