25 Jan 2010

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In-house designers, believe it or not, have access to things that their counterparts in outside agencies will never have; namely the time to connect with their internal clients. Though, as AIGA.org columnist Michelle Taute points out, the in-house designer might feel like his/her fellow employees don’t even speak the same language at times.

Don’t forget: EPS might be the designer’s “Encapsulated PostScript”, but it will be “Earnings Per Share” to a chief officer.

Taute advises to mirror your client’s communication style and vocabulary. For example, here’s how she suggests to effectively communicate with these groups:

C-level executives:

“Making a succinct business case can help you engage a C-level audience because you’re highlighting what they care about most: the bottom line. Before meeting with a senior leader, practice what you’re going to say and eliminate unnecessary information. Also, be ready to swiftly move to the most essential information.”

Marketing and communications directors:

“Most marketing and communications professionals have worked with creative staff members before, but that doesn’t mean communication is always smooth. Meet with your marketing peers to make sure everyone is on the same page with a project before you start the first comp. Outline specific goals and objectives that everyone can work toward. What do you want people to do or think when they receive the brochure? What’s most important to get across? How will you measure success?”

Other staff:

“Unlike marketing professionals who may commonly work with creative teams, staff-level professionals in other departments may have little or no experience collaborating with designers. Because of that, it’s useful to spend a little time educating them on the design process, without using jargon or becoming overly technical. A member of your sales team, for example, may have no idea that making changes to a brochure at blueline could result in cost overruns, for example.”

Finally, Taute shares some basic communication techniques for any client:

“1. Always take a team approach. Adopting an “us vs. them” mentality with a client will only make the project harder.

2. If you’re discussing visual styles, use samples to get on the same page rather than descriptors. “Simple” and “elegant” don’t mean the same thing to everyone.

3. Get to know the client and work on building the relationship. Ask about the biggest tasks and challenges they face, and remember to really listen to the answers.

4. Read the trades. If you frequently work with a particular department—for example, direct marketing—read trade magazines to get a sense of the latest developments and challenges in that industry.”

I might add at this point, that I think numbers 1 and 3 are of utmost importance. Don’t forget- as a designer, you are a problem solver and you are there to provide service to your client. Establishing a relationship and showing that you have just as much vested in a project as the client does shows them that you’re committed to a solution!

Via AIGA.org.

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