I’ve been working in the design industry for almost 16 years now. When I started back in 2002, websites were made with tables and web designers were in charge of both UX, UI and front-end coding.
I started to be in daily contact with clients since my very first job as a designer in a small design studio in northern Italy. After that, I had the opportunity to run my own design business, work within a large multinational corporation and in a renowned digital agency in Switzerland.
During all these years a lot of things have changed in our industry: technology evolved at a fast pace, tools enabled an impressive production capability, communication became instantaneous. But one thing have not changed: people are people.
Working side by side with managers of small, medium and large corporations taught me a couple of things on how to successfully maintain a healthy relationship with clients and stakeholders.
1. Listen (and listen)
One of the most powerful design tools is your ears. Listening to your client’s needs, objectives, hopes, expectations, tastes, preferences are all valuable insights to drive you in the right direction. As Epictetus told:
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”.
It is great to have clients capable to talk a lot so that you can soak up the company culture, tone, voice and propose something great. The problem is when your client is not very loquacious, and that’s where the second most powerful design tool comes into action…
2. Ask questions (lot of questions)
I am never afraid of asking questions. You know what? Questions are the ultimate tool to get answers. Is as simple as that. Starting from the simplest question: why? A great example is the iterative interrogative technique of the 5 whys, formally developed by Taiichi Ohno of Toyota where each answer is the basis of the next question. If you are more comfortable you can prepare a checklist of questions to address objectives, customer needs, brand positioning, tone of voice, competitors…