A handy set of 20 “convince your client of anything” templates with PDF chart

Let’s face it: clients usually don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to design for both web and print. How do you navigate around a client that insists on A or B, when you know C is what they need? Here are 20 “templates” that you can “use” to convince any client of anything!

Listening is imperative

The most important principle you need to know about clients is that they want to be heard. Some more than others for sure. But everyone wants to be heard. When you hear a bad idea, a stupid idea, a ludicrous idea, or even a great idea you just don’t have time for due to some circumstance, you need to navigate around the client and not have conflict with them.

The secret is saying whatever you say with a smile. You need to exude a quiet and pleasant confidence. When you sound relaxed, confident, and not defensive or aggressive, you’ll win the client to your point of view. They’ll heed the voice of their design master-shepherd: you.

These “templates” are essentially exactly what I use. Not literally, like a script. Rather, I always make them up on the spot and so you.

Rinse, wash, repeat

It’s the same tactic nearly every time: acknowledge, praise, redirect, suggest. Do those four things and you’ll be in the driver seat. Add a dash of compromise if you get to an impasse, but with the intention of following this exact same protocol at the next design review! If you keep that up, you’ll win nearly every time. And if you don’t win in the short-term with a long-term client, don’t worry, because the long-term is yours for the taking and keeping if you keep using this basic approach. It’s a dialogue that you win, eventually.

Everyone wins only when everyone wins

All of these need to be said with a tentative tone and a smile. Run through them, imagine that last job that didn’t go according to your better plan. Deconstruct the strategy from wording, to implied tone, to diversion, to suggestion. There is more than a little psychology going on her. Everyone needs to feel like they own a part of the winning decision, so you have to open up the dialogue to that possibility, even when this or that client doesn’t deserve it. But, you want to give it away if you want that client to be happy and keep you on this and subsequent projects.

And so I deliver these to you with a nod and a wink! Read’em, and download the PDF for printing and posting in your lunch area for a “that’s SO true” moment with your graphic design colleagues. :)

20 “convince your client of anything” templates

  1. I know a lot of people liked _____ when they first came out, and it was the latest and greatest. Faster than anyone thought possible, _____ is now really a part of the old paradigm of how this is done. The new standard, which is very exciting in some new ways, is _____. Let me show you a couple cool examples of what I’m talking about.”
  2. I can see how on the surface, _____ looks like a good idea, but there are _____ very important reasons that developers who struggle to stay up-to-date don’t do this anymore. I’m as surprised as anyone that _____ is now considered passé, from a _____ point of view.”
  3. Yes, I agree that could look good in the right context, but the current design trend with _____, which is our specific context, is away from _____. Now if we stick with _____, we run the risk of coming across a little too _____ when compared to, say, _____. It’s incredible how fast things change, so we want to be future-proof as much as we can.”
  4. If you put _____ as a design element all over the place, though, it’s going to make it more expensive to maintain AND confuse visitors to the site. We’ve seen this countless times, and nobody does it on purpose, but this is an excellent case of _____, and we’d love to avoid that.”
  5. ____ could work, but it does introduce several cost factors in the short term, but also in the longer term. Are additional resources going to be a problem?”
  6. Now that is a great idea—that could work. But in our context, it actually will increase cost right now and will likely add _____  or _____ to the project.”
  7. We could pursue that if you want, but it does mean we have to essentially scrap _____ and start that part of the _____ over again. Now we love getting paid, but we are primarily watching out for your budget, so don’t think we are being petty or _____ or anything like that.”
  8. I see your thinking on this, but we want to avoid adding _____ to _____ because it introduces _____ which will affect both budget and time. Let me explain…”
  9. That would be a _____ change for sure. Hmmm…but it does reverse a common UI ‘best practice’ of _____. We know that when we break standard UI paradigms, users have a harder time finding _____ and simply end up having to _____ more. I’ve even seen users _____. I would suggest going with the standard UI convention of _____ and not trying to reinvent the wheel on this one.”
  10. It’s important to remember that your screen is likely not the same screen your users will be viewing the site on. Your screen style is only one small part of the overall demographic we target, so we don’t attach too much weight to _____.”
  11. So here is the original, and here is the revision based on feedback from the last meeting [show screen shots]. The new version does _____ quite well, but…it unfortunately introduces a new issue we’d likely have to get some discussion started on.”
  12. We played with adding _____ to the _____, and while it works here, it’s a little less _____ than the original, which could be applied a bit more universally throughout the _____ without causing any other design clashes, but it’s up to you. But I think our concern is pretty valid and that it will return again as an issue if we don’t stick to the plan.”
  13. Ohhhh…that’s an interesting idea [reflective pause, stroke of chin, long silence]! You know what: I think we might be simply kicking the can down the road a little bit by adding that here right now. I think, in the end, the client is still going to have to simply_____.”
  14. You’re right! Adding _____ would like nice here. We can do that [dramatic pause]. But…that also means we’d have to update _____ and your other _____, if you want to be consistent about this. We either roll this out everywhere and break with the past, or we stay the course and don’t add any new design elements. It’s entirely your call.”
  15. I think when we looked at the original design, there was some excellent input about changing _____ to _____. But as we’ve progressed, _____ has become a little problematic, which was unexpected. So now we can either _____ or we can _____. It’s simply a matter of budget and time, but the choice is yours.”
  16. We certainly could do that! That would be a great feature for the end user [dramatic pause]. Hmm…this introduces a whole new round of _____ which would increase _____. It certainly would affect the _____, which up to now you’ve been very clear about not changing. If you want to look at this now, we can set up some time to explore it.”
  17. Yes, I would agree that _____ doesn’t look good—on this screen! Our screens are color-calibrated. Umm, you’d have to get IT or someoneto fiddle with this, but it probably won’t look much different if they did. No, I agree with you totally about what we are looking at here. If this is what it was really going to look like, I’d be disappointed.”
  18. [After a pause] I was thinking: this new direction for the concept sounds more _____ than what we started with. Was the original idea that far off, or are we missing what was right in the first idea? I think we should step back and _____ or maybe _____ with the first idea and see what we can do there before chucking all that work.”
  19. Now, listen: I’m not trying to pick a fight [say with a big smile]. I know _____ was popular just a few years ago. But I have to say that things have progressed quite rapidly since this was a convention, and now _____ more of a mark of being behind the times. Let’s look at some up-to-date ways of doing this.”
  20. So let’s look at the color you requested, from the sample screen shot you sent. Now, _____ is a nice color in and of itself. Here are some popular uses of it: [show screen shots]. Now, in the context of our design, it has a few slight problems [express as an understatement]. First, it increases _____ with the rest of the palette. But more important, is that in the long run, this color is going to _____ with _____ which is possibly, maybe even likely, to cause us to have to _____ all the _____.”

Download the PDF and print it out

Grab a copy or click the image below to open the PDF version. It’s much classier than the web version :).

Additional Reading


  1. says

    It’s amazing how much or little resistance an idea can get depending on the manner in which you present it. I think, as you mention, acknowledging the clients feedback and letting them know they are being heard is key. Really nice article, and thanks for the PDF, it may come in handy!

  2. says

    @ Dennis:

    Your article in the “Additional Reading” section really made me think. Another thought along these lines is how much what the worlds sees, especially from the corporate world, is the result of good or bad diplomacy on the part of the project manager or lead designer. That’s a whole article idea right there!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *