Clients, Lemonade, and Mountain Dew

Ashley Ann
3 min readOct 5, 2022


I remember realizing at some point in my career that design was about design…but perhaps the most important part of the job was discovery and managing clients.

Imagine with me: you meet a person, and they have a problem they want you to solve. Great! You love solving problems!

Here we go:

I just finished working out — and the problem is that I am thirsty and hot. The outcome I would like to have is to not be thirsty anymore and cool down. I like citrus-y drinks.” Pretty clear expectations and goals. They want to be open to what you recommend; they trust you!

You do some thinking and playing with ideas.

There’s different ways you could go about this.

  • Grapefuit juice
  • Orange juice
  • Lemonade
  • Water with a lemon electrolyte drop
  • Heck maybe even Strawberry lemonade!

You’re being really thoughtful and trying to balance:

  • cost
  • healthfulness
  • level of effort
  • what do you have around you already
  • what skills do you have
  • etc.

After some serious problem solving thought, you’ve got some lemons handy and some cane sugar, so why not make a great glass of lemonade for your friend.

Photo by Elena Kloppenburg on Unsplash

You set in front of them a beautiful glass of your crisp, refreshing lemonade that you’ve carefully crafted for them. You had someone else taste test it and they declared it the best glass of lemonade ever.

Your friend picks up the glass, which happens to be completely opaque and can’t see what’s inside. They take a sip, and sputter a bit. You’re shocked. You had clear outcomes, goals, did some great thinking, and frankly created a great solution…and yet still somehow there was a miss.

“Oh, you know what, I think I wanted Mountain Dew…”

What happened?

Maybe you’ve done this before — you’ve picked up a cup expecting one drink and when you take a sip you realize it was something different. I know I’ve done that with lemonade and Mountain Dew before. I love both drinks, but when I’m expecting one, the other will be jarring to me.

If this happens when the goal is this clear, of course we designers will struggle with this when we work on far more complex problems with multiple stakeholders.

What could we have done differently?

  1. Ask if they have anything particular in mind. Do this in a way that doesn’t convey that you’re going to use this solution, but gives you an idea of what expectations they have, even when they are trying to be open to what you suggest.
  2. Check-in early, “Hey, I have some lemons here — what do you think? Would this be in the right direction?”
  3. Know that it’s ok to not get it exactly right — this is why we plan time for iterations!

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Ashley Crutcher is the Director of Experience Strategy at InterVarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her furkiddos, crocheting/knitting, ringing handbells, and thinking too much about everything.