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Designers Share Useful Takeaways From Dealing With Their Most Difficult Clients
By Yoon Sann Wong, 29 Jul 2017
There’s almost no way to escape from difficult clients—ask any designer and you’ll find that they’ve experienced at least one less-than-favorable client relationship during their career. It’s just part and parcel of the creative life, but one that can offer valuable takeaways.
Design Week sat down with eight designers to ask them about their most difficult clients and how they were managed.
One common observation seems to run across the board: the worst were those who treated designers like “suppliers” rather than “partners”. If the client is wiling to approach the relationship as a collaborative effort, it makes the partnership a more enjoyable experience for all parties involved.
Read about three recounts below, and learn more from the experiences of five other designers here.
Pali Palavathanan, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Templo
“The projects we find most challenging are those where the client treats us like ‘suppliers’ rather than collaborators. The work normally ends up being static and expected. Of course we are there to provide a service, and being paid adds to that dynamic, but proper partnerships get the best results every time. The design process doesn’t suit a silo mentality; it is about inclusivity. When a client becomes part of the design process and vice versa, it creates an open space in which to bounce ideas and thoughts off each other.”
Erika Clegg, Co-Founder at Spring – Suffolk
“Frustrated after a short run of morale-sappingly inconclusive projects a few years ago, I identified a common trait in the clients with whom we produced our best work – irrespective of the nature or complexity of the brief.”
“They’ve all got an appetite for change, and are keen to work collaboratively with us to get there. Since identifying that’s where we add best value, we have built Spring’s positioning around it. With Agency for Change as our URL and an active ethos – designed to deliver change – this is the starting point for all our projects and relationships.”
“This filters out clients that are not going to stay committed to the process before they even arrange a chemistry meeting. Clients who genuinely want or need to change trust us to deliver it, and are often willing to take greater creative leaps to achieve it than others.”
Emily Penny, Brand Consultant at Colourful Design Strategy
“Do you know what? I’ve seriously had them all. Half of my work comes from clients, the rest from agencies. And boy do I work for my client work! Stakeholders pulling in different directions; the client who disappeared halfway through the project; the budget that disappeared halfway through the project; the fellow consultant who declared war (and won); and the procrastinator who couldn’t sign anything off.”
“Thankfully I also have clients who come back again and again because they love what my small collective team and I do. Clients who get emotional because ‘it’s just so right!’ Clients who understand that it’s a partnership, and that in combining their insight and our insight we can accomplish more.”
“In my experience, the outcome of every project conceals a catalogue of obstacles. It may look effortless and it should look effortless, but it rarely is. The trick is to have principles you work by. Do what you believe in, be happy to walk away, collaborate with wonderful people who will boost your nerve and resilience, and look for the clients who ‘get it’. Luckily, I love jumping from one project to the next, not knowing what the next adventure will be. Bring it on. After all, it can’t be any worse. Can it?”
Continue reading five more recounts by designers.
[via Design Week, image via Shutterstock]
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