The final week of our month-long investigation into the nitty gritty of the client-creative relationship with Represent Recruitment is upon us! This week we interviewed five more fantastic designers, from Why Not Associates to Ronojoy Dam, to bring you a whole selection of different tips on how to make the most of your working relationships.
Kicking off the week, Andy Altmann, founder of Why Not Associates, revealed his working mantra: “You’re only as good as your client. This is something that all designers need to constantly repeat to themselves.” That said, he also suggested that with graphic design being a service industry, some designers have a hard time resisting their clients’ demands. “Graphic design used to be called ‘commercial art’ and some might even consider us the ‘prostitutes’ of the art world. Ultimately, if the client wants a blow job, not matter how much you argue, you normally end up giving one.”
Commercial Type founder Christian Schwartz offered the perspective of a type designer, addressing the problems specific to type design. “If the client starts by telling us: ‘We really want to use this existing typeface (often Helvetica), but we want it to be ownable,’ chances are slim that anyone is going to wind up happy in the end.” He also mentioned the time wasted arguing over details. “We have to pick our battles carefully… There’s no sense in wearing ourselves out arguing over one lowercase g. It’s better just to draw three or four options we can live with and let the client pick one.”
“Graphic design used to be called ‘commercial art’ and some might even consider us the ‘prostitutes’ of the art world. Ultimately, if the client wants a blow job, not matter how much you argue, you normally end up giving one.”
Andy Altmann, Why Not Associates
Ronojoy Dam, freelance designer and former creative director of Vice media, told us about his distaste for clients who are all talk. “I start to get concerned when I hear a salesman in the room. Creative hot air is the worst! The work and ideas should do most of the talking. This isn’t to get muddled with passion, as people talking passionately about what they do is always inspiring, but people talking in industry language without saying very much means the meeting’s already over in my opinion.” He also gave some pointers on what a brief should be: “Directional not didactic. Particular not generic. And there should be clarity in the objective. Creativity is given more freedom with parameters than with a a blank sheet.”
Christopher Moorby and David McFarline make up Commission Studio, the design and branding consultancy they set up last year. On building relationships with new clients, they said: “As a new studio we have a lot to prove, so I’d say it’s perhaps more challenging as we’re an unknown quantity to new clients. We speak very passionately and transparently about design so I think people can feed off an enthusiasm and an honesty. Above all you just have to be yourself and hopefully people will click with you.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Joy Nazarri, co-founder of established creative agency dn&co., gave a few tips on how best to deal with the kind of stubborn egotism that can create friction in presentations. “Although we love a big reveal with a dramatic aha! moment and a standing ovation, we’ve started to find a lot of showing a few cards to keep players early. You get an early insight, they feel involved, and importantly you have greased the wheels for acceptance when revealed to a larger group. There is a big risk that a big-swinging-dick in the room can derail a reveal by setting a critical tone – get them involved early.”