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Client’s aren’t the problem, you are.


Design has to work.

Graphic by Chris Do via Instagram.


A common theme within the creative community is that we love to share our experiences with some of our worst clients.


Chris Do, an Emmy award-winning director, designer, strategist, and educator, has kindly enough listed some of the signs that we may be dealing with a Client from Hell and how we can avoid them.


However, have you ever thought that we’re blaming others when we might be the problem?


Typically, when we meet a potential client, we have a discovery session to learn about their problems and how we can help. During our discovery chat, we ask the client what they have budgeted for this project.


Their response could be one of many, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.

The truth is, it’s hard for us to turn down work even if the budget is below ideal. But, for most of us, this is our primary, if not only, source of revenue.


So we accept the job.


And what happens is, to avoid the risk of being overworked on a project that doesn’t pay well, we focus on delivering what the client wants and not what the client needs.


Well, you get what you pay for.


Do you think the above statement is fair to say?


We are the supposed experts and the line of work we’ve chosen, at its core, is to help and guide others. But when we engage in client conversations and our first thoughts are, ‘what is their budget?’ or ‘this will look great on my portfolio’, we’ve already failed at our job because we’re thinking about ourselves.


Stefan Sagmeister, a Grammy award-winning graphic designer, storyteller, and typographer, had an interview where he discussed the difference between art and design. One of his answers struck a cord that changed the way I view my projects.


“Donald Judd famously said: Design has to work, art does not. He separates the two neatly by function. At the very core, all design, in order for it to qualify as design, has to function. If it does not function, it is not design.” – Stefan Sagmeister


To reiterate, in discovery, when a client informs us of a problem they are facing, our job is to solve that problem.


Where does this leave us?


Now that we have identified the problem in our approach, we can become better designers and provide the best service for our clients.


Learning how to communicate with our clients would be the first step. Chris Do’s The Futur platform teaches this best. So as opposed to simply regurgitating what they have taught me, I’ll leave you with something I’ve found useful.


We must forego all personal agendas and become present in our discovery conversation with the client. But, first, try to understand their pressure points and what they can do to relieve them.


Note: I didn’t say ‘how we can relieve them.’


Ran Segall says a ‘good designers’ goals are aligned with their clients’ best interest’ whereas a ‘bad designer has a conflict of interest and serves their own agenda’.


Thank you for reading.


As someone who has benefitted from previous work colleagues’ goodwill and my current business partners who have shared and taught me things within this industry, it’s a personal goal to further extend this generosity to those around me and those I have yet to encounter.


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