Let’s celebrate good clients

Bob Gill once said ‘There’s no such thing as a bad client, there are only bad designers’. I’m sure some might argue against this (we’ve all had our fair share of difficult clients to deal with) but what I’ve been thinking lately is we hardly ever talk about the great clients.

Jamie Ellul

At Magpie Studio we’ve got a varied client base – from startups to established organisations – and it’s made me think about why some of our client relationships are more creatively satisfying than others. 

Of course the easy relationships are the ones where the client trusts its consultancy and is willing to take a risk without asking too many questions (printer Gavin Martin Colournet in our case). But I’m finding the most rewarding relationships at the moment are those where the client’s involvement is more collaborative.

We work with a number of clients (and I deliberately use the word ‘with’ – we never ever work ‘for’) with in-house teams who are trained creatives, such as Marcus James and his team at Royal Mail, Alice Tonge and 4Creative at Channel 4, Arem Duplessis and Gail Bichler at New York Times Magazine and Louise Kyme at The British Heart Foundation. And it’s in these partnerships that we often produce our most rounded and effective work. 

But why? It’s pretty simple – they know the client inside out – it’s like having a spy on the inside. In some cases of course they are the client, but with the slightly removed ‘outside’ perspective all designers bring to a project. It means you have the very potent input of a creative who bridges the gap between ‘the suits’ and the external design agency. They usually write great, distilled briefs and you get pushed harder by these design-literate clients to create something truly brilliant. And with the client’s creative input there’s a shared ownership of the winning idea, so everyone is on board.

In a nutshell these clients make our work better and more appropriate. Designers have garnered a reputation for blaming the client if a project turns out badly – so lets start praising them when they make it better.

Collaboration is a buzz word in the industry at the moment, but it always seems to be celebrated when it’s between agency and illustrator/writer/photographer/animator (delete as appropriate). Lets celebrate client collaborations and give credit where it’s due, after all our work would be wallpaper without a client brief.

Jamie Ellul is creative partner at Magpie Studio.

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  • Chris Bicker November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Good article…in my opinion mutual respect, trust and collaboration are the key ingredients – all underpinned with a sound strategy and an articulate brief that is written or approved by the key stakeholder. Not forgetting we have to be brave to be brilliant.

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