9 Common Myths in the Design Trade

Here are 9 common myths to share from my personal experience as a designpreneur.

1. Most Clients Don’t Know What They Want
Most clients have a vague idea of what they want other than knowing what they hope to achieve through the design project. Many also don’t prepare project or communication briefs to aid designers in their understanding of the project requirements. Hence, it often makes the creative developmental process a chore as they are likely trying to second-guess what their bosses would favour. Life is often made tougher when working with ignorant clients who make the agency go in circles. Always prepare a contact report after each meeting and have the client approved it. This will minimise communication distortion and help both parties to align each others’ expectations too.


2. Most Clients Don’t Tell The Truth
Most clients are likely to use your price as an excuse to reject you instead of telling you in the face that your concept sucks and failed to win their bosses’ approval. In our Asian context where face value is a highly priced item, concealing the truth is the way out so as to not bruise the designer’s ego. Learn to read between the lines and to seek out the hard truth. Also learn to suppress your ego if you want to survive well in this trade.

3. Pricing a Design Project
Deduce the intent of the design project by using the target market group (shareholders, vendors, staff, regulatory body, corporate clients or consumer market) as a measurement gauge. This will help you to price your fee at an optimal level. For example, a piece of technical literature is not going to garner much financial value compared with a corporate literature piece which aims to attract investors to pump in millions of dollars into the company. Your agency bottom-line depends on your ability to identify and recognise these high value projects. Learn to be discerning when seeking out such valuable projects. Some clients sound convincing for agency to offer cut-throat price with the promise of pending valuable jobs which many times never come.

4. What Is The Real Budget?
Clients never tell us the real budget typically for 2 reasons. Firstly, they maintain a certain allowance to buffer any escalating cost due to unforeseen circumstances. Secondly, they can garner favour from their superior should there be a huge cost saving. To some clients, unless it is free, everything else is always expensive. Act prudently and forewarn client of any additional cost as early as possible.

5. Cost Is The Only Consideration
In a bottom-line craze-driven organisation, price is often the sole consideration that overrides others when selecting an agency. Hence given a choice between creative superiority and cost, the latter would win. To these clients, their appreciative value of design and recognition of designers’ effort are not in their dictionary.My advise is to stay far away from such clients however desperate you may be. Introduce them to freelancers if you want to keep the relationship.

6. Agency Time Is Always Free
Clients like to exploit agencies by calling for non-paid creative pitches. They don’t seem to value the time of the agency thinking that designers work for free and live on fresh air and sunshine and there are no bills to pay. One may witness up to 10 or more creative agencies milling in a conference room waiting to be briefed for a simple communication project. The more agencies participating in a pitch, the more important the client perceives their position and organisation to be. Learn to decline creative submission and cite heavy workload as a polite excuse.

7. Clients Like To Be Pampered With Attention
Regardless of the project value, many clients like to be treated like royalty and be showered with attention and expect quick responses. While they value their projects, they fail to recognise that agencies too have to prioritise based on the financial and relationship value of the strings of clients and projects they have. The master and slave mentality is still evident in today’s work context. Learn to bridge understanding between parties through an agreed project completion milestone. 

8. Deadline is Always Yesterday

Many clients also seem to have a tight dateline. While agencies would submissively try to rush its process by dedicating more resources or working late, this urgency just vaporises when it comes to client’s approval and decision making.In this business, deadline is only applicable to vendors but not the client. We just have to accept it as a job hazzard.

9. Your Client’s Career is Also Dependent on Your Performance

Most clients often want to seem to be in control. They don’t tell you that their livelihood or next promotion also rests partially in your hands too. This is so as to not weaken their client-vendor position. However, the fact remains – you have a part to play in enhancing or destroying their career growth.I have encountered suing clients on a few occasions and the truth always reveals itself.