Attention CEOs! Here’s How to be a Good Client

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Do you really want great work from your designer?

Everyone immediately answers YES! to this question. But it’s not completely up to your designer to do a good job when building your brand. Creating effective design takes collaboration, thoughtfulness, and planning. It’s not an accident.

Not only that, it takes nerve. To really get great work, you will be stepping into parts unknown. Unexplored territory. Are you ready to do that?

Learning how to be a good client can help you get the best work from your designer, maybe even great work.

Extraordinary work is done for extraordinary clients.”
…Milton Glaser

How can YOU be an extraordinary client?

  1. Set your vision and goals—first. Think about it, talk to clients, customers, and friends, before you give direction to a designer. Your designer can be a great partner in focusing your ideas. How do you reach a destination without a road map?
  2. Include your brand strategist/designer in communications, market research and meetings. The more information you give them, the better the result.
  3. Make up your mind about the key things you want to accomplish. Changing direction in midstream wrecks havoc on your project.
  4. Identify your target market. Understand your competition.
  5. Keep your decision-making group small, and only include people who are marketing and brand champions.
  6. Get other opinions, but do it early. A strong leader knows how to elicit ideas from a wide group without losing sight of their vision and goals.
  7. Communicate your needs clearly.
  8. Make decisions that align with your vision and goals. Don’t use purple just because it’s your favorite color. Put your brand first.
  9. Fully discuss the pros and cons of your product and all concerns up front.
  10. Understand designers are problem-solvers at heart.
  11. Trust and respect your designer. It just won’t work any other way.
  12. Be willing to take a risk. The best work is always something that hasn’t been done before. That’s what makes it a little scary and a lot fun. It also results in an inspirational, enduring, memorable brand. 


Red Flags for the Designer

  • Leadership is too busy to meet with you.
  • You hear…“I’ll know it when I see it.”
  • We’re taking a vote. Yup, everyone has an opinion, and this always muddies the waters.
  • I’m going to show it to my husband/wife/interior designer/nephew/focus group to see which one they like.
  • My daughter’s favorite color is pink; I’d like to use it in the design.
  • I like this font I saw on a candy bar better.

Read our post on the pros and cons of rebranding

A designer can be a huge asset to your business. But how do you choose the right one when hiring a design firm?

1. Look at their portfolio.

If their work excites you and speaks to you, go to the next step. Really look at their work–if they are web designers, go to the websites and explore them, it will tell you a lot. Ask them about projects. If they don’t have a portfolio, move on.

2. Talk to them.

A good designer should communicate well, and LISTEN to you. Good design comes out of a clear understanding of your needs and what your company stands for. Great design has a dose of intuition that goes beyond verbal communication.

3. Discuss marketing.

A good designer should have a strong working knowledge of how to get a product to market. If your project is a website, ask if their development is SEO compliant, discuss blogging, social media, print work and other ways to get the word out. There are many ways to market today, and having a pro to guide you will be of great value.

4. No nepotism.

Do not hire your nephew just because he graduated from design school. Often, personal relationships get in the way of business and interfere with the professional process. Hire a veteran design firm that will be there when you call and be there tomorrow too. See point 1.

5. Ask their clients.

Your designer should provide references. Call them and see how they work, communicate and service them.

6. See if you fit.

You are getting involved in a very close relationship. Make sure you feel good about the person you will be working with, and relate well with them. A good relationship with your designer should last for years, and you can grow your business with one who knows you well.

“Good design is good business.”
Tom Watson, Chairman of IBM

7. Trust them.

Trust is the #1 factor in a working relationship. Your designer will often have a different opinion than you, or your wife, or your best friend. They have the experience, the eye, and are problem solvers at heart. Trust the designer you hire, and let them do their job.

Read why having an IT guy be your website manager is insane

So, be a better client, and you’ll get better work. Do your homework, collaborate, and lead with your vision. Unless, of course, you want to be ordinary.


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