Thursday, June 27, 2013

The One Thing Designers and Those Who Hire Them Need

If I could sum up the relationship between a client (or boss) and their designer in one word, that word would be respect. I've dealt with this issue before, but it can use more elaboration. Think about how important this is. Without mutual respect the working relationship is plagued by distrust and disrespectful communication.

This affects the work in at least 3 ways.

First, it becomes difficult to establish value. What I mean is that a designer must consider if her pay is worth the aggravation and the client must consider whether the cost is worth the pain of getting what he wants.

Second, every decision and communication is shrouded in suspicion. There is little listening because each is trying to determine what the underlying message really is, and if they are being insulted in some manner.

Third, being under constant suspicion leads to the inability to effectively solve simple problems. Each person is afraid to admit any wrong or deal with issues directly. This makes it hard to correct problems in a timely manner.

On the other hand, when there is mutual respect, communication and trust is a whole lot easier. When problems occur there is freedom to address issues and admit errors without fear of losing the relationship. So, it is a good idea to practice respect.

But, how do we practice respect with someone who is disrespectful?

Well, we can't control anyone except ourselves. So, we start by separating feelings of respect from being respectful. What I mean is there are some things — like behaviors and actions — which have to be proven worthy of respect. Therefore, we don't have to respect bad behavior. However, there are some things that deserve to be respected intrinsically. These include the respect any human being deserves because they are human, the respect a certain role in business and society holds, and the respect knowledge and experience should receive. These are obligations and we must act respectful towards them appropriately.

This approach leaves the door open for mutual respect — as well as people liking you better and wanting to work with you. Although this is not a guarantee of mutual respect, your reputation is worth more than you think. It's better to let the other person expose their true character, than for you to look foolish.

Photo courtesy Ambro of

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