7 Things Clients Say & What They Actually Mean

Knowing another language other than your native tongue always gives you a positive edge. As a professional designer, there is a need to understand the Clientish language. Clientish is the language of a homogenous group of people called ‘clients’, a species that designers has to deal with every day.

Although clients come from different backgrounds and have varied types, all of them speak this one universal language. Therefore, all designers should know at least the most common phrases of Clientish in order to keep themselves from living in an asylum or on the road.

In the following, we will be looking at the most common phrases used by ‘clients’, their meanings and how they really originate in a conversation.

"We don’t have a budget in mind"

Meaning: Whatever you’ll demand, we’ll pay less

Origin: Clients often come to designers and brief them about the project. When the designer asks how much are the clients willing to pay for this project, they say "we don’t have a budget in mind".

It usually means two things; one, you give us a quote and we’ll try to negotiate the rate as much as possible; or two, give us a quote on the basis of general initial requirements of the project (and we’ll add more stuff and get changes done one after the other, all under the formerly agreed quotation).

Suitable response:

"If you are eventually going to negotiate on the budget, then let’s just jump right to the end".

In the case where you quote the client first) "Please pay attention to the part of quote where it says that the charges for additions and changes are not included."

"Make it look luxurious / It should appear classy"

Meaning: wide thin fonts in caps

Origin: "Make it look luxurious" is a phrase of classic Clientish, and has been replaced in modern Clientish as "it should appear classy or minimalistic".

However, in both cases the meaning remains the same, that the client wants thin wide fonts like Trajan Pro or Caviar Dreams, preferably in all caps. Add to it plain metallic background and a lot of lettering space.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of a dot in between words or at the end of the caption to give the design an air of elegance.

So basically, among all the Kardashian fonts, the client wants you to use the Diana-looking typographic styles for their design.

Suitable response:

"I think you mean thin lettering and lots of empty space around it?"

"We would like to have it done ASAP"

Meaning: leave everything else, work on this

Origin: Under common understanding, ASAP is an acronym for "as soon as possible" and usually means if and when one gets a suitable time to do something.

running out of time

However, in Clientish, it means just the opposite. When a client asks a designer to do something ASAP, this should not be taken as a courteous request. You should take it as a demand to leave every other project currently being worked on, and take up the newly assigned task as top priority.

Suitable response:

"Yes of course, I will not wait a second after it will be possible for me to start working on your project"

"The logo shouldn’t look like a font"

Meaning: Add random abstract shapes

Origin: Often times, when briefing the designer about their required logo, clients say that the logo should not look like a font, which is their version of saying that we don’t need a neat typographic logo (no matter how elegant or classy I would look).

Instead of convincing them that a simple typographic logo can look very impressive (and strengthening your argument by giving example of Cocacola, Twitter, Facebook, Sony, Google and millions of other world famous typographic logos), simply add some random abstract shapes with the brand name. You can add outer glow or a color gradient to further convince your client that you understood him well.

Suitable response

"I think you want your logo to look like Nike or Samsung, however a ‘font logo’ would not so bad either"

"This is a great opportunity for you"

Meaning: We want you to work for free on this project

Origin: Clients are compassionate people with hearts full of kindness. It pains them to tell a designer straight-forward that they would not be paying for a certain project.

So instead, they highlight all the good things that may come out of this project (with an exception of financial benefits), no matter how trivial they are.

Such a statement may also arise from the client’s naivety of not knowing that the designers, unfortunately, cannot use ‘great opportunities’ instead of real money as an exchange currency for paying bills.

Suitable response:

"I am sure I’ll gain much from this opportunity, especially (and hopefully) if it includes financial benefits along with other things"

"Designs are good, they just need some changes"

Meaning: We will flood your basic design with our input

Origin: While working with designers at such close quarters, some of the aesthetic sense rubs off onto the clients.

So when a designer sends his work to the client, it stimulates many thoughts in the client’s complex little mind like; "even though you worked hard on this project, it’s just enough to tickle our creative nerve, and will be used as a basic design upon which we’ll make lots of changes according to our desire, totally overlooking the fact that you are the expert with qualification and years of experience in the field".

angry designer

However, amidst all the excitement, all they can manage is to say, "your designs are good, they just need some minor changes".

Suitable response:

"I hope the changes you are suggesting would go with the basic concept, because a patchwork of two different ideologies seldom make a good design."

"We want a flexible team on this"

Meaning: Every hour will be a working hour

Origin: This is phrase of Clientish requires a sheer ‘read between the lines’ approach in order to be fully understood.

When client say that they need a flexible team on a certain project, it may appear that they are simply highlighting an attribute of their potential team. But instead they are telling you that there will be frequent overtime accompanied by working weekends.

For designers who have already been in a similar situation where they had to be a ‘working-hours contortionist’ this phrase may come as a warning.

Suitable response

"From creativity to execution, my team will provide you flexibility in anything that, however, does not affect their work-life balance"

"We have a lot of projects coming up in the near future"

Meaning: This is just a luring tactic, don’t get your hopes high

Origin: Such a phrase is used when a client is neither completely lying, nor is he telling the truth.

On one hand, it is true that in a running business, there is always something to be designed — some logo to be made or some brochure to be printed. What’s misleading however, is that you may not be the one to get all those opportunities.

This phrase is particularly used in front of newly hired designers to lure them into working hard, and to let the first project serve as a sort of a test of their artistic abilities as well as their patience.

Suitable response

"Though I will be very glad to receive more projects, however for now, let me just focus on the one in hand"

To wrap it up

This generic write up on a few clichéd sentences that clients usually use with designers, and some of the suitable responses designers can give in return, has been written with the truest intentions to make the readers smile.

On a serious note though, it may help some designers understand their clients and know how they can work better with them.

Of course, not all clients are same, in fact, most of them are kind people, who share opportunities and respect designers and their work. Cheers to the ever interesting client-designer relationship!