You may have heard the term “working backward.” I always assumed this pertained to solving math problems, but no. There are many areas where this concept can apply. In my case, design.
Working backward means to consider the possible solution to a problem then determine the steps you’d have to take in order to achieve that solution. So what’s the point of working backward? If you know the solution, there’s no problem to solve, right? If you’re talking about math, then yes, but in the real world it’s not as simple as scribbling out numbers and variables on a piece of paper.
In real-world applications of this concept, I think of the solution as a goal rather than a number.
So… What’s this have to do with design?
In many ways, design is solving a conventional problem in an unconventional way. Consider some common desires a client—for instance, a business owner—will have: increase revenue, reach more customers, etc. Makes sense to me, but how do you achieve that with design?
As a designer, you have an opportunity to create a connection with the viewer. Hopefully, a good connection. But that’s still too vague. Which people are you trying to connect with? Surely, you can’t reach everybody, though as many as possible would be ideal. So let’s consider the target audience.
Knowing and understanding the target audience/market is crucial for designers. It’s the primary connection between design and business—which is really code for “marketing.” And if you’re like me and the other 99.99% of freelancers out there, you are the marketing department. This means you’ll have to figure out the target audience by knowing which questions to ask your client.
Three Simple Questions That Reveal a Lot
1. What do you want to say?
This will help the client develop the message of the company. What they want to convey to their customers. This can focus on the type of business they are or some of their products and services.
2. Who do you want to say it to?
A broad message to “customers in general” is not a helpful answer. Get the client to focus on who they primarily sell to. The type of people their customers are. Doing that will uncover the primary—and possibly secondary—target audience.
3. How do you want to say it?
Once you understand what the message is and who it’s intended for, you can begin to shape the “feel” of the message. Crafting the delivery based on emotional values—to a specific audience. Emotional values should be a principal influence in your design.
Hopefully, you’ll get defined answers to those questions. I admit, I often have to dig deeper to get more information out of the client, but those questions are a great place to start! Now from here, you can put your awesome design skills to work and solve the problem by creating designs to connect with a specific demographic.
Try working backward based on your initial conversation with the client.
- Figure out what the client’s needs are (perceived solution).
- Establish design-manageable steps to achieve that solution.
- Solve using design.