How to have control over design revisions


One of the most annoying situations for a designer is when a client asks for revision after revision. A small change is okay, but when followed by a series of changes, it can drain your energy, block your creativity or rouse mean thoughts towards your client. 

Try these:

1. Involve your client from the start

This is the most important. Get the client into the loop early on. Make sure you understand what he/she needs and wants in the design. Discuss ideas first and agree on the basics. If you do a good job at this even before showing a single design, you’ll greatly reduce the revisions later on.

2. State your policy on revisions

You may say something like this in your initial emails or in the contract: minor changes are expected and acceptable and major (or lots of minor) changes  will mean additional charges. Letting the client know upfront what to expect will discourage that impulse to play designer (“can you make that bigger? “…put that a little higher”, “how about rainbow colors?”…)

3. Do your best work even if it’s the first draft

I’m not referring to those cases where showing sketches or wireframes are appropriate. This is after you’ve agreed on the best concepts and are now preparing the initial drafts. It may only be drafts but always think of them as the final artwork, that is, give it your best already. Sometimes I get the feeling that something isn’t quite right and yet I ignore it. Usually, it’s what the client calls out to be fixed. Don’t ignore that feeling. It’s your design “conscience” speaking.

Always have a reason behind every design element (why those colors, what’s the line for, why is it positioned that way, etc.). If your reasoning is sound, you can stand by your work when the client wants something changed and you disagree. The likelihood of your client agreeing with you increases and you might not have to change a thing.

4. Advise the client to thoroughly study the draft and list all changes needed

The tedium of: change this one thing – save – attach to email – send email – await response – change this other thing – save and so on… can irritate even the most patient designer. Ask the client to note all comments and changes and even think on it for a day or two before sending you one email or document containing all changes.

What are your thoughts on revisions and how do you handle them? I’d love to hear it.

  • July 24th, 2012 /

3 Comments to “How to have control over design revisions”

  1. Sheila says:

    Thanks for the post, Grace! Revisions are something I’m always passionate about…not doing them, rather, the theory behind them. There seems to be two camps on this one: the purists, who say we’re the professionals, and good design is good design, it’s not a matter of opinion. On the other side are the pixel-pushers/order takers, who comply to every demand because the client is paying the bills (or so they reason).

    I find it’s always hard to walk that line between expecting the client to trust me as the expert, but also listening to their feedback. Far too many clients start dictating every change, thereby becoming the designer. Makes me want to pull my hair out. I’m still trying to figure out how to reconcile the two opposing forces (people-pleaser in me vs. the purist).

    One of the things I keep struggling with is defining a “revision” or even “round of revision.” In each project proposal I detail how many are included, but there always seems to be some push back to this simple boundary. How do you define a revision or round of revision that’s fair to everyone?

  2. Grace Oris says:

    Hey Sheila. Probably the best way to account for a revision is the average time it will take you to do it. The problem with revisions is what may seem a quick fix to a client is not that easy for the designer, that’s why I simply don’t state how many revisions are included 🙂

  3. Mike Thomas says:

    Hi, I also tend to not work on a strict revision basis. I include a round after initial design and then a further round before delivery of the final product, but as long as everything is falling within budget I rarely enforce it strictly and let the project evolve naturally.

    Like Grace, I am open and upfront with the client from the go. I discuss the brief and set out clear specifications and deliverables before the project commences so that both parties are covered. Of course, modifications are inevitable and I will action changes where need be, and if a change is out of scope, I can just refer the client back to the original spec document and advice the that it will cost extra.

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