Great clients. Great designers. Great work.

The District

In our twenty (something) years in the ‘business’ it has crept up on us that when great work happens it is as much the responsibility of the client as the designer. With our egos duly challenged, let’s explain…

The first step is to give the appointed studio the autonomy and frankly power in decision making. Naturally this assumes that the studio appointed are the most appropriate studio for the job in hand (we will discuss this further soon). That said it’s not about ownership (for either party), which we will go on to discuss – it’s about trust. We often mentally draw comparisons with other industries. Imagine for a moment a solicitor giving you advice on an upcoming case or an accountant presenting tax advice, or even a builder offering advice on an approach to insulation. I suspect you would follow their lead? So why, and this is almost exclusively the situation, does the final decision sit with the client? I suppose creativity feels more subjective and to a degree it is, but equally it’s not recreation – it’s a professional occupation resulting from academic achievement and industry experience. This respect and trust will, and we have seen it on many occasions, lead to better work. This is not to suggest that designers should be dogmatic however.

So if it’s not about just sitting back and letting the studio do their thing, what is it about? It’s collaborative. It’s about imparting knowledge upon the designer. Knowledge about the industry you operate in; your ‘product’, your audience, and your competitors. The more insight a studio has the better the outcome will be. It’s almost inevitable that you will know more than them and you should. If a studio appear know more about your industry than you the chances are they are posturing, or they (or you) are in the wrong job. And for us this collaboration shouldn’t end with you simply imparting functional information. It’s about exploring ideas together – it doesn’t matter where an idea comes from, it matters about its quality, so you, the client, should be heavily involved. A studio that thinks the ideas lay exclusively with them are missing a trick.

So it’s about trust, it’s about collaboration – anything else? For us this is the slightly intangible bit – that special relationship that just works. We suppose it’s about team dynamics. And ultimately a client and a studio are a team – or at least they should be. Their failures are shared and their successes are shared. So it’s about creating this ‘team’. It’s about resisting the temptation to blame when things go badly or take credit for things when they go well. And, and this is fundamental, it is about having fun. This sounds corny, but we promise you, relationships where you can reflect, be honest and frankly laugh will produce the best outcomes. And given that work occupies such a large proportion of your life, this can only be a good thing.

This is very much our view based on having run a studio for many years but we would wager, that there are some quantifiable examples of where trust, collaboration and fun(!), have lead to better outcomes.

In fact in order to furnish this sentiment with evidence I searched ‘great clients in graphic design history’, and there was an alarming lack of returns. Maybe this is the problem? When we think of design heroes quite rightly we think of Glaser, Bass, Sagmeister, Koenig – we don’t think of, er, well….no further questions. Click here for more about how we work as a practice or email to debate further.