Change, Change, Change

The Purpose of Revisions

Graphic designers live in an interesting world, essentially being experts judged and critiqued by non-experts on a daily basis. Our business and income depend solely on the opinions of those who know they can’t, or won’t, do the work they are hiring us to do. At the end of the day, it’s always up to the client which direction to move. Still, the beginnings of a frustrating experience with a project are almost always tied to revisions.

I believe this is because the purpose of revisions is usually not talked about throughout the engagement. For many designers, concepts may be presented in person or emailed out, but are almost always paired with a simple, “What do you think?” This leaves the door wide open to changes from all directions and oftentimes a lot of these changes hurt a project’s outcome more than help.

The cost of being particular.

If you’re a business owner or marketing team member hiring a designer, you’re the one handing over the check and building the business. So when those first concepts finally come around, the fear can set in pretty quick. Does this style really represent your business? Is this the color you were thinking of? Do you even like how it looks? Will other people like it? Why were some of your suggestions heard and others seem ignored?

It’s completely natural to feel the need to control the work. After all, you’re the one who’s going to have to live with this work and utilize it for your business. The problem with allowing the feedback to become too particular ties back to the idea of hiring an expert. If the designer hired is trusted and qualified, it’s fair to assume they’ve thought through the details of the work. Not only that, they’ve tried a wide variety of approaches to land where they are, both on this project and work from other clients. To become hyper-controlling is to ignore the possibility (and usually the reality) that the designer knows how to solve the creative problem better than the client. After all, if that’s not true then why hire the designer at all?

The confusion of being vague.

On the other side of things, some clients can be so overwhelmed or disconnected from the work that feedback becomes broad and vague. Designers want to solve creative problems, but without a clear problem in place it’s impossible to find solutions. The classic, “I don’t like it” or “I’ll know it when I see it” feedback takes the designer back to the drawing board without any direction or strategy to improve the work.

Get on the same page before you start.

The biggest impact on revisions actually comes long before the work starts. First, it’s largely dependent on the trust between the client and designer. Although trust takes time to build, reviewing portfolios and meeting in person with designers should ensure that the client is in good hands. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, the project has a high chance of going downhill.

Second, kick off meetings and creative briefs set the goals in place. Gathering and organizing information on the purpose of the project, the hopes for the outcomes and the practical needs of the work give a baseline for the creative to be judged upon.

The benefit of being focused.

If trust is established and the goals of the project are clearly defined, both the designer and the client have a clear roadmap of where to take the work. Keep the feedback based on these goals and the work will benefit from revisions rather than becoming complicated or convoluted in the process. This will also allow the designer (rather than the client) to find creative solutions to the problems. And finally, the work will get done more efficiently and you’ll get more out of your investment.