Why clients should trust the experts

Personal preferences and uninformed opinions can sabotage the design process.

We were told back in 2016 that we’d had enough of experts. It was the year that populism surged on both sides of the Atlantic, and ‘fake news’ became a household phrase. Perhaps walking the walk isn’t as important as talking the talk after all?

Well, no. Leonardo da Vinci once said: “The greatest deception men suffer is their own opinions.” In a free society, we’re all entitled to think what we like – but an earnestly held opinion is not the same as a fact. There are so many walks of life where we all need to listen a bit more intently to people who know what they’re on about. Design is one of them.

As the old adage goes, opinions are like assholes – everyone has one, and most of them stink. Savvy clients work with experienced agencies because they can use their years of experience to solve a brief in a commercially effective way. In short, it pays to hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

There was a meme doing the rounds a few years back – a sliding scale of how much to charge for design work. The simplest option, “I design everything” was the cheapest, progressing through “I design, you watch”, then “…you advise”, “…you help” and so on. The most expensive tier brought it full circle: “You design everything.”

It’s an in-joke designed to raise a weary smile in designers for whom relentless client ‘opinions’ are the bane of their working life. But there’s a serious point in there too. Our clients are the experts at what they do. We are the experts at what we do. Together, we build a fruitful collaboration based on our relative areas of expertise.

That’s not to say that great ideas can’t come from the client side. In fact, they often do. Design-savvy clients see the process as a partnership that draws on our individual strengths, and we welcome their informed opinions with open arms. No, we’re talking about uniformed opinions. In other words, personal preferences.

Clients who lean towards a particular colour choice purely because they like it, rather than understanding how a brand palette must be carefully crafted to suit the needs of their business, and the tastes of their customers.

Clients who request a last-minute change to the typeface on a whim because they spotted a font they liked on a menu, blind to all the factors that we’ve already considered – like legibility, brand personality, and whether it’s actually fit for purpose across print, digital and any other intended uses.

Clients who, rather than providing the top-level input we need to progress and refine a design concept, roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the little details – make the logo a fraction bigger, shift that line a pixel to the right, and so on. It’s simple enough: if you’ve hired an experienced design agency to solve your brief, trust that they know what they’re talking about. We haven’t had enough of experts – have you?