Wanted: A Partner in Crime

: Hili Neeman 29 December 2015
One of my former professors said, "As designers, you are responsible for everything you release into the world. No one else is guilty for the less-than-stellar work you do." The dream of every designer is to create something perfect, to design the Next Big Thing, to do something completely different that influences someone else, to convey an idea and even create something new. So why is it that designers so often have the sense that something is holding them back while they cater to the whims of their clients? Every designer has had a moment when they were not completely satisfied with one of their creations, and maybe even embarrassed by it. "It's the client's fault!" is what he tells himself. It's easy to blame someone else for a sub-par creation.
But let's not fool ourselves.
We all know that one of the clear dividing lines between art and design is the client. I am the master of my art. I don't even need anyone else to understand my creations. However, when we design something it is not for ourselves, but for the client. He is the essence for our work, the reason and drive behind it. The business is very clear: the client pays the professionals in order to receive a finished product. What this means is there’s not just me. There's we.
Now imagine a set of measuring scales – on one side is the designer, desperately waiting for any opportunity to create tons of amazing things. On the other side is the client, waiting for someone to design tons of amazing things just for him. We all want the same thing, so what could go wrong?
Simply put, the designer and the client are not the same person. Each one has their own perspective and understanding of how the project should end up. Almost always, there comes a time when the client "interferes" with the work: make this bigger, make that smaller; add this, remove that; and so on. At this point the designer has spent hours thinking of different ideas; he's actually getting feedback for work he loves, and it's suddenly difficult for him to add these changes to what he created. There are now two possible outcomes: either the client persuades the designer, or the designer persuades the client. What does this mean?
In the first outcome, the designer disconnects himself from his work and relinquishes all responsibility (and says to himself, "This is what the client wants, so this is what he’ll get. He’s paying me after all, so he gets to decide everything."). The designer becomes the client's partner in crime and creates what the client requested, even if he knows it’s horrible, and does nothing except meet the client's required criteria.
In the second outcome, the designer understands the needs of the client. He is able to incorporate the substantial changes into his design, resulting in something that fits the client like a glove. The designer takes a stand and announces that he will do all he can to improve his work and understand exactly what the client needs. With this, the designer and the client enter a real collaboration. As a consummate professional, the designer recommends, urges, summarizes, and explains to the client precisely what the right thing is for him and his needs.
And then, one day – it works. Something beautiful, successful, and amazing has been brought forth into the world. You've really done it: you've transformed your client into a genuine accomplice.

It's the perfect crime.