DEALING WITH A CLIENT in a design organization -7

Post 14 -by Gautam Shah


Contacting a Client : Clients and Designers seek each other in many different ways. A client can go about it without any inhibitions, whereas a designer can go about it with certain restrictions, depending on the type traditions and ethics followed by the profession. Client and Designer are primarily introduced to each other by intermediaries like friends and relatives. Secondarily a client may seek a designer through direct contact, on seeing or experiencing the work as a real entity, sketch or a publication of it.

Seeking client and discussing terms are part of every business > Wikipedia image by pmorgan / OR / from

Designer Contacting a Client : A designer on realizing a person’s potential as a client may seek the person directly or through a mutual acquaintance or friend. When a person is a potential client, in the official capacity than an official appointment with the clear declaration of intent is necessary.

Discussions with clients at informal to formal levels > Wikipedia image credit:

 When a client is not aware of a competent designer, or not allowed, or not authorized (e.g. a government official) to deal with any designer, on a person to person basis, an appropriate process for selection is required. The process of selection can be restrictive through invitations offered to, designers with defined level of competence, members of a recognized body, persons of certain location, age, sex, nationality, or religion. For very complex design jobs, selection of a designer is done through pre assessment or a limited competition.

Clientele :Cultivation of social contact is the most common method for a designer to come into contact with a potential client. Other means of Personal approaches include, specific letters, generalized bulletins, telephonic calls and face to face meetings. The impression created through a meeting or telephonic call may not be of desired type and long lasting. Letters are very objective, longer lasting, but have to be brief to be effective.

Wikipedia image by Ken Georgie Mathew

Bio-data or Resumé : This is an ever lasting and effective medium of exposure. These are created to secure a design assignment not for employment. So it must not contain anything beyond professional competence and achievements relevant for that exposure. Concealment or non emphasis of data in such documents is intentional, and generally not unethical, though could be malafide.

Boston Molasses Tragedy of 1919 that initiated debate on Business and Professional ethics

 BOSTON MOLASSES In 1919, North End of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, a large molasses storage tank (15 mts x 27 mts = 8,700 C mts) burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at 56 kilometres per hour, killing 21 and injuring 150. The tank was constructed poorly and tested insufficiently. Steel was not only half as thick as it should have been for a tank of its size, even with the lax standards of the day

Ethics : In dealing with clients, what kinds of behaviour, actions or attitude are considered as unethical, malafide or bad, varies from country to country, region to region, profession to profession, and time to time. In professions where rules regarding behaviour have not been formalized it may vary even from a professional to professional. Members of the society usually know where and how to find a designer in traditional fields but for newer branches of design skills, intermediaries bridge the contact.

Contact between a Client and a Designer : Rapport between a client and designer develops slowly, or is launched formally. Fresh designers are eager to secure the job, whereas established designers may wish to know the client more or understand the design brief well. Clients on the other hand are often shrewd enough to have a free taste of thing to come before formalizing the relationship. Designers need to know, if they take on a project what will be their gain, versus, if they do not take the project would there be a loss, other than the usual non availability of a gain.

A Contract with a client is the Best solution but often a formal consent can serve the purpose > Wikipedia image by Jerome Dessommes – ECRIVAINS CONSULT r

Formal Consent : For a designer requisition of a formal consent from a client, for a job, is a very difficult exercise. A designer begins a job, by investing in labour, stationary and intellectual skills, and a formal commitment binds a designer to deliver the expected services. Whereas, a client awaits with uncertainty whether the designer will at all deliver the services, of required quality and in time. When a designer fails to deliver, wastes clients time and effort (both non calculable entities). And if the client refuses to appreciate a designer’s, all the labour, stationary and intellectual skills (only some of it calculable) are wasted.

Formal Commitment : Ideally best and binding commitment sets in with a contract as per the law of the land. Contract, however, is a very formal expression of intent. It is too much to expect a client and a designer to formalize their relationship with a contract, when they hardly know each other, or have not formulated the project. In the absence of a contract, if both the parties are willing the relationship can be nurtured. At a little later stage, any of the parties may refuse to acknowledge the relationship between them. In such a situation a designer will lose all that was invested in understanding, preliminary working, planning of the project, including some patent ideas. On the other hand, a client will never recover the time wasted in searching, identifying the project, and the designer.

