SoftskillsHow metaphors help convince your client on design arguments

How metaphors help convince your client on design arguments

The usual clients are often the ration type. They are looking for business value in each investment. This especially counts for tasks that are merely visual design. And I’m sure you too run into clients that prefer to spend their money on development rather than design. Thus the more critical it becomes that designers acquire the skill of persuasion. I noticed that metaphors are a great way to convince non-designers (like our clients). 

Below I’ll list 3 design wishes which don’t always get first priority, combined with metaphors that have so far proven themselves to be effective. 

Design has an impact on how we feel.

Before bringing any argument to the table, I want the client to understand that design has an impact on how we feel, because I know it sounds a bit odd. “Can pixels on a screen affect my emotional state?”. I understand their skepticism. 


“Interior design has the same impact on us. We often prefer not to have our walls painted red, this will energize us too much and prevent relaxation. We usually prefer soft natural colors. We also like our homes tidy, not too much stuff laying around or too much furniture.” 

Suddenly it makes sense that design affects our emotions. Now you have prepped your client to bring on the next argument.

Wish #1: Spend enough time on tweaking whitespace

As designers, we know that the correct use of whitespace is critical. This will lead to an aesthetic look, which will lead to a professional look and feel. This will result in higher trustworthiness and higher conversion rates (true story, research says so). 

However, clients more often want to create new features, instead of lingering around tweaking white spaces. This actually has been described as a disease called Featurism:

“An incurable decease which creates a never-ending urge for new features.”

It’s terrible.


Again I’ll bring the conversion back to interior design, but depending on what’s wrong with the developed product, I choose different examples. 

Let’s assume things don’t seem grouped in the developed end-result of your design. You can use their interior to explain why using whitespace to group elements is so important.

“In your home, you probably grouped things together as well. Everything for your TV, the cupboard it might be standing on, the electronic devices somewhere near it. And then quite a few feet away from it: A new group of elements is placed: your sitting area. Probably a couch with a table, maybe a vase on it, and so forth. Imagine if this was not the case, and the distance between every piece of furniture you own is equal. This would result in a very chaotic interior and would make it hard to find things.”

Wish #2: Have enough visual difference in all the web pages

With design systems being a huge trend, it’s tempting to reuse too much too often. The result is a website with pages that look too much the same. You might argue that this is good because the user doesn’t need to learn your UX on every new page. On the other hand, I often argue that there should be enough difference, for the user to recognize that he is:

  • Somewhere else than he just was;
  • That he landed on a different type of page that he just left, or;
  • That he is on the same kind of page that he just left;
  • That he realized where he is in the overall structure of your website: some contextual or spatial awareness if you will.


“Image you are a guest at someone’s housewarming party. And you are trying to find the bathroom. But as you walk around their house, you notice every room looks exactly the same. Makes the task quite difficult, right? Or imagine you are walking in your local supermarket, looking for some breakfast. But every aisle looks the same: there is no visual difference at all. This way, it would take ages before you find what you are looking for.”

Wish #3: Have some animations in the product when users move between pages

Page transitions are powerful to help to user get a sense of where he is on the overall website. But this is usually not the cheapest part of the development process.


“Imagine you require some breakfast again. You usually approach this problem with some transport to the store, walk to the right aisle, pay, and go home. 

But, if you would instantly be teleported to the correct aisle; finding your way to the cashier is suddenly very difficult. How deep are you in the store? How did you get there? How do you go back? Page transitions provide an answer to precisely those questions.

Breadcrumbs are often not enough for this (e.g., store/food/breakfast/yogurt). You might read a sign saying “breakfast,” and another sign indicating that you are in the department called “food.” Yet this tells you nothing on how to go back, home, or somewhere else.”

I hope these metaphors are going to be helpful. For me they did.

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