We got to that point where “the client” it became an abstraction, a being that ends up being monstrous when we apply all those characteristics that bother us so much and we would like to eliminate it. Thus, he is a selfish, convincing, greedy, “pichicatero”, rude person behind the desk, who has no idea of design but not only does not accept it, but believes he makes better decisions than us.
The truth is that the personality of each client is defined individually, by the company for which he works and the type of relationship he has established with us. If we are friends from before, we will have a very different type of relationship than if we have achieved it through interviews and professional presentations. There are clients who are very good people, but they are in companies with toxic dynamics that end up devouring it along with their personality and way of working.
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In the ideal world, we should have this possibility to choose clients, investigate their ability to pay, their practices – especially those related to ethics and compliance – and even their decision-making skills. Nobody wants to have a client who serves as a mere intermediary with whom they have the final resolution of a project, and to whom it is not impossible to approach. But that ideal world does not exist. We end up attending to the one who offers to close the deal and make promises to us that it will be a good project or will bring us — at least — a long-term benefit.
On one occasion we were warned about a client with whom we were about to close, about his obsession with power, the bad blood when treating their suppliers and the little that the projects paid (they almost always come along with glued). The job was to make a magazine, a topic that greatly appealed to us. We discussed it and we weighed all this against satisfaction and the potential to attract more customers, taking advantage of this exhibition by being in shop windows of magazine kiosks.
We took the project and effectively published three issues. Our life, patience and pocket did not give us more, we ended up throwing the project. The shot had gone out the butt and we were very damaged with this experience. Indeed the client was not only rude, he did not have empathy, he saw us as slaves, as part of his lower-ranking personnel, without the possibility of making a single decision, wanting to cover and apply the knowledge acquired just by reading a book on how to publish journals.
I guess everyone has their own horror stories, and I do not intend to use this space for catharsis, but let me go to the other side of the spectrum. A prospect that we chased for months, finally one day called us to give us a project. It was a presentation of Power point. Nothing more disappointing and boring than putting nice graphics and accommodations in a program that is difficult to want (and use).
The next project was — now it is — a topic that involved design, a catalog came, then another, then the redesign of its identity and even permanent consulting services on sales decisions to the public, packaging designs, signage and then its brands. alternate. A client who endured us for more than a decade and kept our bank account active, a good income, a good deal, especially respectful, where everyone knew their place and made decisions from there.
At inter These types of customers include almost everyone else, from what they take care of you to those who want to get even every penny, haggling and questioning you. The interesting thing is that when making a final balance, you end up realizing that just as the design has grown and matured over time, clients also came to understand the limits between which we move.
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We could hardly understand customers without a hint of mea culpa about the ways in which designers leave bad impressions on them. We accept jobs without contracts, without even verifying the seriousness of the company they represent. We do not know – most of the time – if they have the ability to pay or the true need of what they are asking us for. We voraciously criticize the work of our predecessor, we call it unprofessional without seeing that this is precisely the image we are forging of ourselves, we end up applying the law of least effort in the face of the tedium of moving to the next project.
We must see the client as a partner, a colleague in a relationship of reciprocal need, where many times he does not know what he is hiring or the dynamics that are required to reach a result. Designers must learn to manage them rather than treat them. What does my client need that I can offer him? Is there something you require that you are not seeing but I do know? At what level do I communicate with him, using what kind of language, like a doctor describing a symptom picture with technical concepts, or grounded for the patient to understand with simple language? Am I earning your trust so that you can unload important decisions about my work on me? Will he make the final decision or must he escalate it with his direct bosses?
It’s more difficult to establish a selfish relationship where our only goal is to drain your bank account, because those kinds of relationships just don’t last. If we think about him win win then we will overcome the barrier of working only for money and then focus on seeking to grow our client – call us within the company – so that we too enjoy those pleasures of having more work, more relevant and better paid.
To finish, four very simple postulates about what a client must represent for us:
- A character who, like us, has the need to grow and yield results through our work.
- A person who needs us as much as we need him. A society in which everyone has their place and their task to fulfill.
- He is another professional, who like us must know his field of action. If not, we may not be willing to go through this episode with him.
- A source of income that in addition to feeding us, we must feed results on our work.