Is it a Mistake that Designers Design for Their Clients?

When walking along the neighborhoods of Cambridge, my friend, another recent A&D grad, and I were discussing our challenges with trying freelance design work fresh out of undergrad.

“So basically he [her client] just wanted the old menu updated with new information. And I designed it, you know?” she said with confusion, “the old work looked horrible”.

This sums up a mystery I’ll never understand: if something looks bad and a designer has the ability to make it better, why does the client want the bad version?

Over the past year I’ve worked with clients I’ve met through connections or bumping into someone at a coffee shop. Even when I worked for clients through an office I’ve experienced hostility when pushing through their horrendous original visuals to create something more concise. My motivation for making improvements is, of course, to practice proper principles but also to give my client their best work.

It’s kind of heartbreaking to do what’s best for a client only to be rejected. Generally, creatives have an attachment to their work, but as much as you try to put pride aside witnessing the destruction of your creative effort sucks. Besides pride, I also believe designers are morally obligated to release good work to uphold the integrity of the industry.

What it comes down to is some clients just aren’t good clients. Sure, they need the project done and they might pay you, but does that make them good? If they always want the worse design it’s not a mistake, you just aren’t working well together. There’s probably nothing you can do to make the relationship better, so learn from this and build a new partnership with someone who values your knowledge and expertise.

I’m learning the difficulty with building a client list is discovering what is good by weeding through the bad. Figuring out your ideal client is half the battle when working for yourself, or really in any creative setting. This is hard to realize when you don’t have much experience in attracting, finding, and landing people to collaborate with. Creative work is really a collaboration, which is why figuring out your client audience is paramount.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to design a strategy on how to find my ideal client. I’ll be posting updates on my adventures, trials, and probably many errors.

Let me know your opinions on the morals in designing good design for clients versus giving a less than quality piece of work. Comment here and help build the community of young creatives trying to make the world a better place.