My Favorite Customer: Different Types of Clients and How to Handle Them

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In advance, I have to say that I really enjoy working as a graphic and web designer. It’s a very diverse job that is demanding at times, and at other times, it’s just great. To me, it does not matter what branch I’m working for. Whether it’s service-, crafting-, industry-, or culture-related; all of these can be exciting and challenging to the same extent. If there were only one less hazard: the customer.

Different Perspectives, Different Ideas. (Image: Pixabay.com)

Different Perspectives, Different Ideas. (Image: Pixabay.com)

When Clients Become Creative

There’s a reason why graphic designers usually have a degree in media design, and why graphic designers have completed an apprenticeship to do this job. After all, when creating a corporate design, a flyer, or a website, it’s not about making it look good. It’s about visualizing information in a way that is appealing to the business’ unique target audience.

This is where the first clash with the client tends to come up. Many of them have very distinct ideas regarding the design of their business presence, and thus, they’ll often bring their own ideas and even sketches. They think true to the motto: if I like it, it’s good.

Of course, the customer has to be able to identify himself with the design of his business. But the top priority has to be a good design in the sense of the business. If both things strongly differ from each other, not only my client will have a problem, but me as well.

Unfortunate color and font combinations, far too detailed logos, and embarrassing slogans are just some of the things I’ve had to face in the past.

Now, a graphic designer could just think of himself as an executing element that considers all of the client’s wishes; regardless how silly they may be. However, when taking your job as a designer seriously, you should talk to the customer to find a solution that will benefit the business above all else.

Obviously, there will be clients that won’t let you take them away from their ideas. But the majority will let you convince them. Often, the client’s ideas can be modified in a way that allows the customer’s ideas to match my professional view.

With all other clients, you have to decide for yourself just how much you can and want to work in the sense of the customer, and thus, against your own profession.

The Only Way: Communication at Eye Level (Illustration: Pixabay.com)

The Only Way: Communication at Eye Level (Illustration: Pixabay.com)

When Customers Can’t be Satisfied

While the “creative customer” does not prevent good results from being created, there are also customers that simply can’t be satisfied. Luckily, I only had to deal with this kind very rarely over the past ten years.

The “creative clients” know what they want and what they like, but there are customers that have no idea of what they want as well. Generally, this means that you as a designer have free reign. However, this turns into a problem when your design approaches and drafts don’t come across at all.

It gets even worse when the client doesn’t even know what he doesn’t like, and why he doesn’t like it. So if you can’t make out a rough direction of where to go in terms of design during a briefing, or during the introduction of the first ideas, there are only two options.

You can keep designing, hoping to somehow get closer to the unknown ideas of the client. Or you end the cooperation and explain to your customer that no agreement seems to be possible. I have only reached the point where I had to end the cooperation prematurely twice in my ten years of freelancing.

In these situations, it is always difficult to calculate the financial input. In the ideal case, you will make a contract at the beginning, which states that drafts have to be rewarded as well, disregarding whether the project ends up successful or not.

My Favorite Client

Last but not least, let’s get to my favorite client: this one stands out by being open for the ideas and suggestions of the graphic designer. He may bring in some ideas, and certain wishes, but will let me decide whether I will let them be represented in the design or not.

Caring, Yes, But Not at Any Cost. (Image: Pixabay.com)

Caring, Yes, But Not at Any Cost. (Image: Pixabay.com)

You won’t always run into this type of client, but luckily, I get to work with it rather often. As a designer, I have the chance to be creative in the sense of the business. Customer suggestions will be considered, but objections from my end will be considered as well.

In the end, this is not about creating something the customer likes. Liking is always very subjective, and as such should only flow into a design in a small dose. If both sides can agree to this, a lot has been gained already.

Denis Potschien

Denis works as a freelance web designer since 2005.

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