Here’s an insider tip for clients: find someone who not only does excellent design, but is an excellent designer. What’s the difference?
When doctors go to school, they learn more than how to cure medical problems; they’re also taught how to be doctors. Being an excellent doctor involves asking diagnostic questions (interviewing skills), explaining options for treatment and demonstrating empathy, known as “bedside manner.” The best doctors realize that patients are often worried and unsure. While these professionals have very little time, they know how to make patients feel they’re in good hands.
But unlike today’s patient-focused medical education, most designers are not taught how to most effectively interact with clients. Your designer may not be aware that, similar to a worried patient, you have unobvious hopes and fears as you get ready to make a major investment in design.
When choosing a designer every client wants to know: What are they like to work with? Will I be in good hands? Will they care about what matters most to me? Will they think ahead to prevent problems or constantly be “putting out fires.”
So look for early signs that the experience of working together will be a positive one. Does the designer talk about you and your project rather than mostly about themselves? Does the designer explain what you can expect? What is their process and how would you fit in? Do they ask questions that give you a chance to reveal your hopes and fears for the project? Will they make the most of your project’s possibilities, or are they strictly problem solvers?
Working with a designer can be an enjoyable, creative, eye-opening experience. It can also be an adversarial one in which you are kept in the dark, wondering if you are making the right decisions while being confronted with predictable problems and excuses. Early signs of either extreme are there if you know what to look for.
Sharon VanderKaay is a designer who advises on the nature of creativity: how we work through ideas by ourselves and with others. firstname.lastname@example.org