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Reduce those Dreaded Multiple Revisions, Prequalify!

By: David Litwin at Pure Fusion Media

Submitted on Wed, Mar 30th, 2011 2:20 am

It may be what we designers hate the most: the dreaded multiple revisions. Worse, what if the client doesnt see what they like in your first round of concepts and asks you to go back to the drawing board? These are time... and profit... killers. It doesnt take too many overly picky clients to bring down an agency or freelancer fast.

Sure, you can restrict the amount of revisions, but if you dont give the client that killer design within your revision standards, you may not garner that ever-needed future referral. Even with an unlimited revision policy, if you dont nail down the design by the third to fifth revision, you may not see the client again. And chances are you wont want to work with them again either. You may be losing a huge future budget without even knowing it. So whats a designer to do to make sure that his or her time and talent are maximized on the production work, not the concepts?

Prequalify... Prequalify... Prequalify!

Designers often get a project and just jump in, letting their talent carry the project forward. But by really getting to know your client, and not just his or her company, you can eliminate a good portion of those dreaded revisions. You essentially have three clients with any project: the company, the client, and the people your client reports to. Remember, your client must also look good to his or her superiors, and if they are going back to their bosses time and again with your revisions, they look just as bad as you do. Chances are you wont work with them very long.

At Pure Fusion Media, weve created what we call the Needs Based Analysis (NBA) Questionnaire. We use a series of about 25 questions to ascertain (among many other things) our clients five-year vision and then we design our work to reflect where they plan to be five years from now. After all, if you create the look of their five-year vision now, then they keep coming back to you again and again to retain that future brand and design standard. But we also get to know our client and their superiors. What do they like? What motivates them or turns them off? By prequalifying the company, the client and the higher ups, we can usually nail down exactly what the client is looking for and articulate their five-year vision in the process.

One of our most effective questions is also one of the most simple: Describe in three to five adjectives the emotion you want to convey to your customers through this project.
If a client says they want their customer to think traditional, established and refined we go in one direction, if they say energized, confident and excited we go in another. Without prequalifying the client, designers often assume, based on the companys industry and/or competition, that a company should look a certain way. But that may not be the current or future culture of the company, or its decision makers. By prequalifying everything up front, you eliminate the guesswork in your designs and really capture the culture of your (three) clients.

We now average between 1 and 2 revisions (sometimes we only do a single design) and usually its because the client cant decide between two of our concepts so we spend a revision incorporating a hybrid design.

But more than the design itself, our clients refer us because we take the time to understand them as individuals. Who doesnt want to feel individually special? We call it building our clients power. Remember, your design talent is only a small portion of why a current client will recommend you to others.

We also let the client set up his or her own conditions of satisfaction for the project. Satisfaction is not always based on revenue returns. At times it may just hearing great job from a persons superiors. It could be that they want to hear that a competitor has been taken aback by their new brand look. Or it might be that the client wants to hire three more employees based on the success of your work. By articulating these conditions up front, both you and your client know that your project has become a success once those conditions are met and surpassed (usually surpassed quickly).

For a simple project we usually spend an hour prequalifying the client, for more detailed work we could spend a week, but it always pays off in the long run.

By spending more time up front, you can confidently expect more clients, more time saved, and more money earned in the future. And hey, we all want that!

Heres to the welcomed loss of those dreaded revisions!

About the Author

David Litwin
Pure Fusion Media
David Litwin has run or owned design agencies for the past 21 years. His past clients include IBM, Hewlett Packard, Sony, Sun Microsystems and other Fortune 100 and 500 companies. He currently is the CEO of Pure Fusion Media, a Nashville-based design agency that sported over 3 million in sales in its first 18 months of operation. David is also an author and speaker, writing on such topics as creativity, understanding culture, and strategic Faith issues. He can be reached at david(at) and you can view Pure Fusion Media's site and portfolio at:

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