When I worked in the creative department at the newspaper, I was fascinated by some of the dynamics that would come into play. Certain sales reps and managers would gravitate to one designer versus the other. Some of these dynamics would be informed by practical considerations such as who was on shift or who had time to do a rush job, but more often than not it had to do with personalities and ways of communicating. While some jobs were so straightforward, either designer could do them justice, some creative choices had to do with specific clients and what they were looking for and which artist would be the better choice for a given project. This decision could be informed by different skill sets, nuanced sensibilities or how well two people get along. Some of the forces at work generating these dynamics were obvious but many of them were subtle and unspoken. And sometimes they could be messy.
There were times when the pressures of the job paired with these unpredictable dynamics would end in some figurative hair-pulling and some inaudible muttering. In severe cases we resorted to hauling out the “therapeutic gong” from Thailand. It served as a release of sorts when things got crazy and it helped us stay on track and refocus as required. These were long-term jobs with the same people working together day in and day out, where that familiarity with one another had good points and not so good points, but that daily deadline had to be met no matter what. A sense of humour was imperative.
Now we live in this brave new world where people are hiring nameless, faceless people on the other side of the planet to create all kinds of collateral material for their personal lives or businesses at bargain prices on the internet. Connections are relatively fleeting and relationships don’t tend to develop in the same way as face-to-face interactions. While this new competition isn’t entirely a bad thing, it does ultimately diminish the value of what designers do. Despite this, Daily Designz participates in this virtual arena regularly with positive results. Sometimes it is a one-off assignment and you never hear from the client again. Other times it develops into a more regular arrangement and you become their go-to person for a new business card design or another batch of ads or what-have-you. Typically a client has selected you based on your cover letter, bid price, your portfolio, your ability to communicate well and a comparison to what other competing designers have to offer.
Clearly this is a highly subjective process and relatively low-risk. There is no long-term commitments made and if the project goes sideways for some reason, it’s just a matter of looking for another designer. It’s still important to do what you can to find the best designer for the job. Designer and client both have a vested interest in having a good result when all is said and done.
Alternately, we have connections and relationships that we make with people and businesses locally. While there are definitely one-off scenarios here as well — after all, how many times does a small business owner need to re-design their business card? Nevertheless, these local connections usually involve face-to-face meetings and include on-going work where you may even work in their office rather than your own. These local contracts demand that you interact more directly and are ideally suited for the project in personality, temperament and communication style, not to mention skills. A choice for a designer locally can require much more information and is often based on word of mouth referrals, personal connections and employment histories as well as all the usual considerations like portfolio, rate and ability to meet deadlines.
Obviously there are pros and cons to operating in each of these realms. Designers and clients both need to make informed choices as they navigate either process for finding each other and realizing a successful project or on-going working relationship. Asking the right questions and doing sufficient research can get things off to a positive start. Communicating well and being respectful of one another throughout the process will often be the deciding factors in whether a good creative choice has been made. The duration of a relationship will also be informed by how long this positive dynamic can be sustained. Do you want a solo designer who “gets you and your business” or the deep bench (and added expense) provided by an agency?
I can think of at least two graphic designers that have generated a following as social media stars and writers (namely “Clients from Hell” and David Thorne) poking fun at the natural antagonisms that can occur between clients and their designers. While it’s easy to see the humour here, and goodness knows we had plenty of things to poke fun at in the creative department at the newspaper, including the use of our “therapeutic gong”, there is nothing more satisfying than a relationship that works and a job completed successfully, on budget and on deadline. Pleasing everyone involved is usually a designer’s number one goal. It is certainly my overriding aim at Daily Designz.