Working With vs. For


There’s two ways of doing this, folks. I can work for you, or with you.

I know which one I prefer.

And I know which gets the best results. Hint: It’s the one that I prefer.

Working together on a project, however long, it is best to involve each other in the process as much as possible. This way, the designer can utilise the client’s expertise in their market and the client can use the designer for what they were hired for and let them solve the problems.

And I know which gets the best results

There’s an Elephant in the room.


There’s a stereotype when it comes to the design world that the client and the designer are, for some reason, in a fierce feud. This comes from a lack of appreciation on both sides of the battlefield where both the client and the designer have the users needs and problems at heart but neither party share the approach to solving them.

It’s frustrating for both sides and it hinders the end result.


Working For



As in: watch out, something could be heading your way and hurt. A lot.

A working relationship based on working for a client instantly applies an imbalance to what should be an equal two-way relationship. One that should be a collaborative process that both the designer and client work together to achieve something great.

This approach may include only a few meetings, with limited contact in between and is almost exclusively done in isolation from one another. What happens here is both parties may start chasing ideas down rabbit holes and the longer they go, the harder it is to turn around. Once a meeting takes place only the logical can happen, two opposing ideas/approaches/routes battle to become chosen. This leads naturally to an “us and them” situation.


Coming Together


You may have guessed but this is how I run things here.

I like to involve the client as much as they want to be involved. It keeps them engaged and they are able to get their views across. They are usually quite thankful for having such an integral part in the project and they keep the strong sense of ownership that is important to maintain.

They haven’t just offloaded the design and hoped for the best.

Designers should use the knowledge the client has just like any other tool in their arsenal. The client’s knowledge and experience of their market, their users and their history is an indispensable resource and should be fully utilised during the design process.

It’s important to understand the client is not well-versed in design terminology such as tooling, tolerances and BOMs. Clients must be made aware of the design process they are involved in. It keeps surprises to a minimum, makes them aware of what is to come and manages expectations.


Tips For Clients


Allow the designer access to what they need. They might want to know who designed your old products. What are the users expecting? How your market reacts to change?

Allow the designer to use their judgement and skills – it’s what you hired them for. I understand it’s about levels of control, and I’m all for that, but it becomes difficult for the designer when the client is not willing to loosen the reins.

Don’t propose the solution. Help uncover the problem.

Flag early on something that you’re not fully happy with. The longer you leave it the worse it’ll become and the more damage it will do to your project.

Budget well. This’ll help get the most out of you designer and keeps them feeling valued. This will also allow the designer to spend quality time on your projects stages which is particularly important early on.

Don’t fall for awesome aesthetics. If the problems have been solved and it looks stunning, great! But please make sure it solves the problem.


Tips For Designers


Avoid an “us and them” mentality. This isn’t helpful for anyone or anything. Instead, use we and our.

Involve the client. And if they seem reluctant, let them know it’s to the projects detriment.

Ask as many questions as you can.  It’s true, knowledge equals power and asking questions is what this design game is about, right?

Be a problem solver first and foremost.

Get off your designer high horse. Keeping clients in the dark with phrases like “It just is” or “It’s a designery thing” encourages a divide between you and the client


The Future


As we go on into the future I think it’ll become more and more working with and not for. The reason for this is not solely down to it being the better way to work but as the Millennials become the next generation of Managers and Directors it will trickle down.

But let’s not waste time. Get collaborating.

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