Stop trashing clients on DN. Educate instead.

over 9 years ago from , Director of Technology, Whiteboard, host of Developer Tea

It seems to me there is an overwhelming number of posts, even at the top of DN, that portray a "us versus them" perspective. The latest one talks about how clients don't understand scope and budget inconsistencies.

I think it's time we grow up a bit, and instead of venting on a semi-public platform like DN about how dumb or nonsensical or uninformed our clients are, we use that energy to build resources that educate our clients.

Stop making your clients out to be stupid. Usually, they aren't stupid - they are probably trying to win the dollar game. And even if they aren't the smartest crayon in the box, please don't advertise to every other designer how much you can't stand people who don't get what you do.

Teach them what you do. Teach them the proper perspective on design.

Stop talking to DN about how much bad design will cost your clients, and show us ways to prove the costs of bad design.


  • Kristy TillmanKristy Tillman, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    Cosign. Everyone needs to read Design Is A Job


    Being a designer is about problem solving. Working with clients is no different. Client management/building relationships is a separate skilled that needs to be learned. The ability to translate what we do and the value of what we do is a thing you add to your tool box. Trashing clients is an easy way out, and also often does not lead to repeat business. This is an essential skill even if only for business purposes, but the bigger picture its about the value of design. We are the ambassadors.

    15 points
    • Account deleted over 9 years ago

      A quote from the book.

      It’s your job as a designer, and as a communication professional, to find the right language to communicate with your client. When you say a client doesn’t “get it” you might as well be saying “I couldn’t figure out how to get my point across. I am a lazy designer. Please take all my clients from me.”

      15 points
      • Kristy TillmanKristy Tillman, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

        Bingo. Of course some people won't get it. That is the nature of the beast, but then I'd argue they might not be the best clients.

        Another thing, a lot of designer think they have to take everyone willing to pay as a client. When in reality, we should be screening people for a good working fit as well. Everyone with money to pay isn't a worthwhile client.

        5 points
  • Stephanie WalterStephanie Walter, over 9 years ago

    Actually I was thinking that we might need a site like "clients from hell" but where we could post great stories about great clients. We always complain when something goes wrong, but writing about when things go well is important as well. Or maybe I'm just a sharethelove hippie designer ^

    8 points
  • Floyd WilliamsonFloyd Williamson, over 9 years ago

    It also helps to realize that while many of us think of some clients as "stupid" when it comes to design, we are often equally "stupid" when it comes to something other than design. In our increasingly specialized society, it is unfair to expect everyone to know everything. A little humility goes a long way.

    3 points
  • Henrique Alves, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    Well said!

    Also one of the most important things I learned from my dad is:

    "It doesn't matter what someone did, you still responsible for your actions/reactions"

    If I client treat you bad and you give it back you're not different from them and IMHO you're a bad designer. A good designer wouldn't do that.

    2 points
  • Paul MartensPaul Martens, over 9 years ago

    Odd 'rule'. Don't trash clients on DN, but judge the Designers on DN that do?

    People are free to vent...personally (with one client in particular) had someone vented about them to me beforehand, I would have approached them completely different saving our company 10s of thousands of dollars. Actually, maybe even 100K or so. Not kidding.

    I have great clients too, don't get me wrong...but it's important to warn people....and wouldn't this forum be a great place to do it? Yes, some people go to an extreme, but can we fight black and white thinking with a different kind of black and white thinking?

    If one is too sensitive to not be able to contain other's conflict or stress (and designers are sensitive!) I get it...I have my limits as well. But let's not be pedantic or admonish others to take the high road: we are all human, on the same road. Sometimes being a designer sucks, sometimes it's awesome?

    0 points
    • Jonathan Cutrell, over 9 years ago

      Good thoughts here.

      I think there's a difference in "judging" other designers, and seeing things that I know would offend my clients on DN that are propagated by other designers. I don't think it's quite the same thing to challenge others to be more professional as it is to talk behind our clients' backs.

      Sure, there are times where telling legitimate stories makes sense. But I'd dare say none of us would be very comfortable if suddenly our clients learned about DN and came to view our posts personally.

      The question is more about integrity than it is about judging. If you feel okay with saying what you're saying in a public forum, perhaps that's okay for you. But I know that the general tone towards clients on DN is highly negative, so I think it's worth the discussion and collective accountability.

      0 points
      • Paul MartensPaul Martens, over 9 years ago

        I'm relatively new to DN...If the tone towards clients is considerably more negative than positive, I might end up aligning with your original post more as time goes on!

        On the whole I feel lucky to be with the clients we have. I'd say 85-90% of them I'm happy working with.

        I thought the invite-only nature of DN kept non-designers out of the forums...!

        0 points
  • David PerelDavid Perel, over 9 years ago

    Well said Jonathan. We all go through that phase in our career where we don't realise that it's our responsibility to teach our clients why we do a certain thing or charge a certain price.

    I am pretty sure that most of the people bashing their clients only have a vague idea of what they actually do. For them to assume that the client must know our profession is unrealistic, else they would be doing it themselves.

    0 points
  • Christian Krammer, over 9 years ago

    That's is one thing, I will never understand. Clients are the ones who pay our bills, feed our children and make it possible that we can buy our shiny Apple products. But still many of us complain about them. The number one rule is: "Never complain about your clients". Never!

    0 points
  • Ryan GloverRyan Glover, over 9 years ago

    Thank you.

    0 points
  • Jahed MomandJahed Momand, over 9 years ago


    in addition I think this is a great resource for how design can communicate the value of what we do to business:


    0 points
  • Jordan Moore, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    I completely agree. Clients can frustrate to the point of where we feel like venting, but doing so on a completely traceable platform or broadcasting that anger on social media is foolish.

    Think about the next client that decides to find out about the people they want to work with - would they want to work with someone who rants about their clients?

    My advice would be: if you need to vent, choose a quiet moment to do so verbally with someone. Anything digital is too risky (eg what if a ranty email ends up in the wrong hands, the wrong Skype conversation, broadcast publicly to the world?). Keep it classy and offline :)

    Edit: to add to the "offline" point - it's risky too. If you work in an office environment other staff might be on the phone to other clients, in fact clients could even be in the same building. If you must vent just be careful!

    0 points
    • Jonathan Cutrell, over 9 years ago

      So true. I'm personally acquainted with an individual who did this. This, along with other bad business behaviors, ended up literally putting the company in the ground.

      Rant in your diary, or to your spouse/person who you trust the most in the world. Even then, remember that negativity breeds negativity.

      2 points
      • Andy MerskinAndy Merskin, over 9 years ago

        Negativity does indeed breed negativity. I can't tell you how many times I've caught myself passionately agreeing with other people who just had a "bad" phone call with a client when I wasn't even directly affected by the situation, and then that client suddenly becomes the enemy to us and people around us.

        It's a worthy challenge to find better ways to communicate. After all, we were all educated to communicate well.

        1 point
  • Darth BaneDarth Bane, over 9 years ago

    This should be applied to everything in life, not just when dealing with clients as a designer. Understanding your own role when things go wrong is key. A client is only "dumb" because you allowed him/her to be. You didn't educate, explain or inform enough.

    0 points
  • Anna NiessAnna Niess, over 9 years ago

    Sorry dude.

    0 points
    • Jonathan Cutrell, over 9 years ago

      Hopefully the post didn't come of as snooty, which is what I think the tone may be here. Of course tone on the internet is impossible to discern anyway.

      Thing is, I'm not offended, so no sorry's necessary to me. I'm just thinking we could talk together and find better routes for our frustrations to exit our minds and mouths, and bring a little more positive life into our work.

      1 point