Great Client – Great Design

Behind every great design is a great…client. Thought I was going to say “designer” huh? In truth, a great designer is also required, but it starts with the client. Really great clients, the ones designers want to work with, and do their best work for, understand that the design process is a partnership between client and designer. Great clients determine the project objectives, the constraints, and the functional requirements and communicate them clearly and early to the designer.

Projects without constraints, or projects with constraints that are unknown until too late, are a designer’s nightmare. That might sound counter-intuitive to the uninitiated, but it is oh so true. Suppose somebody hands you a shovel and says “dig me a hole”. You might have a few questions like “what’s it for?” “when do you need it?” “how much do you want to pay?”. What if the answer is “I don’t know, just dig me a hole and we’ll figure all that out later” or worse “oh, just dig me a hole, I’ll tell you when you’re finished if it’s right?” Would you want to start digging?

So, whether you’re a client or designer, I urge you to make the most of the partnership. Clients, please lay it all out for us, tell us what you know about what you’re trying to achieve and tell us what you don’t know, give us the “what” of the project. We designers need to deliver the “how” of the project, and make sure it answers the “what” in a novel and interesting way that respects the available resources. We need to surprise our clients with great ideas that challenge their preconceptions. Clients, please be open-minded enough to consider our ideas on their merits, and be tough enough to reject them if they don’t seem right. We all need to embrace the partnership, and by doing so, create great designs together.

Have thoughts on this? Please share them with me in the comments below.