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Have You Hugged Your Client Lately?

At times, some designers spend so much time telling clients what to do or convincing them what is best that they lose sight of client value. While issues like these can become challenging endeavors for even the most seasoned designer it’s the relationship you build that matters most, and how you express gratitude.

In the very first design class I took in 1992, my instructor Jackson Boelts at the University of Arizona talked about nurturing clients. This small talk entered our class at the end of the term. We met at a Mexican restaurant after our final Graphic Design 1 critique where we had savory foods and chatted loosely about what design is and what designers do. Even MTV and pop culture entered the discussion, subjects absent during weeks of cutting rubylith and using black Kohinor ink. Moving to the subject of money, which in turn led to discussion of clients, Boelts shared how his studio expressed gratitude to his clients, who gave him work and money time and time again. Wine, cheese, and chocolate were some of the gifts he’d send to them, and he made an annual practice of this.

His anecdote about preparing gift baskets or having them prepared by a vendor such as FTD struck me as common sense because you want to take care of those who take care of you. Too often, we see clients as enemies needing to be converted or contended with: use this design, not that one; these typefaces are better than what you’ve used; the brainstorming session your team had gave us poor ideas to work from; we will not have a focus group because we don’t believe in them as designers. But without clients, we’d have little workflow and little income stream, and oftentimes, a Thank You will deliver the greatest reward. Don’t be surprised if the energy spent on that Thank You feels better than any consultation, critique, or argument you deliver about your work for them.

Jackson Boelts is Professor at University of Arizona’s School of Art Visual Communicaiton program. Boelts Brothers design, today is Boelts/Stratford in Tucson, AZ.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Aug.25.2006 BY Jason A. Tselentis
elizabeth’s comment is:

Thank you. That was refreshing. Lately it keeps coming to my attention that we all so badly want to be loved...clients included i guess!

On Aug.25.2006 at 08:37 AM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

A compassionate expression of gratitude from a designer to their client. It may be cloudy in the city, but it's sunny on Speak Up.

On Aug.25.2006 at 09:08 AM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

After six months of being in business, I sent out a 1/2 a year thank-you to clients. It seemed that they appreciated not only the thanks and small gift but also the humor in the fact that I was proud to have survived for half of a year! Hmm...maybe they stuck around out of sympathy.

On Aug.25.2006 at 09:12 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

It seemed that they appreciated not only the thanks and small gift but also the humor in the fact that I was proud to have survived for half of a year! Hmm...maybe they stuck around out of sympathy.

Maybe they stuck around because you did a good job. If you asked them, maybe you'd know the real reason. I regularly check in with my clients for feedback. Whether or not the job comes to an end, I will follow up with them and ask about things done well and things done poorly. Clients (like designers) don't have a problem offering criticism, especially when it's related to something they paid for. And sometimes, they're just as willing to offer adoration as scorn.

On Aug.25.2006 at 10:22 AM
Kevin M. Scarbrough’s comment is:

>>After six months of being in business, I sent out a 1/2 a year thank-you to clients. -- Randy J. Hunt

I really like this idea. Even if it is something small, I can see how it would be really appreciated.

On Aug.27.2006 at 12:23 AM
Michelle French’s comment is:

Over the years I've done several thank-you presents. Always popular is my reverse Trick-or-Treating. I take them candy, usually in costume. (OK, "designer black" drag works great as a witch. All you add is a hat.)

The best received was a particular Valentine's Day. One year I delivered little heart shaped boxes of candy onto which I had applied my own design and had shrink-wrapped by a printer.

One client nearly cried. Seems that men don't get a lot of Valentine candy.

On Aug.28.2006 at 01:38 PM
Random Boy’s comment is:

It is complete common sense. In every industry that is saturated, and that supply outstrips demand, the success will come from those that hold the hand, rather than those that watch and laugh as out clients fall.

We are in an enviable position of being very 'cool' and with that tag comes the unfortunant tag of being very unhelpful, but if we putpocket our clients, a practice that we should load into our every day practice, we could exceeed expectations and hug our clients willingly and appropriatly every day. Well done for saying thank you, and hopefully you questioned the brief, pushed the boundries and provided the best possible service that you could.

We are suppliers in an industry that needs to wake up to reality, bring on the big thank you's as the industry creaks under its own weight!

Random Boy

On Aug.28.2006 at 06:19 PM
Random Boy’s comment is:

We should be saying thank you all the time. We are working in an industry that is saturated, where supply outstrips demand and where no matter what we do - clients will look elsewhere for someone who will do it better - no matter how strong our bond or friendship. As cynical as it may seem - a thankyou these days is nothing more than business sense, and business sense is nothing more than common sense...

Or is it?

On Aug.28.2006 at 06:25 PM
Random Boy’s comment is:

Sorry! I thought there was an error with the first post and that it didn't publish - but it seems that it did -

Hope that explains the multiple posts.


On Aug.28.2006 at 06:27 PM
Andrew Boardman’s comment is:

Out of curiosity, has anyone had successful receipt of digital thank you gifts to clients? I'm thinking of special newsletters, useful information, unusual PDFs, e-gift certificates, etc.

On Aug.29.2006 at 09:23 AM
Jennifer Judge Hensel’s comment is:

I just wanted to comment on how exciting it is to see a teacher you are currently studying under mentioned as having affected someone's life 10 years later. I am a student of Jackson's, and I've always found that his insight and advice is helpful. Glad to see a student of his continuing with his good ideas.

On Aug.30.2006 at 11:29 PM
Jeff Case’s comment is:

This is great information for all designers, I have been practicing this act of gratitude for the past year and I am a living testament that it works! When I first started my freelance business it took a lot of effort to get clients. But since I have started giving my clients a gift basket at the end of each project I have found that not only do I continually get repeat business from them but I have also received a steady flow of referrals as well.

On Sep.06.2006 at 11:30 AM