Continuing on my thinking process about this recent post I am moving on to #2 of the list, “A Thick Skin”. I have to agree whole heartedly with Addison Duvall on this one. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that with your design degree you know better than your customer what will look the best for their project. Then, when they don’t agree you are crushed and have no motivation to give the job your continuing best effort.
Luckily, you take a few of these hits early in your career and one of two things happens:
a) You decide that being a designer isn’t for you and head into a new direction. The only problem with this is if your ego doesn’t downsize you will encounter blow after blow in whatever career you choose. You very well may be brilliant, but sooner or later someone will take you down.
b) You grow a thick skin. I have been a designer for over 25 years now. When I start working with a new client, right from the beginning, I tell them “Give me your honest opinion of the designs. You will not hurt my feelings. This is part of the process and I want you to be happy with what you get.”
Now why would I start out this way? First, it’s because I’m from the South and live in the South. We are raised to not hurt other people’s feelings. People here will often not be completely satisfied with what they pay for because they didn’t know how to tell the designer they didn’t like the work. There might be some gentle hints, but if the designer isn’t very astute at picking up on the hints, the client will pay, but very likely will not be back to work with that designer again. Second, it just gives people the freedom to tell you what they like and don’t like so you can deliver a better product to them.
I can also tell you from experience, that you may have one fabulous design, but it might not do the job it needs to do. Most of the time your clients are going to know their target market much better than you do. One example that keeps me on track is a used car business I had as a client for a number of years. It physically pained me to rearrange my lovely design into a mishmash, hodge podge, break-every-design-rule, product on the client’s insistence. But, guess what. He consistently had one of the highest rates of return I have ever seen. He knew his customers and what would catch their attention.
Lastly, as much as we don’t like to think about it, we are a commodity. It doesn’t take much research for a client to find a designer who will listen to them and work with them and make them happy. If you are regularly having your feelings hurt and resenting what your clients are telling you, then think long and hard about whether you would rather have a happy ego or have grocery money.