"Getting to the right visual design can be the trickiest part of a design project. One of the key reasons is that some clients have a hard time saying clearly what they want from the visual design. This doesn’t mean they’re inarticulate — it’s just that reactions to visuals are often much more subjective and emotional than reactions to other deliverables, like say, research findings. Project managers and designers joke about getting feedback like “I don’t like blue,” which isn’t much help as a guide to their work.
And the stakes are high for visual design. Every client knows that visuals are, quite literally, what the customer will see, so they have to be on-brand, have to set the right tone, and work for what they have to accomplish. Design firms, meanwhile, know that without a successful visual design, they can’t create a great user experience, and they’ll have wasted the time and effort they spent on research, strategy, and interaction design.
How can design teams get to a successful visual design with their clients? To find out when to include visual designers, how to introduce constraints, and how to get good input and feedback, I talked to a couple of AP’s resident experts — Visual Practice Lead Kumi Akiyoshi and Senior Experience Designer Andrew Crow — as well as some of our friends in the industry, including Michael Polivka, Project Management and Design Engineering Team Lead at Hot Studio; Erica Hall, Lead Strategist at Mule Design; and Laura Scott, Associate Designer at Pentagram.
Getting Started: Involve Visual Designers Early & Often
To make sure visual design succeeds, teams need to include visual designers in the initial scoping phase. Getting them involved early gives them the opportunity to share their expertise, and buy into the timeline that they’re going to be working with. Just because the research, strategy, and interaction design phases come first in the process, doesn’t mean that they’re anymore important than the visual design phase. Kumi points out that this also allows them to voice any concerns right off the bat, and communicate what other project phases they need to be involved in. And getting visual designers working with the whole project team can help everyone better understand how the rest of the team makes decisions.
Sometimes it’s impossible to include visual designers in every phase that takes place before visual design starts — every stakeholder and research interview, or every strategy and interaction design session. When this is the case, the rest of the team should bring them up to speed by reviewing themes that came out of the phases leading up to visual design before they take center stage." (Continued via adaptive path, Julia Houck-Whitaker) [Usability Resources]