In spite of good rapport with clients Formal commitment is necessary > Pexels free images by

Circumstantial evidences of Commitment : It is very natural that clients and designer are extremely careful about things they say and do. For a designer, (who is operating in the absence of a very formal commitment) it is necessary to create a proof that, a client did commit the job, or at least was aware that the designer is working for the job. The circumstantial evidences of such nature are not generally tenable in court of law, unless corroborated by other circumstantial or real evidences.

CLIENTS contacts

Circumstantial evidences of Professional Relationships : These are proofs that establish the time, location, context, contents, pre and post effects of a happening or an event. It is not full evidence, because it may be lacking in one or many of these factors. Circumstantial evidences are of many types, such as:

Records and minutes of meetings with the client -location, time, context, witnesses, etc., Records of correspondence, messaging, and telephone talks with the client, Replies from the client for the queries, Changes, doodles and notes etc. made on drawings by the client during meetings, Original plans, sketches, writings, data, etc. as supplied by the client, Keys, permissions to visit the site.

A Retainer amount, however, small signifies establishment of relationship > Pixabay image of One Anna (Indian coinage of past)

Retainer Amount : One of the best commitments next only to a legal contract is payment of a Retainer Amount. A retainer fee, however small, signifies establishment of a relationship, between a client and a designer (retainer amount or fee should not be confused with retention money). Ideally a quantum of a retainer amount should be large enough to cover not only the labour, stationary and skill, but the cost of patent ideas (original or exclusive) required to generate a schematic design (or such other stage when fees again become due). The cost of patent or unique idea is collected at first go, because a unique idea or a concept once exposed to an outsider like a client loses its originality and so the value. A formalized relationship has built in compensation procedures, so in case of a failure no one feels hurt. However, when an informal relationship fails, it creates the worst of situations.

Prime information from a client to initiate a design project > Wikipedia image by Eleberthon

Mandatory data or Prime information for Design : Work of a designer begins with the mandatory data / prime information provided by the client. As soon as a potential client is identified, a designer postulates own data requirements. For these first the client’s capacity to furnish or collect is checked. In exceptional cases, where the client is invisible (a social group) very little data is likely to be available. Where a client is incapable of providing the data, it is up to the designer to get the same collected, but with clients’ consent and cost.

Survey Data
Surveys and data collection need consent of client for its cost and ‘other’ uses > PublicDomainImages by WHO, Stanley O. Foster M.D., M.P.H., USCDCP

Ownership and Rights for Data : A designer cannot object to a client’s right to procure the data from other professionals or sources. A designer has no right to use the data collected for and paid by the client, for any other client or purpose. Nominally the person who pays, receives the output, and has the first and exclusive right to it. The party that pays for data, also acquires the inherent risks and liabilities. Whenever a client provides a crucial data like sizes, technical requirements, permissions etc. the transfer of information should be formal and well recorded. Data contributions from independent professionals are favoured, because these provide greater clarity, a counter check, division of responsibilities and dilution of risks.

Small clients and Corporate clients require different ways of relationships > Flickr image by Sustainable Economies Law Centre

Role of Designers with Government and Corporates : Small or improperly organized clients require designer who can handle the job even through its operations phase. They generally leave every thing in the hands of the designer. Government and large corporate organizations have the necessary expertise to divide the routine type of job into tasks that can be assigned to different professionals. Such organizations themselves coordinate all the output from different professionals and take their own decisions and actions. Here the role of a designer is very clearly defined and so is the risks and liabilities. Designers working under a master or assigning professional have no problem regarding data collection, accuracy, liabilities or transfer, since everything is well organized.

Design Assignments : A client realizes the potential for a project when the assets such as land, building, money, and personal qualities like knowledge, expertise, experience, becomes known. In case of physical assets the financial adviser provides clues how to explore the situation suggests the ways and agency who can shape it. Personal qualities motivate a person to pursue an activity, but will still need an agency to formulate the project. Financial advisers and project consultants are the largest referring agencies for designers. Next lot of design assignments arrive from designers of other branches of design.


07 DEALING WITH A CLIENT in a Design Organization –part of the lecture series DESIGN IMPLEMENTATION PROCESSES

Published by

Gautam Shah

Former adjunct faculty, Faculty of Design CEPT University, Ahmedabad and Consultant Designer

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