Success vs Disaster

Synergy between client and designer


There was a corporate high-flyer, an award winning designer and a marketing brief sitting at the table… sounds like the beginning of a joke full of ego and misunderstanding; the punchline being a communication disaster of epic proportion.

When very different but strong successful personalities come together there can be one of two outcomes; animosity and frustration, or incredible synergy and innovation. Obviously we don’t want to waste time and energy with the first outcome but strive directly for the second. The trick is to know how to manoeuvre through the obstacles that mar the path.

Though years of on the job practice, we at Simply Graphic have identified and drawn up some guidelines for both the client and the designer to help create a partnership of synergy and a long-lasting, mutually respectful working relationship.


Is always key in any relationship. But between a designer and a client, it is especially important to be very clear and deliberate in your communication. Both designer and client will be proficient in their respective fields but may have no idea of how each other work or think. An artist and a car mechanic don’t have much in common, but need to find a way to communicate effectively to solve a problem or achieve a common goal. Keep the lines of communication open and ask and answer many questions.

For the designer– Your job is to extract the vision from your client. Once you have a clear picture of their vision, communicate and discuss openly about any obstacles or weak points. Use language that your client can understand, ie; stay away from technical terms if they may pose a problem.

For the client make sure your brief is clear and not ambiguous. We cannot stress this enough. Fill it with as much detail as possible and do not assume that a designer will instinctively know what you are looking for. Contrary to what most people believe, designers do not enjoy Cart Blanche for a brief. Clients generally have some idea of what they have imagined and will become disappointed and disillusioned when they get something else.



Or teamwork requires mutual respect for the other’s role and talents to effectively work together.

For the designer– Include the client where you can in the decision and brainstorming processes. This creates a sense of openness and collaboration.

For the client – respect the process of the designer and work together to come to the best possible solution. Remember that they know their field better than you do.



Requires that deadlines, promises and schedules are maintained and adhered to. Nothing breaks down trust and goodwill more when ones time is not respected.

For the Designer – always do what you say you were going to do when you say you were going to do it. Anything else will erode the reputation you have painstakingly built.

For the Client – design is creative and inspiration cannot be switched on or off at will. So be mindful that time is necessary for great design. If a designer requires some element or other from you, make sure you deliver it punctually. Although many designers work well under pressure, it doesn’t create the most ideal conditions for great design or great relationships.



can be described as ‘the skill, good judgement, and polite behaviour that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well’. Keep the relationship work related and task focused. Maintaining a professional attitude goes a long way to securing a respected reputation. Know your role in this collaboration and play your part to best you can. Admit when you are wrong and do what is necessary to fix it.

For the designer– Constructive criticism is part and parcel of your role. Make sure you can handle it well and use it to strengthen the relationship and your work.

For the client– During a project, new design requirements may be uncovered that were not included in the original brief or quote. It is important to be mindful that you are not taking advantage so make sure you compensate the designer for the work they have done over and above what the original requirements were.



Being prepared for meetings is a necessity in a good working relationship. Know what you want to discuss, explore, enquire about and tweak.

For the designer – Make sure you have a clear presentation of what you wish to show your client without distractions or going off topic.

For the client – Understand that your input is as important to the design process and success of your project as the designer’s.


From our experience, the Client/Designer relationship is best described as a partnership of two very different energies needing to collaborate to make a vision a reality. The client’s job is to represent and present the concept effectively and clearly. The designer is required to nurture and grow the concept into life. At Simply Graphic, how we conduct ourselves within our partnerships define who we are.