The other day I ended up getting involved in a Facebook group chat about working with clients and about designers and developers being hired as experts.

The feeling from others was that, as experts, we should lead the client in the direction we know as best. The client is paying us to produce the best possible end product and we should stick to our guns to push them in the direction we know is best.

It’s the kind of conversation that, after over 15 years in the industry – both client side and agency side, I have very strong feelings about.

On Facebook, I gracefully exited the conversation after a couple of quick comments, but I thought it deserved a blog post to discuss some of the issues in more detail:

1) We are experts.

The majority of designers are experts in using the tools we have been trained in. Our clients are paying us to use those tools as they themselves do not have access to them. However, just because I can use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and whatever else, doesn’t mean necessarily that I have a better appreciation of visual aesthetics than my client. If I have worked in the industry long enough, I should have experience that may guide me into what makes a successful campaign, how best to use white space, what not to do when it comes to designing a logo or what the current trends are for web design. However, what I don’t have is the client’s knowledge of their market, nor their specific love or passion for their brand. And nor do I know 100% what THEY want (even if I have been through a full exploratory process with them).

If they supply too much copy or poor imagery, it is my job to advise them or show them alternatives. But if they insist, then it is my role to make the best of it that I can. The only other alternative is to politely inform the client that perhaps we are not suited to working together.

They are paying for my expertise and my guidance, but they also have a valid opinion that should not be sidelined or ignored.

“It is not about best. It is about delivering a solution that is correct and appropriate.”

2) The best possible end product.

What is the best possible end product? Too often with designers, the best possible end product is whatever is going to look cool in their portfolio – what follows the trends of right now. As designers, we should never judge a design on whether we personally like it or not, it should be judged on whether it was appropriate for the end client, and whether it delivered success. It is not about best. It is about delivering a solution that is correct and appropriate, and that delivers in meeting/exceeding its goals.

3) The client is paying.

It should never be forgotten that it is the client who is paying for the work to be completed. The client pays the designer/developer as an expert to advise them and guide them. But it is still their choice. Designers need to learn when to compromise and when to let go. A happy client is always better than one that feels like they’ve been pushed too far – somewhere they are not comfortable for their brand to be.

All clients can only be pushed so far. And with some its a gradual process that slowly happens over time. Push too hard, and it will be another designer that ends up walking with them on that journey.