Aug 5 2011
Working as a graphic designer has many hazards. These come in the form of fickle or irresponsible clients, or those that have unrealistic expectations. Oftentimes they may approve of something at one point but then later one change their mind. Or maybe they’ll describe what they want and later want something different. One of the worst situations is when they introduce their cousin who has produced what’s known as cousin art. Such art is affectionately named for its lack of design merit. When someone has an artist in the family they feel the best course of action is to use that person’s design ideas. All qualified professionals that ensue are forced to bend to their all powerful design prowess. This has been the bane of many designers.
To manage and mitigate these pitfalls takes effort. The general rules of thumb are to get everything in writing and set expectations appropriately. This means that when the client says they want something you best follow up with an email indicating exactly what they requested and all the details associated with it. If you don’t do this you’re destined for tons of extra work and clients that aren’t happy with the final design.
One aspect to providing graphic designs is offering multiple versions. This is the ultimate defense against fickle clients. Instead of one design they have three to choose from. If managed correctly the designer will build the designs into their contract and make it part of their normal process. Not only is the client more likely to end up with a design they’re happy with but the total value of the contract goes up.
So let’s say you’re a somewhat seasoned graphic designer who knows all this, does all this, and has a process that seems to work for them. There’s one aspect to the iterative design process that isn’t quite complete. It’s how the early designs are presented. The most typical methods are attaching them to an email or uploading them to a server for the client to download. I’ve resorted to this for many file transfers. These methods are archaic and error prone. How do you know the client’s looking at the right design? Or maybe they’re one of those clients that’s not sure how to right click and download the file. Or perhaps they’ll lose it on their hard drive. Clients come in all shapes and sizes. A tool that greatly assists with the design comparison process is CompVersions. It allows designers to upload a variety of designs and then email the link to the client. The client can then view them and indicate their preferences and add comments. It makes the design review process easy and professional.
CompVersions is configured with tiers. First you add clients. Under each client projects can be added. Under each project stages can be added. And under each stage images can be added. This accounts for the various levels of the life cycle of a design project. Some of these may be rough sketches and others may be final drafts. Some may be foreground, background, logos, alternate logos, and so on. Using a variety of projects and stages beneath them you can create a professional flow to help keep the project organized.
Once the project is set up and images are uploaded the designer can share them with the client. They’re sent to the client via email with a private link. The client can navigate to that page and indicate their preference on the various designs and add comments. The client doesn’t need to register or log in; they only need the custom URL provided by CompVersions. In this fashion final designs are reached, with designers uploading the next iteration and clients making their opinions known. Notice that their feedback is always in writing thus creating documentation of previous decisions.
CompVersions strikes me as a product that was built based upon a need that a specific designer had. After years of emailing people graphics they decided that there had to be a better way. They created that better way and made it available to all designers. With it designers can maintain a professional front with their clients and better manage their projects.