When I sat down with my morning coffee today, browsing through 𝕏 (ex Twitter), a quote by Emunah Winer caught my attention:
When the client comes to the table with the answers, they really just want executors.
This sentiment resonated deeply, triggering a bunch of thoughts and insights I felt compelled to share, especially with young designers for whom client communication and management can be a daunting task.
We can’t make sweeping generalizations, but the truth in Winer’s words is evident in many client interactions. How much a client is willing to bend or be flexible often hinges on the skillset and tact of the professional sitting opposite them. Yet, it’s undeniable that there are clients who are just too rigid in their vision. These individuals have such a clear-cut image of what they want that it seems almost impossible to sway them.
Drawing from our collective experience in the design world, I’ve found that there are several ways to approach such situations:
- The Pragmatist: This is basically a "get in, get out" tactic. Not every job is going to be your dream gig. Sometimes you've just gotta do the work, get paid, and move on. But be careful—do this too often, and you might lose sight of why you started designing in the first place.
- The Delegator: You know those younger designers who are just hungry for experience? This is your chance to pass the fire. You'll keep your reputation intact by not leaving the client hanging, and at the same time, you help someone else get a foot in the door... and learn.
- The Challenger: If a client is going down the wrong path, don't be afraid to speak up. Use solid examples to back your point, like showing how their idea might not resonate with their target audience and how that may affect their business.
- The Educator: Sometimes clients don't "get it" because no one ever taught them. In that case, a quick Design 101 can help you and your client get on the same page and could make the whole process smoother.
- The Compromiser: Find that sweet spot between what the client wants and what you know will work. You might even stumble upon an idea that neither of you would've thought of alone.
- The Innovator: Suggest something totally unexpected that could turn the project from "meh" to "wow!" It's risky, yeah, but the payoff could be huge. That is how you earn reputation.
- The Diplomat: This is long-term relationship building. If a client trusts you, they're more likely to be open to your ideas and flexibility. It's all about building that rapport.
The dance between a client’s vision and a designer’s execution is intricate. It’s a fine line to walk, with both parties bringing their expertise to the table. Yet, as professionals, it’s our responsibility to find the balance between giving the client what they want and what they truly need.
In the alchemy of design, the magic often happens in the silent negotiations between dream and reality.