Should our clients “like” our designs?

When we design an app inside an agency, is it important that our client likes our work? I asked this question at a recent design meet-up, and it sparked some interesting conversation.

Prevailing wisdom tells us that our designs serve a higher purpose. Our goal might be to communicate a message to consumers, or to make a process more efficient for users. Everyone must be committed to the goal and put their ego aside. If the design achieves its goal, we all win. Nothing else matters.

In a calculating world, this is pretty straightforward. But in my experience, achievements are made by people, and people can be emotionally driven. We produce more when we are enjoying our work. We are more focused and disciplined when we are healthy and happy. We are more trusting when we know our voices are being heard.

Achievements are made by people, and people can be emotionally driven.

Our clients are people too. Often they’ve put in months (or years) of effort and planning into getting the project started. They have their own hopes and fears. They have good days and bad days too. If we listen to their opinion, their faith in us grows. If they are enjoying what they see, they will become more engaged. This can enhance everyone’s experience working on the project, greasing the wheels of communication and trust.

The trick is finding the right balance. No one person’s opinion should dominate a project’s direction. No one person’s opinion should detour the project away from what is best for the end user. Individual opinions and gut-feelings are just another facet of creative work. They deserve our attention, but not our submission.

No one person’s opinion should detour the project away from what is best for the end user.

So we listen and we share ideas. We don’t dismiss. We bend but we don’t break. We express concerns. We keep and open mind and we experiment. We remember that designs are malleable. We challenge ourselves to develop a design that works best for users, and also pleases our client and ourselves. In my experience, this kind of attitude opens new doors and leads to a better path for the project and for the people working to make it a success.