Designers should stand firm


I wasn’t exactly sure on how to title this blog post. ‘Standing firm’ seemed quite apt to suit the point I’m going to try and put across.

Over the last 4 years I’ve worked on a range exciting projects for all kinds of different clients, some of which have been fantastic! I think every designer in the land has come across issues with client contact and clients not understanding the way we choose to represent their business or their ideas.

You quickly find yourself receiving sketches in the post, ideas of “websites” via email or even mocked up designs fresh out of MS Word. One of my all time greats was a client who though it would be fantastic to write some copy in MS Word, put it into a small typeface, cut it out and place it over one of his business cards and secure in place with pritt-stick to make sure I knew how he’d want the card design. I’ve seen it all, some you can laugh at, some you can cry at and usually the favorite is to simply starting pulling hair or banging your head on the nearest wall. When you can’t bang your head and have to reply in a meeting. Some have pained me just replying to emails.


Going through the worst of client confrontations means that you can learn a lot from the whole process. I recently went through a scenario of thinking a client I knew of was compeltely crackers/barmy/mad. They put over the impression they were causing someone some serious issues, so much so you could see the stress in the face of the worknig person. My understanding is that clients are not mad, they’re not stupid or barmy. They, on occasion are simply misunderstood and it’s the simple fact that we move so fast through our own understanding of our industry that we fail to realise they are not as quick. Clients need objectives explaining and interpreting into their own way of thinking. Explain to them why things won’t work or will work and in what context.


Paul Boag recently talked about ‘Educating clients to say yes’ in depth at Future of Web Design, NYC, Paul has been in the Industry enough to know how to work with clients rather than manage.

My view is ‘managing clients’ sounds more like they’re a problem rather than a part of the job you’re working on. We designers have to realise that they infact know more about their business than we do, we certainly do not know their target audience until we ask, we do not know how much of what product they sell the most of at any one time.


It’s not that difficult. We need to realise, as I said above that clients are not crazier than a dog chasing its tail. The fact is they do not understand a bloogy thing we’re going on about that they react differently than if we approached them saying why their idea may be a problem. This is only a lesson I have learned over the past 3 or so weeks, and oddly Paul Boag talked about it at FOWD, NYC a few days after it happened to me.

Clients love direct contact yet they need to understand that contact with you can have different outcomes. If you’re busy working on their project and are interrupted you can lose focus completely. Every client I have worked with has two numbers for me, my land line work phone and my mobile. The clients I’ve given my mobile to know not to use it at randomly however if/when I work from home they know how to contact me and I am more than happy to answer their calls.

The management of a phonecall can pay dividends. A lot of clients will think that a simple phone call will not disrupt your focus. How wrong they are. Explain to them about urgency, the scales of urgency. Explain the ensuing result of a random phonecall with little point can achieve little else than failure because of the way they’ve approached you.

One thing which works well is a spare office desk with Internet connection that is the client desk. This is a place where they can come in and work around you. It builds relationships, it helps them realise just what happens within our workplaces and how we work best. Meetings can be called on a moments notice and results can be achieved with great accuracy and focus.


I believe we should stand firm, I believe that clients should listen to us and take what we’re saying on board. Don’t be obnoxious about it, help them, guide them. Designers and clients can work together to bring tremendous results as long as we give them a chance to do so.

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Lead Interaction Designer at DigitalDWP. Organiser of Industry, The Practical Web Conference..