Let’s just be transparent. In the world of business, there are always clients that are–how do I say it?–time consuming. They test your patience. Opinions, ideas, directions–you name it–never seem to come together. Conversations via email and phone always seem to take up a ton of time and, at the end of the project, both parties have lost a lot of time and a lot of money. It’s always unfortunate but it is just the nature of business. To offer a public service can require long suffering and at the end of the day, the client needs to be happy with what they are paying for. After all, it is something they will be living with for quite some time. And as the service provider, you simply move on to the next project.
A Lesson in Patience
For the most part, I have been blessed to have very trusting clients. However, I have had a rough go at it on a couple of occasions.
One time, I was hired by an individual to design a logo. Conversations were had, price was agreed upon, the due date was scheduled, and I was off to start the design process. After a few weeks, I showcased the logo and they really liked it. As far as I knew the project was complete, but then the craziest thing happened–a committee was organized for the final agreement of the logo. Every individual on the committee had varying opinions about the design. I began making adjustments and the two week project turned into a three month process. A lot of time and money was lost making those adjustments.
Here is what happened. The person that oversaw the whole process simply turned to others to see what they thought and those opinions bred doubt in the mind of the individual with oversight. The next thing I knew, I wasn’t working for that individual. I was working for an entire committee that assembled itself; each member with varying opinions. This really tested my patience. I even considered giving the deposit back and wiping my hands of the whole matter–which is something that happens frequently in the design industry.
How was I supposed to please every member of the committee?
After three months, I was able to create a design (that looked nothing like the original) that appeased all the members, but only because they wanted multiple variations they could use. I strongly advise against this sort of action because it causes brand inconsistency. Brands and businesses should never be seen as inconsistent. Have one design and use it to “brand” your image into the minds of customers.
At the end of the project, I had gained the ability to be more patient with future clients. It was also a harsh reminder that, at the end of the project, the client needs to be happy with what they are paying for.
As a designer, I still heavily impress my opinion and attempt to persuade the client in what I feel is the best direction, but again, they are paying. If they are ultimately satisfied with a design I disagree with, then so be it.
But there are also a few lessons that I believe are important when you are the client–the one paying for the design work.
Two Lessons for Clients of Designers
1. Value opinions, but don’t over-value them.
Opinions can be incredibly valuable, but they can also be harmful. When working with a designer, the two key opinions involved should be yours and the designer’s. There is nothing wrong with asking outside opinions, but be careful. A lot of times, the people being asked for the opinions are not directly connected to your brand/business; or they aren’t in the leadership position that you are in. They more than likely don’t know the full ins-and-outs. They don’t have the full vision of the brand or business that you have.
Value the input of others, but don’t overvalue it. You know your brand or business better than anyone else. Trust yourself and trust the designer you are working with.
2. Love what you leave with!
When you pay for design work, make sure you walk away with something you like.
In the story above, the final design ended up being something that appeased the self-established (and non-employed) committee rather than the individual that hired me. The individual that hired me wanted something that set them a part, but the end result was something that blended in.
As a designer, I make it my goal to provide a brand or business with design that helps them speak clearly in a visual world. I work hard to think creatively for the client. I long to be seen as a resource for the client. However, I can only give my professional opinion for so long. If the client wants the design to go a certain direction, it is my job to make sure they are happy with what they paid for.
The design business has allowed me to learn greater patience and I am thankful for it. It has also allowed me to see the way designers can care poorly for their clients. Designers can have a bad habit of caring about their portfolios rather than the person who is paying for the work. Egos get in the way and fires start. If you are a client, make sure you work with a designer who has your best interest in mind–not their portfolio. And also make sure that you have your best interest in mind.
Most importantly: Walk away with design work that you are proud to display. Every company in the world has a logo that someone will not like. And that is because everyone has an opinion. Don’t allow outside opinions to overhaul any vision you have in mind. Simply use those opinions to help fine tune your vision.
P.S.– This entire article aims at small business owners specifically. It is not uncommon for larger companies to arrange a specific group to be involved in branding projects, but those groups are arranged by someone with oversight. They are not self-established.