Extracting the design ‘vision’ from clients 2

Extracting the design ‘vision’ from clients

Working on a project with multiple stakeholders will undoubtedly result in various opinions when it comes to design. Design by its nature is subjective, so trying to identify common themes can be challenging. 

Clients often have a number of valuable ideas formed from personal experience of using everyday products and services. They form ideas based on their competitors and perhaps feedback from their customers – all of which lead to a vision, a vision that can sometimes be difficult to articulate. 

The Challenge 

One of the many challenges we face as designers is extracting information and producing a concept that aligns with that vision. This can often be more than one individual’s vision; for example, my interpretation of ‘modernmay differ from yours. Therefore, our other challenge as designers is aligning multiple stakeholders, so their visions are similar (albeit still subjective). 

When you reach the high-fidelity design phase, extensive changes can become costly both in terms of time and money, so establishing design preferences early on is an absolute must. On a recent project we had carried out extensive user research throughout the discovery phase and put together a wireframe prototype, but we then needed to make it visually appealing to complement the strong user experience we had established and tested. 

Where to begin? 

There is no set-in-stone method of doing this, you can be flexible and decide what works for your client or project, but one method that we have found useful with one of our clients was to schedule a design kick-off session (remotely) and perform the following exercises: 

Using Miro, we started by brainstorming. To keep it focused, we timeboxed this to 5 minutes, asking the participants to note down any keywords that came to mind when thinking about the aesthetics of the new design. This resulted in a number of sticky notes with words such as ‘modern, premium, clean, engaging’ etc. 

To prioritise these keywords, we then grouped them using the Must, Could, Should Method, so we had a clearer picture of what we needed to focus on. This was a really useful exercise because we were able to establish a list of words that describe the stakeholder’s vision and understand what was essential from a priority perspective. 

Once you’ve established some key themes/categories from your brainstorm, you can spend some time exploring these themes and categories. Doing this exercise along with your client can be beneficial for you to see if and how your views are aligned with the views of your clients/stakeholders.

Tell me why you like this? 

After completing the ‘Must Could Should’ exercise with our client in the last example, we moved on to an exercise called Dot Voting. This involved taking the categories we had discovered and listing 3 examples under each one. Each person in the workshop was then given a red dot and a green dot marked with their initials (although this can also be completed anonymously). Each user was given 30 seconds to add either a green dot (like) or a red dot (dislike) to the examples they liked best and least for examples under each category. 

Speed is of the essence with this task as it needs to be instinctive; if the stakeholder is indecisive, then the feedback is less useful. 

After 90 seconds, all 3 examples had been voted on, and then we then quickly discussed why each individual liked/disliked the example so we could gain a better understanding of why. We then repeated this for each theme/category. This was a fun and engaging way of finding out what clients liked and disliked with examples. 

The dot voting task in the example is beneficial, especially for clients who struggle to articulate their vision. Tasks such as this can uncover invaluable information which can later influence UX decisions. 

If you carry out a dot voting session and it is successful, you should have a clear direction of what the client likes and dislikes as well as their interpretation of what each category looks like. Whilst this is still subjective, you have discussed and performed these exercises as a group, so those visions will be closer aligned than if you did these exercises in isolation. 

This might be enough for you to go ahead and start designing; we went one step further with our client featured in the example by producing some mood boards which outlined the art direction for the new design. These mood boards included elements such as colour palettes, typography, iconography, transitions, photography etc. This meant that the client had a clear picture of how their design would look, without the effort of creating a pixel-perfect design, saving time and money during the design process. 


The workshop went really well, and as a group we were able to come up with some great ideas and a direction that our client was really happy with. By using a combination of brainstorming, dot voting and mood boards, we were able to get a clear understanding of what the client wanted from the new design without spending hours doing so, resulting in a more streamlined sign off process when it came to the high fidelity designs. 

If you’re struggling to get buy-in from clients or stakeholders on your designs, try using some of the techniques in this article to increase the collaboration and communication between you and your clients, and see how you get on.

Marc Bowers
Marc Bowers
Articles: 13

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