Chuck Green operates Logic Arts Corporation, located in Glen Allen, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia
He is first and foremost a designer secondarily an author. He started out at WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C., designing the graphics they put behind the newscasters. Today, he stays busy producing work for clients and writing for various publishers and publications.
Chuck also runs Ideabook.com which grew out of a book he wrote for Random House The Desktop Publisher's Idea Book. It has grown into a fairly well traveled space for designers, advanced to beginner, who are interested in seeing how someone else does it. You'll find lots of design and marketing how-to, plenty of project ideas and tips, plus a carefully researched collection of design-oriented links and resources.
What is your understanding of the dynamics of the Client/Creative relationship? I've heard lots of opinions and countless complaints, but in all my wanderings, I have yet to find a good, non-legalese consensus of what we should expect of each other. A proposition that lays out the "spirit” of our relationship.
Why concern yourself with it? Because, if you're human (like me), you sometimes repeat the same mistakes. You assume that your counterparts understand what you understand until the inevitable problems arise and you kick yourself. You think about how much easier it would have been had we simply agreed to some ground rules to begin with.
You are invited to join me in drafting "The Design Constitution:” a document that lays out the basics of interaction between Creative (designer, copywriter, photographer, illustrator, and so on) and Client. Sound easy? Not for me–just getting the first fourteen articles in writing has been cause for lots of thought and more than a little soul-searching.
Article 1 – Leadership
Let’s acknowledge, up front, that the Client is the boss. Though we hope most aspects of our relationship will not require “boss-like” authority, once issues about our work are raised and aired, and we are still without consensus, we both acknowledge the people funding the work have the final say.
Article 2 – Collaboration
The Designer is not a decorator–they are as skilled at marketing as they are about look and feel. Let's agree to build our relationship on collaboration, not dictation. The Client best understands the underlying concepts, products, and services associated with their organization–the Designer has a unique, untainted perspective worth sharing.
Article 3 – Authority
If there is more than one person representing the Client, let’s agree to determine from the outset, which member of the Client’s team has final decision-making authority. Particularly in the areas of style and tone, giving more than one person veto power often takes the edge off great work.
Article 4 – Knowledge
Let’s get to know our customers and prospects like we never have before; the problems they need solved and the benefits that will improve their lives. Let's take advantage of the fact that the Designer, who is often uneducated about the subject matter, can offer a valuable unfettered perspective of the situation.
Article 5 – Goals
Let’s focus on goals, execution, and results. Form without function is not design–the Client hires the Designer to make something happen. Let’s make that something specific. Let’s begin our work together by determining what the Client expects to happen. Before the first word is written or the first layout is sketched out, let’s outline those goals, in as much detail as possible and in a way that allows us to gauge when we are successful.
Article 6 – Focus
Let’s embrace the fact that one size does not fit all. Some of us buy the car because of its style and allure, some focus on its technical excellence and power, others center on reliability and cost. Let’s agree to produce materials that appeal to the sensibilities of the audience and remain open to the possibility that the solution that has the potential to get the best results may not appeal to us personally.
Article 7 – Aesthetics
It is the Client’s responsibility to establish goals, to provide information, and to review and approve or reject concepts and finished work. It is the Designer's job to translate the client's story and goals into compelling words and images. Great work results from a near obsession with detail and nuance. Done right, a brochure, a web site, a catalog, and so on, is so carefully structured, changing a single significant element can drastically impact the whole.
Rather than dictate specific changes to a design–"move this here" or "change the color to,"–let’s agree the Client will request a new design or a variation of the original that addresses specific problems. Though it is helpful for the Client to point out areas of the design that they believe are inconsistent with the sensibilities of their audience, let’s agree not to do each other’s jobs.
Article 8 – Selflessness
Let’s focus on “it” not “I” and agree that pleasing ourselves is not our primary job. We certainly will strive to please each other when we can, but only if the work that results is attuned to our goals. Will the work stand the scrutiny of a different client and a different designer? That is the true test.
Article 9 – Confidentiality
It is sometimes difficult to gauge whether and which items of information are sensitive. For that reason, let’s agree that all of the information we share and the content of our communications remain confidential. If either party wishes to share information with a third party, they will discuss the matter with their counterpart before doing so.
Article 10 – Patience
Let’s not change for change’s sake. We will be immersed in our work and will review it over and over again. Let’s keep in mind that, in many cases, our audience will only see what we do occasionally. Our desire for change may appear long before our audience’s. Let’s agree not to change until we have identified a significant reason to change and have done everything we can to ensure the change will be an improvement.
Article 11 – Ethics
Real rewards are the result of ideas, products, and services that make the world a better place. Let’s agree to maintain the highest standard of ethics by dedicating ourselves to honesty, clarity, and style.
Article 12 – Trust
Let’s trust each other. We team up because there are some things the Client knows more about than the Designer and vice-versa. When there is no compelling reason to take a particular fork in the road, let’s concede the decision to the person with the most experience.
Article 13 – Reconciliation
Let’s agree how we will mediate disputes. Every relationship, especially one that entails so much communication and so many details, will inevitably suffer problems. Let’s agree to address issues freely and to allow space for each other to correct mistakes. If an impasse arises, let’s agree to share it with each other first, and if necessary, to choose a mutually acceptable mediator.
Article 14 – Liability
Because the Client has final decision-making power, let’s agree that the Client accepts ultimate responsibility for the correctness of content. It is the job of the Designer, Writer, and Proofreader to produce materials that are as accurate as possible; however, it is the sole responsibility of the Client to approve all aspects of the final work before it is published.
Article 15 – Loyalty
A Client who invests resources, time, and money in educating the Designer about their industry, audience, and organization deserves loyalty. A Designer who invests the same resources, time, and money in learning deserves the same loyalty. Unless otherwise agreed to, let’s define loyalty as being honest and sincere with one’s partner, not speaking poorly of them to others, and not working with direct competitors.
When changes in the relationship are unavoidable, let’s agree to share the reasons for the change and to give each other as much notice as possible before the change is made.