Have you ever been in a the situation where you’re working on a project and you can’t stop worrying about whether or not the client is going to be happy with the final solution?

What if you get all the way through the project execution phase and present it to the client… only to have them say that it’s not what they’re looking for?

What if you’re forced to go back to the drawing board?

If you find yourself in that constant state of worry, you should take a step back and determine if you’re really solving the problems at hand. When you find yourself worrying, it’s often a byproduct of doubt. Are you you truly confident that you’re meeting the demands of the project?

You’re being paid to solve a client’s problem with your work and if you’re not delivering a solution, then of course the client isn’t going to be satisfied.

Here is the approach I take in every project to guarantee client satisfaction.

Defining Success Criteria

A project isn’t going to end with success if the process that it follows from the beginning isn’t in a constant state of success. If you don’t know the problem you need to solve before you start designing, then the project is already in a state of failure.

You need to ask questions before you start offering solutions.

When you ask the client questions that expose the problem at hand, you’re going to end up with the criteria you need to execute the project successfully. Write out each piece of this criteria as an individual bullet point and use these bullets as a checklist that you can constantly refer back to.

It is crucial that you and the client are on the same page. Have a conversation with them about the information you’ve gathered and walk them through each bullet. Refine that list as needed prior to starting work.

The client needs to understand and agree to the problems that need solving or else they won’t be able to acknowledge a successful execution.

Having a list of project criteria that you can constantly refer back to makes your job significantly easier. It turns subjective guesses into objective decisions.

Once the criteria is locked and in place, it’s time to get to work.

A Reason Behind Every Decision

When you start exploring design options, it can help to focus on quantity over quality.

Put every single idea, good or bad, on to paper. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’ve exhausted all of your ideas. You’ll then pick options to move forward with and refine.

The options you choose to move forward with should satisfy the criteria you’ve defined at a high level.

In other words, is this an idea that you’ll be able to develop to a point where you’ve solved your initial objectives? If the answer is no, the idea is not worth pursuing.

Throughout the design execution, challenge yourself by justifying every design decision you make.

Why did you choose thick san-serif letters? Why are they all uppercase? Why did you track out the letters? If you’re designing a logo for a mobile phone app, perhaps you chose these treatments in the interest of legibility at various screen sizes.

Every granular detail you implement into a design should be a reinforcement of the criteria you’re designing against. Write each one down so you can refer back to them when you present your solution to the client.

When you design against a strict set of criteria and solve those design problems, you can be confident that you’ve met the demands of the project.

The Big Sell

You don’t need to be nervous anymore — you’ve checked your work thoroughly and now have a reason behind every decision you’ve made throughout the creative process. Now, the only thing left to do is show the client how you’ve sovlved the problems.

When you approach your client with the final solution, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • First, you need to present your work — not just email it over and say “Here it is. Let me know what you think.”

    Put together a presentation in the form of a case study (you can use this later in your portfolio). The final presentation comes together easy if you’ve photographed your process throughout. Show your sketches and all the notes that went along with them. Explain the widths, angles, spacing — everything.

    Most importantly, touch on every bit of the criteria that you and your client agreed to initially. It’s essential that you convey to your client that didn’t just make something cool — you designed a solution with their objectives in mind.

  • Avoid words like “I think”. You know. If you’ve provided an all encompassing solution without question, there’s no reason to speak without firm confidence.

  • A client will always have opinions. But you must remember that most of the time, those opinions are their own personal opinions — not the opinions of their audience. You didn’t do design work for your client. Your client hired you to design work for their audience.

    Don’t hesitate to remind them of this. It shows that you’re not interested in appeasing them personally — you’re interested in making them successful.

The TL;DR

Define the criteria. Create a written list of the problems that your design must solve for in order to be considered a success. If you meet all of the criteria, you can prove to the client that you’ve solved the problem.

Meet that criteria. There needs to be a reason for every design decision you make. Those reasons are done in the interest of meeting the criteria. Document these design decisions for proof that you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do.

Present the solution confidently in a way that demonstrates the design decisions you’ve made and how those decisions reinforce the project goals.