Convincing clients less is more

Hey everyone! I’m brand new here, so I wasn’t sure where to post this.

So I’m primarily a logo designer and there is a frustrating issue I run into often. Clients will reject simplistic and functional logos while insisting on overly detailed and muddy designs. Some even try to just design through me, rather than letting me handle the process. I try my best to explain what makes a logo not only pleasing, but functional, and most of the time it’s crickets on their end.

My question is, how do you folks approach this situation?
Do you have a go-to argument stopper in your back pocket?

I wish. If you find one, let me know. Otherwise, I can simply reassure you that you are not alone.

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I have this blurb on my logo design questionnaire:

Colour is an important factor in logo design. With the internet, it’s common to see logos that have cool 3D effects, animations, and other visual effects, however if your logo can’t be reduced to a simple one colour flat version for use on faxes, checks and photocopies, it’s ineffective. Please consider all the ways your company’s identity will be circulated. Once this is accomplished, we can always jazz it up later!

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That’s pretty damn good. It seems like if you don’t nip that in the bud right away, they get a choke hold on the idea of having the Mona Lisa for a logo.

Yep, plus I also start out with a B&W version for V1 and usually don’t introduce colour until V3 or so. It can also be helpful if you send them some mock-ups with their logo on it like mugs, shirts, etc. so they can see how useless a detailed design is on promo merch.

For sure. That’s exactly what I do for the same reasons. I don’t know why some people don’t trust their designers to make the correct decisions. I’ve had to absolutely murder designs to a sickening point so that they think it looks “good”. It’s like telling your HVAC guy you want the air conditioner inside your house instead, because you think it looks better.

If you’re designing logos for online contests, I don’t know if there’s anything you can do, which is one of the many problems I have with them.

I’ve gotten to the point where I almost never design just a logo. It almost always involves a more comprehensive visual branding package, branding guidelines and, more often than not, a few projects on which I can implement the new brand.

With all this in mind, I have more than a few chances for extended conversations where I ask tons of questions about their business, their competitors, their customers, their future plans, their history, the problems they run into, etc. Within the context of this conversation I weave in the message that I need to know everything about their situation so that I can give them the best, most targeted, most appropriate work I can. And when it comes right down to it, if there’s one thing clients care most about is how all of this will accomplishing their business objectives.

Wdesign gave you some excellent advice about how to set the tone of the initial conversation to one about how visual branding isn’t just to make stuff look nice — there are real, practical considerations and strategies involved that most clients will appreciate knowing about. This needs to be approached in just the right way, though. It takes a bit of experience and diplomacy to get clients to arrive at the conclusion that their original idea wasn’t quite right for what they want to accomplish.

Often times, you can’t just come right out and tell them; sometimes you need to talk all around the issue a bit until they come to the right conclusions on their own because when they do that, it becomes their insight and their idea. And sometimes none of this works, in which case, you just do what they want and accept their payment.

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Further to B’s reply, if you explain why it won’t work that can also be helpful… especially when you say it’ll be more expensive to reproduce. :wink: I too, will never say “no” if the client is adamant, but I certainly try to steer/guide towards the best solution… until the trust is there, I feel that’s a huge part of the design job… educating the client.

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Yeah that’s absolutely how I approach it. I don’t do full blown branding, but I stay the hell away from contests. That shit gets nowhere fast.

Good points though. Maybe I’m just not being thorough or clear enough when initially discussing the design process with the client. I’ll change things up a bit. See if I get some better results.

Yes, but as you already know it’s often best to avoid being too blunt in dismissing their ideas. Sometimes its necessary to soft pedal the switch from their idea to something better. This often means tossing a little praise in their direction and suggesting that what they’ve said and their idea have triggered some thoughts that might avoid, for example, a down-the-road reproduction issue.

For example, “That’s not a bad idea at all, but those 35 colors and skinny hairlines in your sketch will cost you a fortune to reproduce on your storefront sign. Yeah, it’s too bad. It’s a printing limitation, but how would you feel about me exploring yours and a couple others ideas to work up some alternatives to avoid that problem. I think I can also make it readable from across the street, whereas your idea looks great up close, but from 200 feet away, umm, I don’t know. How about if I bring in some ideas, then we’ll pin them up on the wall and look at them from across the room to see which one people will be able to read best as they’re driving down the road? One of the main reasons you have a sign on your store is to seen and recognized by possible customers, right? I’ll see what I can do with your logo to make that possible.”

The way you win an argument with a client is to educate them without belittling them. To start, I’d do an audit of their competition, on both a national/industry level and a local level. Does anyone else use a logo with the simplicity you’re proposing?

Next, I would consider doing a mock-up of where their logo will actually live. Sometimes clients think the logo needs to tell all the story, but once they see it in context they’ll realize that the collateral, website, or signage the logo is placed on helps to tell the story.

Finally, I would consider presenting some transitional logos. Start with one that is exactly how the client wishes it to be (busy and confusion) and then make one how you’d recommend it to be. Create a few more to represent the mid-transition of one logo to another. It is literally meeting in the middle.

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To show that a simple logo is most effective, it can help to show the client the logo in a row of other logos in a lockup such as at the bottom of a poster or flyer.

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