Designing What Remains
Thinking About Problems as Spaces

The Design Investment Curve

The Design Investment Curve

Mind the expectation gap!

A few years back, I recall receiving a call from a potential client who expected that within two days of kicking off an identity redesign project, they would be seeing fully-executed comps—in full color, no less—from which they would provide critical input and choose a direction.

These conversations are known, in client service parlance, as opportunities to "reset expectations" or "fully outline our process" or otherwise spend a good ten to fifteen minutes describing in designer lingo a set of activities that, in the mind of the client, are a bit nebulous if they've never worked with a designer before. Usually, a client has no idea what to really expect until they're knee-deep in project deliverables and reacting to tangible work product.

So, want to save yourself some time and set client expectations in a matter of seconds? Start projects off with your own variant of the chart shown above. As you move from discovery (on the left) to concepts (the middle) to the final, executed design work (the right), point out where the deliverables that you're sharing in that review fit into the overall process.

If you don't set expectations in this manner right out of the gate, it's likely that no matter what you say or do, your client's expectations are going to look more like the following:

The Design Investment Curve vs. Client Expectations

Comments

ConwayMatt

Nice posting.

This strikes me as very true - and even more than you're letting on here...

We've all seen clients with expectations that progress should be even and steady: half way through the schedule you should be about halfway through the project...right?

This graph shows that even in that modest scenario, there's a huge gap between a red linear line of client expectations and the black sigmoid curve of actual work. That gap looks like slippage to a client who doesn't see the black curve. Might as well show it to them.

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