I’m not going to beat around the bush, the following is what I believe to be the biggest myth in the graphic and web design industry:
“Our job is to design what the client wants.”I know the old adage says “the customer is always right.” While I always strive to make the customer happy and create a design that they are pleased with, I would like to consider the following scenarios:
Or imagine you are a physical trainer and your client says, “I know eating healthy and working out is preferable, but I’m thinking that it would be best if I had a few cheeseburgers this week. I would just be a lot happier.” As a physical trainer, you know the cheeseburger will hurt your client and reduce potential for success. Would you do it anyway just because the client thinks it’s the best option?
Seems ridiculous right? Of course it does.
So why do we, as graphic and web designers, allow our clients to sway our decisions with statements like “I think this would look a lot better in yellow”, “Why don’t we center align that instead of left justify” or “Do you really think that font will be the best?” In response to client issues like this, I have heard this phrase from dozens of designers multiple times: “I told him what I thought was best, but in the end, the client is the one who makes the decisions”.
The key to success in working with clients
I would like to suggest two keys of success in dealing with this situation: the importance of educating and making yourself credible and the importance of educating your client.
Educate yourself and be credible
Let’s consider, once more, the scenarios given above. If your accountant had just been released from jail for embezzlement or your personal trainer weighed 400 lbs, would you be more or less likely to trust their judgment? More likely, right? It works the same way when your client hires you. If you are a complete push-over or you are unable to defend or justify your design decisions, what reason do your clients have to trust you?
Success is this area depends on how much you know and how confident you are in your decision-making process. Be respectful but defend your design decisions. When defending your decisions you must remember to do the following:
- Always design with a purpose. If you don’t know why you did something, you can’t explain it to your client.
- Be respectful. No one will ever want to hear your opinion if you are being rude.
- Back up your design decisions with research. Add credible opinions to your defense.
Educate your client
I recently read an article on Brian Hoff’s The Design Cubicle that talks about the importance of educating your clients. It teaches the importance of teaching the benefits of certain design choices, using vocabulary that your client will understand, and more.
Another way to educate your clients is to manage a blog. You don’t necessarily have to post frequently, concern yourself with popularity, comment count, or page views. Rather, a blog is an excellent place to send clients to educate them. Write articles about effective design, gather links to credible design resources, and more.
Busting the myth
I hate to break it to you, but the customer is not always right–at least not in the graphic and web design industry. When we take on the attitude that the client pays the bills so they make the decisions, we undermine our ability to design well and provide a high-quality service for our customers.