Hello! So I suppose it’s time for an update; I’m still living the dream as a graphic designer. The weather is cooling down nicely, allowing for much more jacket wearing as of late, and I got a new car (which is long overdue…or so I thought it was.) One can generally check my twitter feed for things like that, so what I’d like to touch upon today is the perception of the designer/client relationship.
In my time designing for actual clients, which has not been long by any means relative to some, so (I won’t claim expertise I haven’t) I have been able to pick out a few topics that may be of interest to a fellow designer, or even the general public. As my client interactions are no more different from most in even a semi professional setting. Let me begin by saying this: I do NOT believe that the customer is always right. They are wrong. Often. They are not designers, and when they think they know what they want, it tends to look like they may as well have just printed it at home and distributed it that way. Many can insist on their opinion, leaving me…er, “one” frustrated, and not happy with the work you’re turning out because of its lack of quality. I’ve been trying to find a happy medium within these boundaries, and I’m pretty sure any creative professional can relate to the customer insisting on their choices over yours. I’ve found a few ways of dealing with these issues, but keep in mind; you have to be good at reading your clients, and ideally, people in general. I’ve narrowed it down to a trifecta approach.
One strategy I’ve found is to level with them, use phrases like “we” and “us.” Tell them that “you like their ideas, maybe it could be improved upon by… etc.” While this is leading and could be considered hand-holding, candy-coating, and the like, I generally have the most success using this method. You’re not openly insulting the client’s intelligence, you’re creating a cooperative environment during a vital decision-making stage in the design process, and you’re keeping positive. Everything is ‘improved’, and ‘better’. I’ll call this one ‘The Optimist.’
Another method I’ve been able to employ is The Sneak. This method is quite risky, but involves more up-talking in the end, much like The Optimist. The Sneak operates not fully buying into the clients ideas, and offers small suggestions along the way. I’ll usually leave the initial meeting with a proof agreement (generally three rounds, unless more are agreed upon contractually) and use the first round of proofs as a side-by-side comparison of my work with theirs, which sometimes works, but, if the client is anything like me…they will still like their work better. This may seem in many ways like The optimist; but the chief difference being that it is a process that happens in small steps over the course of early development. Not waiting until proofs are ready to be reviewed to fuss about the clients “interesting” logo using their cats as the focal point.
Well here it is. The ass. This is not necessarily the best route to take, but sometimes necessary. Don’t forget that above, I said that I do not believe the customer is always right, especially in this sense. They came to you for expertise…right? Here is how I look at it: If they are going to fight me at every stage to put forth a mediocre idea, I won’t stop them, but I will tell them that they came to me for my expertise, and that if they truly want their money’s worth, they’ll defer to it. Now that may sound arrogant, cocky, what have you, but sometimes it takes a little conviction to get the point across! I won’t be shy about telling you that I think you’re doing your business harm by using that Facebook photo of your cats as your logo. It would be a different story if I were not approached in the first place…then I would plainly be an ass. In the case mentioned above, at least I’m being a professional ass.