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Are My Clients and I from the Same Culture? Do We Share
the Same Language, Expressions, Customs, and Values?
When you conduct business with clients from other cultures, communication
challenges are compounded. Besides needing to translate design jargon into
everyday English, you also should pay attention to idiomatic expressions, customs,
and values from your clients’ culture and your own that can lead to misunderstandings.
For more information on working across cultures.
EXPLAIN DESIGN PROCESSES
In order to get your clients on board with deadlines, help them understand
issues, and convince them to approve the changes that will arise as your project
proceeds from beginning to end, they’ll need to understand what the design
the process involves. This means that you’ve got some explaining to do, and just
how much depends on the individual client.
Asking yourself these questions helps you get clear about the way you will
structure your client communication as well as make decisions about the amount
and depth of information you will provide:
• What will the client need to do with the information (make a decision,
give approval)?
• How much of the process will the client need to know to do what he
needs to do?
• How much does the client want to know (interest, patience,
detail-orientation)?
• How much about the process does the client already know?
• Will the client need to share information about the process with others
(and what and why will the others need to know)?
It’s one thing to have internalized how a design process works, yet it’s quite
a different matter to explain that process to another person. This is particularly
true because at least some of what you know about design probably comes from
your intuition and visual acuity. However, if you are to break down the steps for
your client, you must first become reacquainted with the various stages yourself.
The ability to explain a process is a skill, and like any skill you can acquire it by
learning or refamiliarizing yourself with the different stages.
When you explain a process, you’re describing how something operates,
how something is done, or why something happens (cause and effect). These
explanations are often used in combination. For instance, you might describe
how the printing process operates and how one stage depends upon another
in order to explain why a certain deadline is necessary. The length and depth
of your process description depends on the audience analysis questions bulleted above. Don’t rush right in to explaining the stages of a design process. Instead, introduce it with a brief overview. Providing a framework beforehand makes it easier for listeners/readers to comprehend a series of details. In this overview you should also explain why it’s necessary for your client to become familiar with the process. Also describe how a process fits into the bigger picture; for instance, how creating a design brief leads to ultimately reaching a marketing objective. You can explain the process in a few ways: sequentially (first “stage a” is done, second “stage b” is done, third “stage c” is done, etc.), chronologically (how the process changes over time), or by cause and effect (this happens when that happens, causing a certain result). We’re breaking down the ways of explaining into three discrete categories to help you get a handle on them, but remember that a good explanation often requires that you combine the methods. As you explain the process, define any technical terms your client might not understand. Do this subtly; your goal is to educate your client without talking down. To ensure that your client doesn’t get lost along the way, occasionally ask for feedback, such as “Are you still with me?” or “Do you have any questions at this point?