Clients and their designers. Designers and their clients.

For designers it can feel as though marketing teams or business committees are a well-intentioned pair of solid concrete boots. Designers have all conceded a share of defeats at the hands of ingnorant lower/middle/upper management who try to tell us how to do our job. They would argue, of course, that they’re only doing their job. For a real solution to this conflict and to create more progressive, positive outcomes for design/business/world, we need to learn to speak each other’s language, in particular business needs to learn exactly what to expect from a graphic designer.

Clients and designers need a more reciprocal understanding of roles to form a mutually advantageous partnership. It should be two-way, but from my perspective it is the designer’s role that is more often sublimated. To get a job done well you often need to spend huge amounts of time educating, convincing, charming and sometimes arguing with clients about things that are ultimately for their benefit and that should be considered the designers role to know and advise. A client will make demands which the designer knows is to the detriment of the project and not command sufficient respect to be listened to seriously.

The design industry as a whole has an identity crisis. We are strategy consultants, advertisers, artists, activists, innovation hikers etc… amongst which ‘graphic designer’ sounds a bit dry. Whilst the role(s) of a graphic designer may be broad, we need a coherent description of services that we share and that business can understand. I’d say that even exclusively digital designers should describe themselves as graphic designers to maintain this sense of consistency for the sake of the industry.

These transformations would take place slowly and require a consensus on the common goal within the industry. As well as improving the quality of the work, I think this would have other positive effects such as enabling designers to quote/charge with some consistency, find clients more easily and once a job has been secured allow for it to run more smoothly. Articulation is key and we can start with the questions…

What should business expect and respect of graphic designers?

To begin with, I propose:

  • Dedication to, and expertise in aesthetics.
  • Whilst our first responsibility is to the client’s brief, we have our individual ideologies, ethics, and sense of purpose towards the improvement of society beyond this.

What should designers expect and respect of business (clients)?

I’d say this ball should be thrown in to the court of a businessperson, but designers should expect a set of definable goals or motivations and for their responses to be challenged and held accountable. If we demand the respect we need to take responsibility.

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