Who is the perfect client? In his book Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design, Beirut tells the story of Thomas Watson, Jr, who had turned a small business manufacturing adding machines and clocks into world super-giant IBM in just fifteen years. Watson once said, “Good design is good business,” and he was right. Using good design to set your business apart can help communicate a completely different message about who you are, and engage clients who may have walked away before you had the chance to let them know what you can do for them. IBM, through good management and good design was able to catapult itself to the top of its field, and made Watson “the most successful capitalist in history,” according to Fortune, in part thanks to people such as Eliot Noyes, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Paul Rand.
When you find a good client, that’s when the magic happens. An interesting challenge, the space to find a creative solution, respectful feedback, all make for a pleasant job. Bierut describes a great client as having brains, passion, trust, and courage. And what do we owe these clients in return? Loyalty, honesty, dedication and tenacity. Of course, very few of us are perfect, so perhaps the addition of patience on both sides of the equation would make for more successful experiences.
So, what to do when confronted with bad clients? Follow some more of Bierut’s advice. Don’t be afraid to fire a bad client. Don’t spend so much of your time on the bad client that you don’t have time for the good clients. Write down all the zany things they ask of you—it’ll make a good story later on. And good clients? Never let them go.
Pick up Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design for more insight into the world of a graphic designer.