How to Read Your Client’s Mind
It can be hard making clients happy and even more difficult when certain factors, such as design, can be subjective. When it comes to design, many non-designers don’t have the language to articulate precisely what they want. And “I know what I like when I see it” is never helpful. If your print shop is trying to design or select a pattern for a material, there are questions you should ask to get inside your client’s head. With a firm grasp of their vision, before you start working, you’ll be able to confidently design a product they’ll like and buy.
5 Questions to Ask a Client:
Do you have examples?
It is extremely helpful if a client can show you examples of other patterns they have had success with. For example, you can see that all their best-selling florals are very traditional, very contemporary, or very romantic. If they don’t have examples of past successes, see if they can bring examples of other patterns that they like or think would work. They can do this by bringing in pages from a magazine, photos they’ve snapped, or making a Pinterest board. The more visuals, the more information you have to create something original.
Do you have color references?
Green can mean a lot of things. So too, can something seemingly more specific, like grass. (Is the grass they look at all day in Arizona or Maine? These are two very different colors.) A physical color reference eliminates any misinterpretation and is very useful for color management when it comes time to print. Working with a system such as Pantone assures you that everyone is looking at the same exact shade of green.
How do you envision the customer experience?
Sometimes knowing the experience your client is trying to achieve can give you a lot more information than simply knowing what they like. For example, if they want you to create a pattern for a restaurant, how do they want the diners to feel in that restaurant? Do they want them to feel like they’re someplace hip and trendy, or private and romantic? Just hearing “I want a floral” would not give you the information you need to create a floral for either of those examples.
What can you tell me about your customers?
Making your client happy is essential, but if their customer isn’t happy, they may go elsewhere for services next time. Asking a client to speak about their final customer can yield a lot of helpful information.
Can you give me some feedback?
If this is a client you’ve worked with previously, ask them about the results from your previous work, including the successes and the failures. They may want another winner but knowing what didn’t work is also valuable. Also, seek feedback periodically throughout the process so that you’re always moving forward confidently.
Whether you are printing for a large project or a small one-off, knowing how to decipher what your clients want will ultimately lead to a healthy relationship and mutual success for years to come.
Kristen Dettoni is the founder and CEO of Design Pool LLC, the only pattern library created exclusively for interior designers. Since 1996, Kristen has worked for mills throughout North America, designing fabrics for automobiles, furniture, and home furnishings. She developed the first sustainable upholstery fabric for office interiors, the first sustainable upholstery fabric for automotive interiors, and was awarded a patent for automotive suspension seating. Kristen believes strongly in the power of good design to transform our environments and experiences.