Good Client, Bad Client.

As a designer, you tend to blame everyone else for your problems. You blame the clients, the boss, the creative briefs, the junior designers, the printers, the accounts execs (ok, it’s usually their fault), the budget, the content, the photography, etc… It’s never your fault. If all these things were in order, you would be able to produce the most beautiful work ever. But that’s the Catch-22 of design. It’s about creating something beautiful in spite of all these problems – the moment when your target audience falls in love with the product, and has no idea of all the problems and antacid it took to get that piece of work done. I believe in The Idea. A genuinely good idea rises above the follies of everything else.

So, I am now in the situation where I can’t blame the client (hey, I picked them), the boss (ok, a little self-loathing every now and then) or the account execs (I come to realise, accept and appreciate the amount of work they do) and yet, that ol’ devil called Negativity comes knocking. I have come across, what I believe to be, the Holy Grail of Clients. The appreciative client. The compliant client. The trusting client. The approving client. The paying client. In all my years of designing, I have never come across this in person. Designers, used to huddle around each other, shivering from adrenaline at 2am, whispering in fevered tones about The Perfect Client. The myth, the legend, the mirage. Could it be…? So, here’s my brief list of How to Be A Good Client and How To Recognise If You’re A Dick Client.

  1. You organise all your content into separate folders, with images labelled and captioned (Good Client)
  2. You don’t know what you want, but you know what you don’t want when you see it. (Dick Client)
  3. You choose to work with your designer on picking fonts, instead of focusing on your content. (Dick Client)
  4. You embed images into Word documents. (Dick Client) (The Devil)
  5. You appreciate your designer’s previous work and trust the direction she/he takes it to (Good Client)
  6. You need to see and be convinced that the design is going to work. (Dick Client)
  7. You don’t micro manage. (Good Client)
  8. You keep saying, “Final round of changes”. (Dick Client)
  9. You lie when you tell your designer, “It’s up to you”. (Dick Client)
  10. You pay on time. (Good Client)

(My biggest gripes are No.3 and No.4. Start writing your content instead of wasting your time with font selection. No-one’s going to give a damn about whether it’s written in Helvetica or Verdana – if there’s nothing to typeset to begin with. Let your designer design. You just stick to what you’re doing. And please stop sending me Word files that have anything except body copy in it. Embedding images in Word files wastes your time and more importantly, mine.)

I am the world’s most negative person. It’s like my brain has a positivity filter, that catches the littlest of positive thinking and says, “What are you doing here, you silly, silly thing?” I can’t remember the last time I was positive about something – truly, positive. And when it didn’t go away in 5 minutes.

I am, however, very positive (cautiously positive, is that allowed?) about my new lease of career. I am genuinely enjoying the work I am doing now – I absolutely love that I am in charge of calling the shots (in all fairness, I’m just calling them for myself… and one Chihuahua) but I love that instead of spending my hours whinging about clients, I get to drop them and move on to more stimulating work. I love that I’ve effectively stopped myself from being the person that is always complaining about work. I guess I’m fortunate enough to have skills (nunchuck skills) that lets me work from home. It’s really awesome, with a hint of claustrophobia on the side.

I now have the opportunity to work with a truly great client – and while they are most appreciative of my work – my negative spirit billows up and wonders if they’re just either being really nice or if design isn’t that big a deal to them – in the grand scheme of things. I just hope that they genuinely like the work I’ve done. It’s been a long time since I was the sole designer on any given project – and while I grew to doubt my design skills over the years, I guess it’s slowly coming back to me. Like riding a bike.


p.s. Don’t talk shit about my curtains in the picture above


2 Replies to “Good Client, Bad Client.”

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