Ideally speaking

Hat-Trick Design has topped our UK Awards chart for the first time this year. So who better to open our Creative Survey than co-founder Jim Sutherland? Here he talks about what makes a great client and designer

Jim Sutherland

We have been lucky enough to work for some amazing clients over the past few years – the Royal Mail, Land Securities, Natural History Museum, National Museums Scotland, Norwich University College of the Arts, the Salvation Army, Twickenham and the British Heart Foundation.

From our perspective, the aim is always to build a long-term relationship. It sounds obvious enough, but we recently figured out that 80 per cent of our work comes from clients we have worked with before. It takes time to build a level of trust and respect.

I thought I’d try working out exactly what makes a good client. What qualities should we look for? I asked everyone in the studio what they felt – from the secretary to the senior designers. There were a lot of common themes, which I have listed here – almost a wish list of how we’d like a client to be.

A good client wants designers who will:

  • Be interested
  • Be committed
  • Be ambitious
  • Want to do a fantastic job
  • Be on time
  • Be friendly
  • Be generous
  • Be polite
  • Enjoy the process
  • Be genuine
  • Be brave
  • Be prepared for change
  • Be appreciative
  • Be straightforward
  • Be honest
  • Be open-minded
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Be prepared to take risks
  • Have a sense of humour
  • Be supportive
  • Be organised
  • Be receptive
  • Listen and respond
  • Stand up for what’s right
  • Offer you a cup of tea

Okay, some of these goals could easily be viewed as unrealistic and setting unachievable expectations (no excuses for the last one, though). No one – client or designer – can live up to these ideals all the time. But we can all at least agree to give it a try.

We want someone who will:

  • Be interested
  • Be committed
  • Be ambitious
  • Want to do a fantastic job
  • Be on time
  • Be friendly
  • Be generous
  • Be polite
  • Enjoy the process
  • Be genuine
  • Be brave
  • Be prepared for change
  • Be appreciative
  • Be straightforward
  • Be honest
  • Be open-minded
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Be prepared to take risks
  • Have a sense of humour
  • Be supportive
  • Be organised
  • Be receptive
  • Listen and respond
  • Stand up for what’s right
  • Offer you a cup of tea

Maybe this is asking a lot of clients – but not when you ask the same of yourselves. It occurred to me you could apply exactly the same criteria to the designer as to the client. It’s a useful way of seeing things from their perspective.

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