What does your customer actually want?

05 July 2011

If you're a designer I bet you have talked to a customer once, thought you understood what he wants, created something very nice, but it turned out the customer didn't like it and wanted something completely different.

For many designers this sounds all to familiar. Therefore it's most important to get "on the same level" with your client and try to understand him as clearly as possible in the first meeting.

A while ago, during a NLP coaching session, a trainer made an analogy of wich I think very often when trying to get things clear. Let's try this...

Think of a dog. This dog is walking on the pavement. It crosses the road and walks towards you. Can you picture this? Good. What color does this dog have?

Wrong. It is a purple dog.

This illustrates the fact that everybody thinks something else when you talk about an issue that is subject to personal interpretation. Everybody thinks of a completely different image when thinking about a dog, for example. One might think of a huge brown St. Bernard dog, or a tiny white Chihuahua. Two completely different dogs, but both very plausible.

The same happens when somebody talks about a design. If a customer wants a "sophisticated" logo I can tell for sure he thinks of something completely different than you, as a designer, do, despite that "a sophisticated style" is something you would think is quite clear.

I use a trick when talking to client: if a client mentions something that can be thrown out the window without the glass breaking, it is perhaps something he sees otherwise than you do. Try to ask enough questions to get the subject as clear as possible. What color has the dog? How big is it? Etcetera.
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