Client Wars: The Client is Not the Enemy

Clients are people. And sometimes people are really difficult to work with! Sometimes our clients love our design solutions. And sometimes they really don’t. At times we can feel like we’re fighting a battle against the opposition. We are the Righteous, fighting for the honor and protection of Good Design; they are the Fallen, desiring to destroy that which is Good and Beautiful and True!

This is a series of 7 short posts on what to do when clients disagree or dislike your designs. How can we take these obstacles and re-make them into opportunities? How can we stop fighting against our clients and start collaborating with them?

I’ll be posting once per day over the next 7 days on this topic which is crucial for every designer.

The Client Is Not the Enemy

The war is not against your client. If you think your client is an obstacle to overcome to getting your design finished, you’ve already lost.

If your attitude is against your client, the project will go badly, guaranteed. If you find yourself feeling this way, do what you must to restore the client in your mind. The client is not your enemy. The client can be your partner, and you can help him or her (even despite him- or herself) to achieve success through great design.

Make frequent effort to verbally remind your client that you’re for them and on their team. Help them see the connection between your design decisions and their business goals.

Make frequent effort to remind your client that you’re on their team. Many businesspeople think design is purely subjective. If design is merely opinion, then theirs should be just as valid as yours! But design is not purely subjective. There is an element of science to it that is backed up by decades of design research & best practices.

Often I’ll say “Ok, that’s good feedback on the layout. Let me take a minute here and walk you through why I made some of the decisions I did.” Then I explain why I put the social media links at the top of the page rather than in the footer: I want to encourage their clients to connect with them online to gain them repeat business and strengthen their brand.

When your client hears that a) you’ve thought your decisions through carefully, and b) your decisions were made with their success in mind, their disagreements will vanish!

Coming Up Tomorrow

Coming up tomorrow, learn to shut up and listen! Make sure you don’t miss out by subscribing to my RSS feed, or get updates directly in your inbox!


  1. Kristina Daniele
    November 29, 2010

    This is a great article. I admit that at times it feels like it’s me against the client, but I am learning to work with them rather than against. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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  3. sarah wu
    November 29, 2010

    These r really great points. Explainign to them why XYZ will help make the project go smooth too.