Why designers are terrible at communicating with clients (and how to fix it)

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Just admit it, there’s been one time or another that you’ve been terrible at communicating with your design clients.

I know there have been times when communication between us is outrageously horrific.

An ephiphany

But recently, I realized what the big problem is. The insight came while reading a book titled Made to Stick (which recently made my top-six business books you should read in 2012 list).

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The problem? Something called the curse of knowledge. To learn more, watch the video embedded in this post (or watch it here).

After you watch, leave a comment on this post and let me know how we can solve the “curse of knowledge” problem when it comes to communicating well with our clients.

PS. Bonus points to anyone who can tell me which song I clap out in the video. Happy freelancing!

You'll also enjoy this episode of our new podcast...

Links mentioned in the video

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Why some ideas die and others survive. Learn more here.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

Leave a Comment



  1. Hey Preston,

    Great post! I know I get frustrated when I go talk to someone (as a customer) and I have to ask them to speak English, not jargon, to me.

    One thing I preface with when talking to a client (because so often you’re not sure what their education level is in design) is an apology if I’m talking down to them and to feel free to stop me if they have a question. This way I can get a sense of how to speak to them and what elements of design they do or do not understand. A lot of my clients have thanked me for my knowledge, so I guess it works!

  2. I am in big trouble because of the communication issues at the moment. Thanks so much to talk about it! So how can you easily exlain your side your client, so that he will actually UNDERSTAND!!!!????? I really appreicate every suggestion 🙂

  3. Nice explanation of the “curse of knowledge” concept. I feel convinced to check out Made to Stick, sounds like it offers some very practical theories for business communication!

    We encounter business owners and non-profit administrators of all degrees of tech knowledge at our design firm. We aim to make every meeting effective and positive for everyone involved by encouraging clients to ask questions as the discussion progresses, ensuring that no part of their project plan is left in the dark, mysterious corner of “design talk”.

    It’s so easy to forget the limitations of those involved in the conversation, especially when the topic is something you are passionate about, like design. We try to be mindful of the educational opportunities that creative meetings with clients present us with, and incorporate our love of design into a learning experience for all.

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia


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