esign on the World Wide Web offers many challenges for both the designer and any potential client. Chief among these concerns is, "Exactly, how does the process work when you can't meet face-to-face with the client?" In simplest terms, a meeting with the client truely isn't necessary and in reality, designing over the Internet actually offers some advantages!
First, let's dispense with the disadvantages. What is more important than meeting face-to-face with the client is the ability to communicate one's ideas clearly and understand the client's needs prior to moving forward with any project. A prerequisite to overcoming this handicap is to, early on, agree on an established procedure to exchange information; whether that be by phone, e-mail, overnight delivery, regular snail-mail or, some combination thereof. Of course, this does require that everyone involved "say what they mean" as well as "mean what they say" and since graphic design, by its very nature, is meant to invoke an emotional response in the viewer, the designer should expect a certain amount of frustration and, therefore, make allowances to be patient with the prospective client.

A second obstacle to overcome is the difficulty in reviewing any materials used by the prospective client in the past. The ability to examine these items often provides keen insight into the client's needs and wants. Just looking at old materials and having the client say, "I liked this." or, "We hated that." can save hours of work by avoiding the mistakes made by previous designers. Again, careful communication coupled with a fax machine, scanner or the mail is the key to getting around these pitfalls.

Finally, the ambiguity of working with someone whom you will perhaps never meet in person can heighten the apprehension of working with someone for the first time. It is, therefore, the designer's responsibility to make sure that the client is informed at all times. So, not only must communication between the client and designer be clear, it must also be timely. Since the client, in most cases, will not be able to see the progress you might be making on a project, it is important not only to set a timetable, but to keep the client well informed as to how the timetable is being met -- or not as the case may be. If more time is needed to complete the project, make sure that the client knows well in advance of the deadline that delays have been encountered. Explain the delay(s) and then offer solutions as to how you are going to deal with those delays.

Working with clients over the Net, however, is not all bad. There are, in fact, many advantages. First and foremost is the convenience of communicating over the World Wide Web. For instance, the designer no longer has to make an appointment to go over the pros & cons of a particular design proposal. E-mailing the appropriately formatted electronic version of a design allows the client to review the material at his or her convenience -- even after hours, if that is their choice. Second, working from a client's verbal description of the project allows a certain freedom in how the designer interprets that description. Certainly the designer must take the client's wishes and needs into consideration when creating the design, but working from a mental image does offer some leeway into how that description translates into an image. In fact, working in this way may get the client to consider design options that they might not otherwise have considered.

In my experience, designing over the net can be broken down into three distinct phases. Below, we will follow an actual design project through its various phases. Click on each image below for details and examples of our sample project.




This is the initial phase of the project where the client and designer first begin to establish what is needed, where it is needed and when it will be needed. It is also a good point to discuss what it might cost.



Potentially the longest running phase of the project, this is where the communciation between designer and client is at its most critical point. This is the phase where the ideas for the project are fleshed out and final design issues are decided upon.


Also known as "Sweating the Details", this is the phase where all of the ideas and materials for the project are formatted, compiled and output into their final forms.


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