"The customer is always right." It’s an often disagreeable adage, but it exists for a reason. Those of us who have had any direct client experience understand that a happy customer makes for a happy business. Return customers account for the bulk of any good design business.
So, is the customer always right? Of course not. How many of us have had to change our carefully chosen modern color patterns to an uglier outdated version to please someone down the line? How many have had to increase a logo size two-fold so that people really know what company they’re looking at? Or take our finely tuned copy and add two more paragraphs to fully detail a service?
As wrong as a client may be at times, there’s always a reason behind their requests. More than any other field I’ve observed, designers have gotten to the point where we think we’re so much more educated and so much better at what we do that, to many, the customer’s opinion is nothing more than an annoyance.
What if your waitress told you that your steak can’t be cooked to well-done because the chef thinks this cut of beef tastes better with some red in it? What if your painter spent two days arguing against the color you want your living room to be because it doesn’t complement the rest of the house? What if your dermatologist refuses to prescribe you any medication because you’re beautiful the way you are? You get the idea.
You may be thinking: "Well, design is different, our role is more specialized." I disagree. In the end, a business is a business, profit is the key to survival and principles that apply to any other professional field also apply to us. We are not higher up in the food chain.
This isn’t to say that we should throw our opinions out the window; we did go to school and/or went through years of experience for a reason. We should always guide a client — that’s what we’re paid for.
But the reason a lot of these oft-annoying revision requests take place is due to our lack of information-finding, initial explanation/project layout to the client, and inability to properly communicate the reasons behind our choices.
Before any of us even begin to think about how a project will look, we should know a business inside and out. How can we communicate to a bakery’s customer base if we don’t know why their customers go to them for their baked goods? If we had known that the bulk of Joe Schmoe’s carpet cleaning business consisted of senior citizens, we would have already been incorporating larger, easier-to-read copy. If we knew Sally Sue’s massage therapy used a revolutionary technique, then we could’ve had a unique selling point to use in our design.
It doesn’t matter how much training we go through, our customers are always more knowledgeable on what works for them than we will ever be. It’s our job to take that material and translate it into a visual medium.
Designers will always fall short if they try to change a company without intimately knowing that company first. Design is a language; it’s your job to communicate what others can’t.
Give your clients more credit; they hold their views for a reason. Figure out the "why" before fighting it.
- Client vs. Designer: Four Lessons to Win the Battle
- How to Handle Difficult Client Situations
- Drawing the Line: 6 Things You Shouldn’t Tolerate in Projects
- Related categories: Project Management and Productivity