We blame clients too often. We blame them for not having an understanding of what we do as designers. We blame them for not meeting deadlines, and for being upset with additional charges. We blame them when a project doesn’t come together as we had hoped, and we blame them for not providing a clear budget. I am guilty of each of these thoughts from time to time but the reality is the client is my responsibility and sometimes I forget that.
We select the clients we work with; we have an opportunity before the project begins to evaluate their understanding of design, and their fit with our way of working. We have the power to inform them about our creative process, to clarify responsibilities, and expectations. We can outline the consequences of missed deadlines, and the cost of changes to design concepts. We can, and should do a lot to reduce the issues we tend to blame clients for.
The issue that I struggle the most with is when a client makes what I consider to be a destructive change to a design. A recent client insisted that no design was complete without a border — Oh really? I did what I could to influence her, to get her to reconsider, to see how ridiculous a border would be around every design, but I failed in changing her mind on the matter. So yes, there is a border, and yes, the client made me do it, but it’s not her fault. Should clients be expected to make only perfect decisions, or to trust a designer completely the first time they work with them?
Have a look at your portfolio and see if you are free of similar mistakes. Any bad design decisions or missed deadlines? Have you ever misunderstood your client’s business space, or exactly what they do and how they do it?
I enjoy the site Clients from Hell, and I can relate to stories of frustration regarding projects gone awry. I know there are some impossibly difficult clients out there but I also think designers are sometimes to blame for holding our clients to a degree of consistency, perfection and understanding that we ourselves don’t achieve.
Steve Zelle is a logo designer and consultant with over twenty years’ experience working with clients. Based in Ottawa, Canada, he operates as idApostle and is the founder of Processed Identity. You can reach him through his website or on Twitter.