by Ellen Shapiro
Ellen Shapiro’s book, The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Clients: How to Make Clients Happy and Do Great Work, starts out making a very important distinction between graphic design and fine art. She says, “If we didn’t have clients, we wouldn’t be making fine art. We’d be out and about looking for clients.” She reminds us that designers are in the service business – our purpose is to brand products and services, give companies a personality, create emotional ties between businesses and consumers, and convey information.
Shapiro paints a vivid picture of every designers’ nightmare client: they keep you waiting but get mad when you’re late, they demand more work than is physically possible to do in their requested (and usually exceptionally short) timeframe, they don’t have their content ready when you need it, or insist on using a logo designed by their 12-year old nephew. But rather than get caught up in the negativity that can surround client relations, Shapiro discusses the difference between difficult good clients and difficult bad clients, highlighting four important things to consider when taking on clients:
- Will this client be a good fit for me and my business?
- What might this engagement lead to?
- Will it provide the opportunity to do work of the highest quality of which I am capable?
- If not, what is its potential value?
From here, Shapiro goes on to discuss how to meet clients, including where to find them, whether those elaborate holiday promos actually work, and how to target potential clients in a way that makes you stand out from the pack. She also makes a specific point about having a clean, well designed website as a marketing tool.
Using updated interviews from past Communication Arts columns, Shapiro dives into client segments (corporate, retail and entertainment, and institutional). The interviews bring client situations to life, and share valuable insight from designers who have already been there.
Reprinting allowed with permission of author.