Graphic design clients often operate in a similar manner. Business leaders usually hire designers because they have a need. They don't hire designers because they love to spend money on good design, or just because they love designers. In fact, some people don't want to pay any money for it, or to interact socially with designers. (Strange as it seems.) But rather, they decide to use designers to decorate their projects.
The design industry has done a lot of work over the years to sell design in a more proper manner. But it's still a struggle for individual designers to reenforce the proper value of design to potential clients.
So, what's influencing client's to view design improperly, and what can we do about it?
1. They are not the right clients in the first place. Bad clients want design for as cheap as they can get. The problem here is that clients like these only see the value in getting something for nothing. They want their business or product to attract customers, but they want a huge ROI (return on investment), by spending very little. This is myopic because customers are attracted to a quality business or product more than a cheap one. Sure, you can get some customers who want something cheap. But you must constantly compete for their loyalty, since they are only interested in price. In the long run that will cost this business more money than the initial investment to do it right in the beginning.
2. Some clients are not properly educated about design, but want to be. Not all potential clients know why they need a designer. They aren't bad clients, per se. They just don't know what designers can really do for them. But, they have a sense that designers can help them. This is the opportunity to do some educational work. Help these types of clients to understand what they don't know, and they will become better clients.
3. You may be selling yourself too cheap. The wrong reaction to misunderstanding a designer's worth is to cheapen your services to get the job. It will not only solidify the misconception in the client's mind, it makes for a poor working relationship. And in the long-run, cheapen the whole design industry.
4. We focus too much on what we do, and not on results. It's okay to share the design process with the client, the roles and responsibilities, and the costs involved. But all that should reflect how we plan to achieve the results the client really wants. And the results are not just for a great looking project. Clients usually want that project to do something for them like achieve credibility, be able to increase sales, or increase interest in their product or brand.
5. The client (and we) may not value our expertise. You know what you are doing, and the client needs your expertise to get the results that they want. Go ahead and share your professional opinions, best practices, and research. Listen to your client's concerns. And interpret their design suggestions in useful ways, rather than just follow orders. Of course, after all that you share the client wants what they want, just do it. Don't take design criticism personally. Just be a professional about it.
The time is right to give the world a better picture of graphic design as a key business strategy.
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