Have you ever wondered what everyone else thinks when they see us designers venting on sites like Clients from Hell and Reddit?
When I saw this tweet:
At first I was mad, but then I realized he is right. It is kind of sad that trashing clients has become such a normal thing for designers to do.
I went and read some client horror stories, and I honestly found myself siding with the clients too.
Have you ever been a client yourself? I remember when I hired a contractor to finish my basement last summer. Before the project, I quickly got extremely stressed out trying to research how to reroute drains and air ducts and run cat6 cable and all kinds of crazy things I thought would need to happen as part of the project.
And when I called contractors, some of them acted like I was a complete idiot when I told them what I wanted them to do.
Until the last contractor I called listened and said “You know what man, that’s not how I’d do it. But I can definitely help you get this project done right.”
I hired him, and I am writing this email to you from my sweet new basement office with cork flooring and designer wallpaper.
The contractor I hired didn’t do the work the way I thought he would. Of course he didn’t—I had never finished a basement before and every single idea I had about it was totally wrong.
But he did explain to me how he worked and why he did it the way he did. And I felt a lot better about paying him when I understood those things.
This is our problem as designers:
We want to do our work without explaining it to anyone, then we get mad when people don’t understand.
But if we want people to understand why design is important and how we work, we are the ones who have to teach them.
It’s not a client’s fault if they don’t understand design.
If a client (or a boss, coworker, etc) doesn’t appreciate what you do, then you need to teach them why your work is valuable. You need to show why you are the right person to hire to do the job.
And if they come to you with crazy-sounding ideas for the design, you need to realize that the ideas sound crazy because the other person isn’t a designer. They don’t know how to make design. But asking for those things is the only way they know to kick off the project.
Instead of being mad at them for having crazy ideas, you need to explain the right way to do it and convince them to trust you.
Because most clients from hell are just normal people trying to start a design.
Design's Iron Fist is a collection of essays with advice for both design learners and professional designers. It's been featured as one of the best free design books by the Creative Bloq and the AIGA.
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