One of the important ways that design differs from art is that it is created to please a specific audience – the client. Typically, the goal of most artists is to convey their creative visions to others – whomever their audience may be. For designers, the challenge is to provide a design solution to the client that everyone is happy with. This can be difficult since some clients may not know how to describe what they want or how to talk about design in a way that is clear to others. It’s a challenge for everyone and even more so for non-native speakers. To make it easier, I’ve created a list of ten tips to help you share your design work more effectively in English.
What should I write or say?
First, take some time to prepare your pitch. This means you need to describe your idea as clearly as possible in a way that your client can understand. You may even need to train or guide them in how they look at your design so that they can see all the little details the way you do.
In addition to describing the design itself, you’ll also want to talk a little about your decision-making process, your intentions for the design, and the symbolism or meaning behind your choices. Don’t assume they will notice these things on their own. People without a background in design may not even know what to look for.
Finally, you want to try to connect with your client in a way that will help them to trust you with this important project. Do some research about them in the same way you would for a job interview. If you can, try to learn about the company and the people you’ll be talking to. Try to find out what their goals are and what they like. You can use this research to help you make small talk with them more comfortably and to describe how your design can help them reach their goals.
If you need more detailed guidance, this article from 99d gives some great examples of how to write these basic descriptions. Another one from How Design suggests a structure for your pitch and this one from Cooper explains what not to do.
How should I write it or say it?
The first thing to remember is to speak with confidence. This project is important to your client and they may not know how to describe what they want. If you seem confident, they will be more likely to trust you to create something they’ll like. If you seem unsure, they’ll doubt you.
Even if they ask you a question that you can’t answer right away, speak confidently about your intentions to help them. Try to convey the feeling that you are willing and able to find the best solution. If they are confident in your abilities and they trust you, that will often be enough. Also, remember to speak with enthusiasm about your work because this will help them feel more excited about your ideas as well.
Also, remember to keep it simple. Often creative professionals try to explain their work in ways that are too complicated for the average person to understand. If possible, try to explain it in a way that would be easy for anyone to follow and conveys the most important points of the design. You want to keep it short but still tell an interesting story.
Finally, try to choose the best vocabulary to describe your work and to use in the text of your design. You want to choose action verbs and adjectives that evoke emotion whenever possible. You also want to think about the subtle differences in meaning between words to choose the ones that get your message across best.
What tools can I use to help me?
I always recommend that creative professionals take the time to research and write about their work before they need to talk about it, so they know the best words to use and don’t start rambling or freeze up. The first suggestion I would make is to look at other designers that you admire or that do work similar to yours and see what kinds of words they use. (Don’t copy them, just use them as a starting point.) Then you can use a good learner’s dictionary or thesaurus to look up those words and find even more words to best describe your work.
A lot of non-native speakers struggle with using phrasal verbs, even though they are very common in English. I recommend a website called Phrasal Verb Demon to use as a resource if you have questions about phrasal verbs and how to use them correctly.
For your written descriptions, I always suggest using Grammarly to check your work. The app will check your spelling and grammar, and their blog offers some useful posts to help you improve your writing. Using idioms, similes and metaphors can really bring your descriptions to life, but they are difficult in another language. These articles give clear definitions of what they are and examples of how to use them.
I need more help!
Now that I’ve shared some tips for describing your design work, I’d like to hear from you! Do you still have questions? Ask me in the comments or send me an email!
If you’d like more detail, you can download my free tips: How to describe your design work in English (10 tips for non-native English speakers).
And if you want to get more customized, useful feedback from an English coach on how to write or talk about your work, you can schedule a free trial lesson. We can talk about what you need and how I can help!