The value of design

The Design Council recently published a report that provides strong evidence of the importance of design to business. Virgin and Barclays were just two of the businesses featured, but both are brands that you might well expect to be in there. Will there ever be a time when everyone thinks the same way? We can only hope. And what to do if not? Here are our thoughts… With any body of clients, there are those that understand, appreciate and value the power of good design. They’re the listeners. And on the other side of the divide, there are some that, errr, choose to take the lead, let’s say. Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of both!

We’re sure most creative agencies will feel they deliver their best work when given a decent brief and the space to get on with it.  We’d certainly agree with that. Being shown comparator work, or just some examples of influence “we really liked this”, etc is part of a good brief and a client that can identify what they want.

Where things can and do go awry is when the client basically wants to design the piece him or herself, and becomes very prescriptive about what they want. Often with little, or no, understanding of the basic rules of design and layout.

It doesn’t make sense to pick a fight with a client over every little thing. But we’ve all got creative sensibilities. We’ve all sat in meetings and thought “why on earth do you want us to do THAT?!” And of course, we’d be the first to admit some creative people don’t take perceived criticism too well…

So how to take all this on board and arrive at a project that works creatively, is in line with the objectives in the brief, in keeping with the clients’ brand values, and is one that the client still feels they’ve had an active part in delivering.

When we do one, we’ll let you know… ;-)

We're joking. The working relationship is the key. It’s really down to the agency to educate the client and work with them, explaining why a particular idea isn’t right or whatever. If a request takes no account of the bigger picture of brand strategy, the agency should put the project in context and explain where it sits in the overall direction. It’s all too easy to throw hands up in the air and tut (we’re designers, remember) but that’s not going to get you anywhere.

If you can’t find common ground or the client won’t listen (or maybe doesn’t trust your judgment) then consider whether the working relationship is one that you should allow to continue. Look at the value of the work and subtract the heartache and pain required to get it done, and take a view. It’s always hard to resign clients, but sometimes these things just happen and what looked initially like a promising opportunity can quickly turn out to be a bad fit for both parties.

But lets not end on a sour note! In our experience, when we challenge a client request and back it up with the necessary background information, they almost always listen and it always ends up right in the end. Honestly. No, it does, really...

OpinionPaul Hartley