As a freelancer, you’re going to have to experience the process of getting feedback that just doesn’t make sense. More than likely you’ve witnessed this before, vague feedback a client may give that’s not actionable. It is your job to play interpreter or translator to what the client says so no matter how vague them they are in their feedback there is an expectation for you to change something. To the best of your ability go deeper in asking the client what they mean so you can understand what changes need to be made. Let’s get into some of the most common feedback I’ve heard from clients which are difficult to interpret.

“It just doesn’t pop.”

Though this is annoying to hear you’re still going to have to decipher what exactly this means. Typically when a client says this they mean a particular element of the design did not grab their attention. If you have the ability before the presentation to the client you can perhaps she’ll your design, Logo, web page or whatever the project is you’re working on you can show this to a person and ask them what is the first thing that caught your attention. From there you will have to connect if the first thing that catches people’s attention is the thing that the client wants people to see or notice first.The word pop may also imply the design has something to do with the colors or the contrast of the colors which are used.

“I’m looking for clean design.”

In all honesty there is no such thing as “clean” design. I’ve also noticed different people have varying definitions of the word “clean”. Most designers would assume the word clean is synonymous with minimalist design. When a client gives you this feedback more than likely they are referring to the layout of the design.

  • Is there equal spacing?
  • Is the design crowded with words?
  • How many total elements are on the design?
  • Is the design initiative?

I’ve come to learn that less is more; designs, which are simplistic yet visually appealing, are widely accepted and make sense to everyone.

“Give me multiple designs and then I’ll choose one.”

Choice is a good thing. It allows us to compare and contrast options available to us and then pick the “best” option. The danger with this is you’re subject to the save issue of when a client asks you to “be creative and do what you feel is best.” What happens when you give the client 3 designs and they do not like any of the options?

The best route is to show 1 design and then iterate on what can be improved or changed about the design. Don’t stop by only showing a single design, share your entire process about how you arrived at the design and why other things you tried did not work.

A great resource to consider is: The One Concept Approach: How a Professional Designs A Logo by Sean McCabe

“Feel free to just be creative.”

This is a compliment but can also be complex. It’s a great thing when a client knows what you are capable of and they love your work. Having creative freedom is great, with every project you’ll need a certain degree of freedom to do your best work. However, what happens when you are “creative” as the customer asked for but they do not like what you produce?

This may cause you to redesign multiple times all at the mercy of the clients’ aesthetic opinion. A good example of this is Paul Jarvis, Paul was working with a customer who gave him freedom to be creative but he ended up doing more work than he has ever done just to please the customer.
Every project needs clear direction.

“Everyone is the target audience.”

For any project, there has to be an audience of people the project is tailored towards. Whether it is a website, graphic design, copywriting, consulting or other, the result of the project is to create a solution for an audience. Sometimes that audience is the client but most of the time the target audience is a segment of the larger market.

Too many times I’ve work with clients who say their target is “everyone.” The problem with this is if you’re too broad then you won’t get anyone’s attention. For example, how can you make a logo for everyone? Is it the right colors? Is the logo professional or playful? As a freelancer, you may have to help the client narrow down on who their target audience is.

“I think the image is off brand.”

Normally with print or web design you’ll use imagery for your marketing. I’ve worked with clients in which imagery was holding up a website launch or a flyer design. It was a never-ending cycle, I would choose an image I thought was best, the client would review the image and not like it and the cycle continued.

When developing and designing for a brand, it is best to use custom photography. This way you can control the tone, feeling and the overall message that the photography portrays. If there’s no time for custom photography, it’s best to get the imagery from the client. Lastly, you may have to go the route of stock photography, to help ease this process ask the client to search for the stock photography using what they mentioned is their target audience as a guide to choosing the right photo.

“Can you move the information above the fold?”

Typically I hear this feedback as it pertains to web design. In the past, “the fold” was the front page of a newspaper that can be seen when it is folded in half vertically. For the web “the fold” is the top page of the website that can be seen without scrolling. This has been one of the most debated things on the web.

Currently, there are so many devices website visitors use, which all have different screen sizes and varying folds:

  • Mobile Devices (iPhones, Androids)
  • Tablets
  • Desktop Computers (21” 27”, etc.)
  • Laptops (11”, 13” 15” 17”)
  • TVs (vertical/horizontal)

Which device should you optimize for? Once you choose a device to design for then, it will not be optimized for all of the other devices. Since this is the case the best solution to resolve above the fold issue is to write and design content that hooks the user to want to learn more which will cause them to scroll. I have two nieces and by the age of 2 years old they mastered the art of scrolling on an iPad. People know they should scroll.

If you need more information to explain to clients about the issue of scrolling check out:

  • Randy

    I was looking at your website and noticed it appears the word “Greif” is spelled wrong. I had similar problems on my site until someone mentioned it to me and I also now use software from to keep my site error free.

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