Designer, don’t blame the client… because it’s your fault.

As a part of the designer’s guild, I’ve been suffering the same problems than you everyday working with different kind of clients. I want to share with you some thoughts that may help you in your daily job and projects.

I’m tired of hearing you (and my self) blaming the client. Let’s go a bit more further than a simple “fuck off, they want the logo bigger, they can’t teach me how to design”.

I’ll be referring to “you”, but as I told you, I’m part of the guild. Also note that I’m talking about all kind of clients: internal and external ones.

It’s not the client’s fault

In the 99% of the time, the problem it’s yours, not the client. You’re not doing a good work as designer, you are suffering from your weaknesses as designer, so you are blaming the client.

Because it’s easy to blame someone else and not recognize that the problem in this case is just you, the designer. The client had a problem and hired you to solve it, but now he has 2 problems instead of one: the old problem and also managing a kid that draws on the screen.

There are good and bad clients, but assuming you picked the right one, that doesn’t mean that you will be able to do whatever you want. The client hired you because he doesn’t design, so don’t expect design skills from him.

Putting the record straight

Because a client it’s not supposed to tell you the right questions to ask him in order to get useful information. You designer, should be smart enough to communicate, find and ask the right questions to him.

Because a client it’s not supposed to list, organize and explain you the real problems, he just tell you what he thinks the problems are, so you should be able to understand the situation and find solutions to that problems.

Because a client it’s not supposed to know how to give you constructive and good feedback. It’s part of your job as designer explain him how to participate and share useful insight about the design. He may fail again giving you feedback, but again, it’s your job manage that “bad feedback” and turn it in something useful.

But I’ve worked so hard and client doesn’t like the design!

This time you followed and worked hard (as a real designer) and missed the shot, the client doesn’t like your design. Fuck off, blame the client! No.

A good designer should be also a good communicator. You must be capable of presenting and explaining your work rationally, in a friendly and easy way to the client. He will understand the entire process, recognizing the problems and their proposed solutions to solve them.

If client understands the whole thing, you’ll receive a better feedback and not just things like “I don’t like it”. So you’ll be able to fix or improve solutions for specific problems. That’s much better than blaming and crying because the client didn’t understand anything of your perfect designed solution.

Final thoughts

All these things have led me to the conclusion that it’s equally important to design and present your work (if not more important). It’s part of our job as designers to communicate and to facilitate the process.

Always remembering to both sides that you’re the expert in design, and the client knows more than anyone about his business, you’re in the same boat, you should work together to achieve the same goals.

Said that, we aren’t living in the country of lollipop and some clients won’t understand never our job as designers. If you find yourself explaining multiple times what’s your job and asking for respect but the client still doesn’t get the point… BLAME THE CLIENT AND GO FOR A GOOD ONE!

But in that case… the problem is still ours, we failed at picking the right client. 😉


Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. Marcus says:

    I think that this is a bit over simplified and I think that both or none parties are to blame most of the times (neither or both the designer or the client). And when you get in these situations it´s mostly about trust, that the client doesn´t trust the designer. That when you as a designer hear stupid comments about making the logo bigger or test 41 shades of blue to find the right one.

    The reason for this is human psychology, some people doesn´t match together. Doesn´t matter how well you communicant to the client if you don´t match and they don´t trust you it´s going to be a tricky project.

    Michael Beirut sums up everything about working with clients

  2. Adrián says: (Author)

    @Marcus thanks for commenting!

    I agree with you, both parts should work and trust each other. But I’m didn’t simplify anything here. I mean, it’s a common situation happening to a lot of designers, and instead of making the effort to understand and solve the problem we just said “client don’t trust me”. I think we must make more than that.

    It’s part of our job as designers to educate the client in order to understand what design is about, so they will respect more our role as designer.

  3. Lewis C says:

    Very refreshing, I have a similar saying, although it is quite narcissistic. The client is always right, they are right to come to me to ask about doing the work and doing it well, they are right to pay me and if they have changing requirements then they will be right to do so again as well. This also covers them arguing with themselves asking for free or discounted future work(s). Of course the benefit of mine is it misses out quite a few F’words explaining lol.

  4. Paul Randall says:

    I wrote something which touches similar problems when dealing with a client:

  5. Edwin says:

    Oh boy! You are going to get a LOT of slack here.
    When I go to my surgeon, I don’t suggest other procedures to get my gallbladder removed. I do not interrupt my lawyer in a court room and appeal my own case. Heck, I don’t even tell my mechanic what’s wrong with my car and tell him how to fix it… why? because they know better than I do. They have more experience, and that what makes them an expert in their trade. I also trust them with my problem and money.
    The problem with design nowadays is that everybody is a closet designer. Everybody “can” design, because (almost) everybody has access to a computer and free typefaces, and free tutorials online.
    Technically, nobody is an expert at anything. However, it is our responsibility as designers, as visual communicator, as value-added (or experience-enhanced) professionals to communicate clearly the scope and facets of any project, to understand our clients’ needs and tastes, but most of all always remember that we are communicating with our clients’ audiences, and not our own nihilistic ‘expert’ designers’ guild.
    To conclude: I agree with the gist of your article, but I disagree with its binary approach. There is a lot of grey in between, and that is our jobs, as designers, to filter the grey, make sense of it, then educate our clients, perfectly communicate with them and always defend beauty.
    When a client is obtuse to change, to visual balance, to constructive suggestions and to a ‘big picture’ approach: just fire them. Pick your battles wisely, or you will burn out.

  6. SUJEET SHYAM says:

    “When I go to my surgeon, I don’t suggest other procedures to get my gallbladder removed. I do not interrupt my lawyer in a court room and appeal my own case. Heck, I don’t even tell my mechanic what’s wrong with my car and tell him how to fix it… why?”

    Because …Removing Gallbladder has to do with Science, perceived knowns and provable hypotheses. It is based on fact, or what is considered to be fact at the time. Art has to do with intuition and the individual experience. For example: Two people can work the same chemistry, math, or physics problem, and using scientific laws and formulas, get the same answer, no matter how many times they do it. But the same two people are likely to have very different opinions about the qualities they value in music, painting, and literature. They may even change their own opinion from one day to the next. Thus, the value of a work of art is changeable, depending on who, where and when, while a scientific law is constant, no matter the circumstances
    Client understands his business better than we do. Lets give an excuse free service to our clients and be grateful to him for giving us BUSINESS.

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