I should have posted this on Valentines day—both because that’s the day this all kinda went down and because it would have been thematically fitting—but the subject is important enough that I’ll still post it a week later.
Design is a business of relationships. Obviously there are the relationships between typography and imagery, positive and negative space, dominant and recessive, and on and on. But, I’m learning recently that even more important than the aesthetic relationships are the relationships you have with your clients. Respecting and nurturing these relationships is in many cases just as important—if not more so—than the pixels and points we produce for them. Let me explain.
I had (yes, had—it’s not a happy ending love story) this client that I’ve worked for on and off for years. Whenever I describe this client to my co-workers and peers I describe him as the absolute dream client: completing trusting, willing to think big, truly an enabler of portfolio-quality work, pays on time—not even just “on time”, he pays immediately—understanding and patient with the inevitable hiccups, and on a whole completely pleasant to interact with. This is the client of every solo designer’s dreams. And I had him. And I let him go.
Why? The surface reason was that I overbooked myself and failed to deliver the work on time. But I think the real reason I lost this client boiled down to communication: he felt that I didn’t value and prioritize his work (even though the truth was completely the opposite) and when I was struggling to keep up with the work load I didn’t fill him in on the details.
Maybe it’s the Valentine parfums in the air or maybe it’s just me coming to my senses, but these two things sound incredibly similar to the kind of communication breakdowns that cripple and even end personal and romantic relationships and marriages—not communicating how important that person is to you and not communicating the details of our daily struggles. It’s unfortunately easy to take those who are most important to us for granted. And at times, those that we see the most can feel the most estranged.
Clients, spouses, lovers, family, friends… we’re all people and we all want to know that we matter. And if a person feels like they matter to you—even at times regardless of how great or mediocre (and unfortunately even bad) the content of our offering is—they keep coming back. Because it’s personal.
It’s all about relationships.