Client feedback can be broad, messy, and require some detective work to decode. Most people have their own way of saying things or turns of phase specific to them, where they’re from, or who they grew up with. Even culture can be a factor in how we get feedback from clients. It’s not always easy to get inside a client's head, but no longer!
We’ve been translating our clients’ code for years and here to share some of what we’ve learned! If you read this is and say “Oh. My. God. I say those things!” then know we still love you, but we’re definitely making fun of you!
So, here’s a list (because our brains love lists) of 13 things clients say and what they mean:
1. Can we make this [insert vague adjective here. Usually “pop”.]?
This is the kind of feedback that is unhelpful and subjective. Making something pop, or more edgy, or like a “strong handshake,” (yes we got that once!) is the kind of feedback that makes you slap your forehead in cartoonish exasperation. It’s vague, confusing, and impossible to make work. Instead, ask yourself why something isn’t standing out, and always think about your audience, not yourself, then pass it along!
2. Can we photoshop it?
This is a classic and we blame crime shows. You know that scene in every police/FBI show when they go to the obligatory “tech” person and the overly-attractive detective says “Stop, go back 10 seconds. There! Can we enhance that license plate?” and the tech person says “I’ll try.” Then proceeds to zoom in 1000x and bring the licenses plate into perfect clarity. Well, client’s seem to think Photoshop is the computer program that fixes every issue. Photoshop can do a lot, but it’s not magic.
3. I don’t like [insert colour of rival sports team].
This is why we present logos in black and grey before moving into colour. We’ll see how well a logo works when simplified to grayscale, but it also removes the subjectability of colour. Yes, we’ve had a client disregard a perfect logo because it was Toronto Maple Leafs blue, and they would have nothing to do with it. That was a long day … 4. I’ll know it when I see it.
Another classic, this phrase tells us “I have no idea what I want, and I will ask you to work until you arbitrarily manifest something in my mind.” While design and marketing is art, it’s also psychology and science based in logic, which is why you should always think about your audience and what appeals to them.
5. I just don’t like it.
Ah yes, the end of the conversation. Usually this one starts with “I’ll know it when I see it,” but after some questioning we get smacked with this statement. Back to the drawing board for us, throwing things at the wall ’til they stick. This process ends up being a waste of time and money on both sides. Always ask yourself why you don’t like the design concept, and when you do, only think of your audience and the research. 6. I like it, but [insert name to throw under the bus] has some issues.
Sometimes this is true, and it’s usually about their boss. In those cases, we get it, you have to please this person. However, in a lot of cases it’s a committee issue, and while you agree with the issues, you don’t want to be the baddie. This is an easy fix, narrow the number of people involved. A focused team of one to three people will always arrive in a much more strategic place than a larger group. There’s a reason why the phrase ‘death by committee’ exists. The best and most disruptive ideas are often nixxed because Gary and Janet had problems with it.
7. The target audience is males and females from 0 to 99. (This is slightly exaggerated.)
Speaking of your demographic, you can’t please everyone; just ask any politician. It’s hard to focus on the audience when you think your service or product relates to everyone. Narrow your focus by creating a hierarchy of primary and secondary audiences. By trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one, but narrowing your audience will make your marketing/design more effective.
8. This is great, just [insert edit that changes everything].
This is kind of like the Photoshop thing, but it’s the throw away comment which seems so simple to you but ends up changing everything. The best example comes from a designer friend who had completed an elaborate illustration of a sumo wrestler from behind sitting on a small stool. The client came back and said “I love it! Just turn the sumo around.” It became an inside joke because it’s absurd. Turning the sumo around changes everything, and every hour he put into the original drawing now has to be completely redone. What the client thought would be a simple five-minute fix turned into a five-hour job.
9. I love whitespace, but maybe we can add [insert everything the business does and its life story].
When we started our careers, whitespace was a fairly new idea, but suddenly everyone knew what it was when it was once exclusively a design thing. Here’s the thing, everyone loves whitespace until it comes to their advertising. When you’re looking at your own ads, it’s hard to be objective or even rational. You’re blinded by the need to succeed and the fear that can come with it. “If we don’t tell them about this deal, and that partnership, and this feature, and these price points, and those specs, and that mascot, oh, and we can’t forget Jason our new sales guy, or this charity event we’re doing, they’ll never know who we are, what we sell, and our involvement in the community.” Just … no. All this does is create visual noise, which is filtered out by our brains as just another thing not worth our time. A great example is Times Square. When you go there, your brain sees all the pretty lights and chaos, but do you remember any ads at all? Unlikely.
10. I’m the target market and I don’t like it.
Alright. Great. Now what? This one comes when we mention target markets or demographics or research. It’s when all reason and logic fail, and now all we can do is try to appeal to your personal aesthetic. Which is always a bad idea. Every. Single. Time. Honestly, don’t be this person; this is the, “I want to talk to your manager,” person and we all know at that point the relationship has died.
11. Can we make it like this thing I saw once?
There’s a difference between finding inspiration in the things others have done and plagiarizing them. Will we get in trouble? Nope! It’s right in our contract that you’re taking on that potential lawsuit. Sure we’ll warn you, and in a lot of cases nothing happens. But we have seen it blow up in the client’s face and it has quite the fallout. Just remember you’re not going to create the next Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever else. Besides, don’t you want to be better than that?
12. I want you to break the internet.
Oh Kardasian lady, this is all your fault. Break the Internet is another way of saying, “make it go viral.” Of course, what you think is big and flashy is often just … tacky. It’s impossible to predict what ads and videos will go viral and most of them that have weren’t intended to be. Yes, you can get into human psychology and what makes us share things. However, even then, there's no guarantee. All you can do is create great work and be more adventurous than safe - safe never changed anything.
13. Can we make the logo bigger?
This is it. The one. The only. The granddaddy of all feedback! Look, we get it, you love your logo (especially if we made it), but come on, can you just … not? Your brand is more than your logo and it should not be the only thing the audience can see. Choose the right style of photography, a unique voice in the language, and colours linked to your brand and your audience will know the ad is yours before ever getting to your logo.
Choose your Feedback Wisely
There you go! Offended? Baffled? Need a hug (virtual, of course)? Let’s chat about how we can work for you and make your logo bigger, break the internet, fill up all that whitespace, disregard your target audience, and make your marketing pop!