The Most Difficult Design Conversation You’ll Ever Have

Mike Monteiro
2 min readJul 23, 2013

You are sitting in your client’s office. Or you’re on the phone with them. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is they are giving you feedback. You are proud of your work. You did the research. You can explain your choices. You can tie them back to the goals that were set at the beginning of the project. You are a good designer. You dotted your i’s, crossed your t’s, and remembered to use real honest-to-goodness apostrophes.

And now they are giving you feedback. It is not good. They are ignoring the research. They are ignoring your rationale. They are not just telling you what to change, they are telling you how to change it. And you know that these changes will lead to nothing good. They’re not right. They’re going to have an impact on the potential success of the project. You know because you’ve done this before. And because you’re a good designer.

And like a good designer you explain your rationale. You explain why you made your choices. You explain how they contribute to the project’s goals. And you explain to your client that the changes they’re demanding will undermine those goals. Their goals. And they tell you to do it the way they just told you to do it anyway.

And you think to yourself this is the most difficult design conversation you’ve ever had. And you start thinking you should give in. Fuck the rationale. If you give them whatever they want, this conversation ends that much quicker.

Which is true. What’s not true is that this is the most difficult design conversation you’ll ever have. That one comes six months down the road.

That conversation comes after you’ve done everything the client asked you to do, even the things you knew were terrible ideas. And the project fails, and the client calls you into their office and says “the project failed”. And you say “I knew it would, but I did everything you asked me to do anyway because I was scared of getting fired and scared of upsetting you.”

Because both of those things are about to happen, sport.

So why not risk them happening while there is still a chance to solve the problem correctly? Before you’ve blown the project budget, before you’ve wrecked the project schedule, before you’ve cost other people their jobs by not doing yours.