When clients turn into designers

designer error message

…designers become mere tools. Sorry tools who don’t even have those pop-up error messages. This video says it all and judging from the comments, it’s common. But can you totally blame the client, when you don’t even speak up? Did they study balance, or color theory, or typography, or design history, or iconography? No, we did.

If you come across as the expert, you’ll be treated as one. Of course there will always be the client you regret signing up with, but act the expert from the start and you increase the chances of both sides being happy. With a stubborn client, it may be satisfying to get to say “I told you so” in the end but if you kept silent, it wasn’t a job well done and it will eat at your soul. If you at least gave professional advice, then you did your best and you can blame the client all you want.


  • May 14th, 2012 /

4 Comments to “When clients turn into designers”

  1. Graeme says:

    Hi Grace,

    How about when you design a site, it’s going really well, then the client says ‘We have seen this site http://www…………. could you change ours to be like that!’

    Best wishes

  2. Grace Oris says:

    Hey Graeme, how are you?

    When I was just starting out, I was asked to design one to look EXACTLY like this popular site. I copied the structure but designed it to look different. I was commended for my creativity but was told to change it to look just like what they wanted. I didn’t think then to ask why or “defend” my design (which I thought even looked a lot better!) but just did as they wanted. I felt justified when a month later the popular site did a redesign, ha! But now I know, I should have spoken up or at least asked questions.

    Asking why they want a copy can bring up the real issue. If a client thinks that simply copying another site’s design will help their site’s ratings, they need a rethink. Its our responsibility to create what’s best for their particular needs and though a copy may fulfill those, ask wouldn’t a custom-designed site work much better?

  3. Cathy says:

    I work with designers, and alongside designers, and I see all the time how the ‘client knows best’ mentality can really railroad a strong, creative idea.

    I think being able to articulate your design choices in a clear and beneficial (to the client) way is a skill that’s super important for designers to develop.

  4. Graeme says:

    Hello Grace & Cathy,

    The thing is the site my friend likes is the same business as his really and in the same area! I think I might just have to go along with his idea as I should have spoken up before now about it.

    Thank you,

    Best wishes

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