As a designer, one of my biggest challenges is understanding clients' needs. It is my responsibility to fully grasp what a client is looking to achieve, what they are looking to convey to their customer and what feelings they are trying to evoke before I begin my process. But, often times, the client is not sure how to address these questions, and I find myself having to dig for that information. From the simplest to the most complex, all aspects of design hinge on this information. It is the foundation that ultimately drives the ideas and concepts.

A very important part of my process is to make sure that I always have what I need to be confident moving forward with any project. Below are a few of the questions that I feel are very necessary to have answered up front.

1. What is the purpose of the piece?

Why are you getting this done in the first place? This question is very important to answer, because sometimes, it's, unfortunately, an unknown.

2. How will it be used, and in what environment will it be displayed?

This question illustrates a lot of things–size, space, if it will be next to competitors' work. Once this info is known, we can then get a better grasp on how to make you stand out from the herd.

3. Who are you trying to reach with the piece? What is your target audience?

Age range and target market are important variables to pin down, as they both help inform decisions regarding size, color and tone. I'm always looking for trends that may tie into a particular age demographic or cultural group in order to make my work resonate with the target audience.

4. What are the size requirements?

I find that this aspect is often forgotten by clients, especially with print pieces,. Many things come into play here for mailing specifications, print specifications and pricing.

5. What is the budget?

Will I use stock photography or traditional illustration. Can I print using offset processes or should I resort to digital methods.

6. What elements, if any, should be emphasized?

These often are the building blocks of the design. I can sort through, rearrange and build a successful design based on these, once they're defined.

7. What is the desired delivery date?

Timelines and budget often go hand-in-hand. Again, I can derive my plan and make informed decisions based on when the client wants or needs to have their work completed.

8. What is the overall tone that you hope to convey to you customer?

This is key for me; it ultimately leads to the many design decisions that are made throughout the process. Are they looking to be bold, loud, reserved, sophisticated, funny or serious?

There are many more questions that will and should evolve from these during discussion with the client. Obtaining this information up front will lead to better ideas, stronger concepts and overall better outcomes.

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