3 Tips for Better Client/Designer Relationships
It's always interesting trying to navigate new relationships, whether that's a friendly one, romantic one or a business one. When you hire a designer, it can be tricky to determine who's boss, because hey, you're the client and you're footing the bill, right?
You wouldn't tell your mechanic how to fix your car, right?
The designer should be including you (the client) in the process from the beginning so that he or she has a clear understanding of your expectations and vision. But you also need to remember you hired this person for their expertise and creative eye.
The same way you wouldn't tell your mechanic how to fix your car, you should let your designer solve your problem for you, trusting their education and professional talents.
Of course, there's give and take here. If the designer is totally disregarding your input, then you have a problem. However, a good designer will take your input and suggestions, tell you what works and come up with a solution that will purposefully work towards your goals.
If the designer thinks it's a bad idea to put that message in a starburst, bold, italicize and capitalize the words, they likely aren't saying this just for the sake of arguing with you. They should defend their reasoning and suggest a more effective way to solve the bottom line (which in this case is to emphasize something).
Here are a few tips to keep those communication lines open and give you the tools for a successful client/designer relationship:
1. Get off on the right foot. Not the left foot.
From the very first interaction, set boundaries and expectations.
Do you want your client totally involved in everything? Make that clear.
Do you want your designer to take the lead and involve you only when necessary? Tell them that.
If you have a vision for your brand, product, message, website or event, share that with your designer, but also allow them to have the ability to provide you with what you're paying them for: their expertise and creative solutions.
2. Provide guidance, but not direction.
As the client, it's important you let the designer do their work. You're paying them to this, so you don't have to, or because you don't know how to.
You should definitely be open and honest about your visions and give input on what's important; however, don't mistake this for directing the designer to do something a particular way.
If you have issues with the designs they've come up with, address that immediately and explain why. Ultimately, a design should never really be shocking to you if you've been involved and honest from the beginning.
Designers should also pay attention to giving you guidance on your suggestions instead of directing you one way or another. Again, it's a two way street here, guys!
3. Keep those communication lines squeaky clean.
From day one to launch day, there should really be no surprises, except "WOW THIS LOOKS GREAT! I'M SO EXCITED!" Those surprises are welcome. But in terms of clients giving feedback and approvals, and designers asking for input, communication lines should remain open.
If, as a client, you dislike the direction a design is going, you need to speak up ASAP. It's incredibly disheartening and costly to wait until the end to decide you want something totally different. And designers should be consistently sharing their progress with you, while also giving their open and honest opinion about your suggestions.
If making that starburst is a terrible design decision, designers shouldn't just do it because you've told them to. In that case, they're sacrificing their integrity and going against what they think is an effective design choice. Don't be offended by these push-backs as a client! Take them as saving graces. The designer you're paying to do a great job is telling you that by adding that starburst, you're devaluing your brand. And hey, designers, your name goes on every piece of work you release, so make it all worthwhile and stand behind all of your decisions.
As you can tell, it's really all about open communication here. If everyone respects one another's opinions and is kind and courteous in providing feedback, things should go smoothly.