Putting the "client" in "team"
12 May 2005
Have you ever had a client that you felt bad for charging, simply because it was so enjoyable working with them?
It's always fun to read quotes from the bad clients, and if you took those quotes on their face value you'd be forgiven for thinking that design would be much better off without the client's involvement. But I tend to think that you produce your best work when your client does make you think, when they push you out of your comfort zone, into somewhere you've never been before.
Instead of viewing a designer as a closed loop that takes input and outputs a design, I think that with experience you grow to see that a designer – or a design firm – is merely a teammate without a team. For every project that you work on, you join a new team whose goal it is to make the best end product that they possibly can. And I'm not including a client as part of the team just to make a nice metaphor. Beyond the initial brief, it is the cyclical nature of suggestion and refinement – team input – that goes into making a project a success.
A recent study showed that new collaborations produce the best results, and it is the balanced collaboration between designer and client that enables one project to be more successful, more innovative than another. Your client has knowledge that you don't have, and you have knowledge that your client doesn't have. Every project is an opportunity to merge your ideas, create something unique and step outside the rut into which many of us fall.
We've all worked on teams who have a dud teammate, and clients are no different. You're going to work with clients who have no sense of team, who don't recongise what you have to offer. How you deal with that situation is your prerogative, but don't let it disillusion you into thinking that clients can't help you make better designs.
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