Most corporate identity or branding initiatives have a great deal to do with change, both personal and professional. If this is a new brand, has the client forsaken a steady paycheck to launch their dream business? If this is a rebrand, is the new CMO on the hot-seat to revive the business and get results? Whether embarking on a rebrand, or developing a new brand altogether, chances are you have caught the client at a time when they are under a great deal of pressure stemming from change. Part of your job as a designer is to serve as their steadfast guide through the entire process. Being sympathetic to the client’s position can really go along way here.
Jointly defining the scope of the project from the outset is critical. I like to discuss a client’s needs and concerns at the first meeting. I then follow up with another meeting and walk them through a previous project I worked on that was similar in scope. I find that most of my clients have had very limited, if any, interaction with a designer before. Simply showing and explaining the process to them can be a real eye opener, for both parties. This shows them what to expect.
Fill out a creative brief with the client. And not just some generic one you nicked off a web site. Make your own and tailor it to each project’s needs. Do this with the client. Design can be subjective and personal. The goal of the creative brief is to make sure that the project is meeting the objectives you both agreed upon, and not the needs and wants of the individuals who happen to be involved in the process. Use the brief as a measuring stick throughout the process.
Before you begin any designing, write a contract. In that contract, make it clear—whether you are charging per hour, or as a project—what the final deliverable(s) will be. Also note if and how you will handle any client revision requests, how many, and how they will be billed. If the client pushes for more options, or begins to get off scope, gently remind them of the parameters of the project as outlined, and agreed to upon, in your contract. Many clients will begin to get ahead of themselves as they realize all the other needs they are going to have once a new brand is rolled out. It can be overwhelming. Again, be understanding.
Look for ways to involve a client in the design process. I’m not advocating having them stand over your shoulder while designing, but keyword generation exercises, mood boarding, even collaborative brainstorming help keep the client engaged in the process. When the client feels good about, and involved in, the process (and they should be!), They will be less apt to reject concepts that you developed in a vacuum. To paraphrase Bruce Mau, design the process in such a way so that it drives the outcome, and not so the outcome drives the process.