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Does compromise in design create a compromised design?

28th June 2013 by toucan team

Graphic Design

As design is often subjective, so is the issue of compromise. Compromise doesn’t mean giving in, but rather taking alternative views on board and working to create something that satisfies both the client’s wishes as well as the designer’s conscience.

Change for the sake of it, just so the client can feel like they’ve been involved in the process, is counterproductive, and is what makes most designers hostile to the whole idea. However, it’s important to remember that the client usually knows their business better than us, which is why we hear so often “the customer is always right.”

First be confident that you understand your client’s views, and the intention of the work. Then if you believe your design is correct, communicate this to your client.
Refusing to compromise due to ego is bad practice, and unfortunately the idea of designers being ‘precious’ about their work is a common assumption among clients.

“If you compromise on nothing, you’re a dictator. A lack of compromise weakens the chance of discovering that you could actually be wrong.”

If you won’t compromise on anything, then this might actually compromise the end-result. It’s important to focus on what’s important, the end product, not winning a battle of will over your client.

Like any relationship, the relationship between client and designer relies on trust. Clients need to choose a designer whom they trust to work with them with their best interests in mind. And designers need to trust that the client believes in their ability to achieve their goals. Communication is key to creating this trust.

Communication can avoid a lot of compromises.

As designers, we should seek to educate our clients so they fully understand the reasons behind our design choices. Effective communication between the designer and the client can reduce a lot of the amendments requested. If the client doesn’t understand the reason something has been specifically chosen, then it is understandable that they would think it justifiable to change it. Since design choices are not made on a whim, the client’s requests for amendments shouldn’t be either. If we just send a design without explanation then we are not giving it the chance it deserves. If our clients think something is designed without real thought (which a lack of explanation suggests) then the associated lack of confidence that accompanies this invites endless requests for change.

Giving in to pointless requests or whims to keep a client happy is not really fair to the client either. We are not giving the full service we are employed for if we blindly produce what a client asks for, ignoring our better judgment. Obviously we have to give a client what they want, but sometimes our job is to tell a client what they need too. Most of our job is about engaging with the project and offering our experience and advice. If we follow orders blindly without engaging our brains then we are failing. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the view “compromise is failure” but giving in completely and neglecting to communicate our doubts, constitutes a failure to do our job properly.

“In design (and everywhere else), any result of compromise will be less than it could have been.”

Return custom is important, so we must try to keep our clients happy. But this doesn’t mean blindly agreeing with them if we believe they are wrong. We should politely argue our case, but in the end, the customer gets what the customer wants. By communicating your reasons from the outset, hopefully dissatisfaction of both sides is kept to a minimum.

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