Clients deliver some unpalatable messages

One of the biggest surprises Vicky Sargent and I encountered in preparing our series on clients is the huge gap between what designers think are the priorities for clients and what clients are actually concerned about. Hence our carefully prepared agenda were often put aside as the relevance of questions well rehearsed within design left our round-table panel looking decidedly glazed.

Indeed, design was put squarely in its place for us when we started to invite clients in to discuss the issues. Pinning down these busy folk to debate design proved more difficult than we had imagined, despite help from designers boasting a good relationship with a particular client.

Designers are technically inept, we heard last year from our two packaging panels – members of which look more to pack manufacturers for true innovation; designers can’t deliver the goods on research as well as other consultants, we learn this week from the corporate crew. Issues such as free-pitching and rosters start to pale when you receive such hard-hitting messages.

So far we’ve limited our client studies to graphics, but the exercise has proved salutary – and never more so than when Royal Mail identity manager David Griffiths outlined his department’s policies on educating suppliers (see page 13). Maintaining that all suppliers – including designers – fail to meet requirements, Royal Mail runs training sessions to show them how it’s done.

This sophisticated system beats the constant bleating from design bodies that it is the client who needs education. Yes, awareness of design could be better among clients, but our findings indicate that for them design is not the cure-all we in the industry would have it be.

Life might be better if designers could only grasp that service, technical know-how and true understanding are what clients are looking for. So maybe that next new staff job should not go to another marketer, but to someone who can put your team ahead of the game in quality of ideas or insight into changing technologies.

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