Can You Make it Pop? And Other Client Jargon Translations
Updated: 2 days ago
You can tell you've made it as a designer when a client asks, "Can you make it pop?"
Your clients are not designers, and you shouldn't expect them to be. I mean, they hired you for a reason, right? Their role in your relationship is to express their feelings toward their brand, what they want out of this design, and what their visual tastes are. They may not have the proper vocabulary to handle expressing their critiques and comments, but design isn't their day job. As the designer, it's your responsibility to translate what they are looking for and what qualifies as that client's version of good design.
Graphic design exists to fulfill a purpose. When a client wants the design to pop, they're communicating that the current design is not living up to that purpose. Every client wants their design to stand out and make them the most noticed in a crowd of competitors, and every client has different ideas of what that might mean. In general, making it pop means making sure that a specific element of the design is bolder, stronger, more attention grabbing. In response, you might choose to increase the stroke weight, create a higher contrast between the aforementioned object and the background, or add a graphic element to draw the viewers' eyes. Usually this element is a call to action, something that they clear want to express is an actionable item. It's important to remember that some clients just have no design bones in their body, and would prefer a design that looks like a GeoCities page because they want everything to stand out. Other clients will request it to be "fancier." They may mean special ligatures, thinner elements, more muted colors, using a serif or cursive font. Something that would evoke an emotion of elegance and refinement.
Sometimes, all the design needs is context. A billboard may look okay as an isolated image file, but will be much more impactful displayed in a mockup. Their logo design will resonate much more in a branding mockup of business cards and stationery or a full brand sheet. A website wireframe may be the exact design layout your client envisioned, but a mockup with stock photography and colors will make their dreams feel realized. Most people are visual learners, and it's complicated to see if their ideas are translated unless it's specifically spelled out for them.
If your client seems wishy-washy on the meaning of their request, asking some questions may help. Asking about their feelings on the current design, what they would like to feel, what they think the most important part of the design should be, or if you're really stuck, ask if they have any mood board photos to serve as an example. It can be best to take a step back and ask them what they want to feel when looking at the design. Get them to express their emotions and go from there. Do they want the viewer to feel they're experienced, creative, family-friendly? What niche do they fill in their market? What differentiates them from the competition?
Giving clients that "wow factor" is a trainable skill. You have to train yourself to feel the emotions they feel and see their big picture. This is easiest to figure out at the beginning of a contract, with their initial request. Get it in writing! Whether it's an email, scribbled notes, or a text, it's important for your own sanity (and potential legal safety) to keep good notes on your clients and designs. I like to use the notes app on my phone/computer, and during the initial contact, I jot down what I believe are key points. If it's through messaging, I often copy/paste the text with quotes. There's no better way to refer to what your client wants than their own words! If a client is an established business looking for new materials or a rebranding, ask for samples of their current designs. Look at their website, their stationery, their office/stores if they have them. Figure out why they think these things are not working for them the way they want them to. This way you can design the perfect solution without pulling your hair out.