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Three Approaches to Teaching Your Clients.design
What’s a designer to do? Buddy Chase of Studio 3 in Ellsworth, Maine, suggests
three approaches. One is to pretend you’re teaching first grade, repeating the
basics over and over (without losing patience, of course) until your “student”
makes a breakthrough and finally comprehends what you’re saying. You can
also write up a Format Specifications sheet with step-by-step directions to be
sent just as the project kicks off. If your relationship with the client appears to
be a long-term one, a third option is to invite them in to your studio for a handson
demonstration and mini-lesson geared to saving them money once they
learns to deliver photos you can actually use.design
Addressing Glitches
Now for the second most frequent problem: text and cross-platforming. If your
client is a Microsoft Works user, he won’t know that some files still cannot be
read by Macs. Even in ASCII (short for American Standard Code for Information
Interchange), blips still occur. The buzz is that in the very near future this
problem will be alleviated with chip advancements, but for now you can teach
your client the very basic Neanderthal technique of copying the file and pasting
it into an e-mail, which he sends to you. Don’t forget to warn the client that
cross-platforming glitches can still crop up on the galleys so he should proofread
very closely. If the client does paste text into an e-mail, and he has used “smart”
quotes, accents, and certain other complex punctuation marks, it’s very likely
that the message you receive will be filled with junk. In that case, call the client
back and walk him through saving the file as an RTF and resending it to you.
Graphic designer Marty Lyons of Studio 3 shares an important lesson he’s
learned the hard way: “Before you ever start importing the client’s text into your
layout, first stop and check for consistency of punctuation styles.” If he forgets,
Lyons says he’s resorted to copying and pasting the text into an e-mail, which he
sends back to himself. “Luckily, my e-mail program turns the text into an ASCII
file and that’s been the only way I’ve been able to shake off some of the weirdness
of formatted text.”
Designer Shamus Alley adds his hard-earned wisdom. “The bottom line is that there is no bulletproof system for cross-platform or even cross-program text yet, so I still have to double check everything. Never assume. As the owner of a small design business, I consider proofreading critical because if something needs to be reprinted, it comes out of my pockets . . . and when you’re just starting out and living on mac and cheese, there’s just no budget for reprints.” Stay with the beginner’s mindset a bit longer as we tackle electronic proofs. Go back to square one and ask if the client has Adobe Acrobat and, if so, what version so you can send PDFs (short for portable document format, in case your client asks). Chances are the client lacks a factoid you already possess; namely, Acrobat’s quirk of reading down but not up. Before you launch into a mini-lesson about how a later version of Acrobat software can read a PDF made with an earlier version of Acrobat, but an earlier Acrobat version cannot read a document created in a later Acrobat version, first ask yourself if the client even seems capable of comprehending what you’re saying. If not, save your breath.design But, then again, who knows? Maybe some of your clients will surprise you with their ability to edit PDFs online. Other clients might not ever reach that point. For some, even downloading free Acrobat software in order to receive PDFs may prove too challenging. If that’s the case, pop a laser-printed hard copy of the proofs in the mail and vow to fight the technology battle another day. Whether your client reviews the electronic proofs or hard copy ones, it is essential that you get him to sign off that the copy has been reviewed and approved. Studio 3 uses the handy electronic approval form shown on the following page.design The final problem we’d like to address in working with neophytes is their inability to previsualize the finished design. While seemingly onboard right up until the moment they see the proofs, they suddenly wince and groan, “That’s not what I wanted. At all. You’ll just have to change it.” In this situation, pull out the work order (aren’t you glad you have one?) or quote, and gently break it to the client that redoing means spec changes, which means price increases. Good luck with that one!design Shamus Alley offers another suggestion for dealing with clients who don’t know what they want. “Sometimes I show them two approaches. The first is what I’ve designed (what I think looks best) and the second option is what they say they are looking for. Make the buttons as big as possible, take every last bit