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‘Clients tend to identify particular needs themselves, rather than go down the route of letting people come to them with ideas,’ said Design Business Association programme director Hannah Paterson last week, ahead of the Inclusive Design Challenge. How willing are clients, in general, to commission projects identified by design consultancies?

The relationship between designer and client is just that – a relationship. It’s bollocks to think of designers as waiting to be fed briefs. Our clients expect us to proffer ideas, to move their business forward. We must be a team and ideas are a mutual responsibility.

Jonathan Sands, Chairman, Elmwood (pictured)

If a client trusts their designer, they’ll go to them with the real brief and ask what could be done to achieve it. Then there is a lot of scope for new ideas – if the designer takes a wide view and pre-set budgets can be worked around.

Tim Fendley, Creative director, Applied Information Graphics

Not very willing at all, but that’s because design groups always expect to be fed their next project from a client. We should act as true business partners. Why not invite a client in for a creative session to explore and identify needs together? That way they feel valued and we have a hand in generating our own projects.

Caroline Hagen, Managing director, Reach

At Universal, although we respond to clients’ briefs, we often play a crucial part in identifying the the key components of projects, and manipulating the brief and the architecture into a form often extremely abstract from our client’s original vision. We like to think that, while we are able to satisfy our client’s commercial aspirations, we are also able to develop a new understanding and representation of the brands that we work with.

Jonathan Clarke, Director, Universal Design Studio

In the past, the roles of client and designer were clearly defined. When the client had a problem, they went to the designer for a solution. But, as clients become more design savvy, they are beginning to understand that trusted design consultants can be a powerful ally in identifying problems early, clarifying potential opportunities, and key to getting innovative solutions to market, ahead of the competition. The willingness is there, however it’s up to the designers to communicate, clearly, the value of their offer.

Mark Delaney, Director, Plan (pictured)

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