A creative relationship between creatives and clients can often be complex and filled with barriers. However they don’t have to be. There are seven key barriers that have been identified in creative relationships between creatives and clients: egos, budgets, trust, process, fear, timelines, and shared vision.
On the surface this probably seems like a very simple statement to answer, but also that it depends on the creative themselves. But ultimately the answer depends on who’s perspective it’s coming from. However, there are also barriers that are shared amongst all creatives.
A company called WeTransfer offers data transfer and storage services for design professionals, and they came out with a report of design trends from 2021. We are going to look through their data and ultimately help you identify these barriers so you can ultimately know if you are pushing those barriers over or if they are holding you back.
Creatives vs. Clients
Now this headline definitely does not mean a fight between the creatives and the clients! When we first need to differentiate are the two perspectives that we will be looking at. While the following barriers are shared across both perspectives, we need to also view each barrier from those perspectives.
Let’s first start with creatives. If you’re reading this post, I assume that you are most likely in this category. This is an easy one to wrap your head around since it’s your own perspective. When we discuss the following barriers think about your own personal experiences. Are these barrier is not an issue for you? Are they something that you can handle and manage well? Or is this barrier something that might be holding you back from being a better creative?
Now moving onto the clients. Creatives, the clients are ultimately your customers. So whatever barriers they have have are also yours. Our jobs as creatives is to deliver a product to the customer. How does this work? Through the creative relationship. While also being aware of the barriers that affect you as a creative you need to be aware in identifying the barriers of your clients and ultimately work to remove those barriers for them.
If you are a client of a design relationship and are not the creative, you should also be aware. If you know it or not these are barriers that could affect you from getting the most out of the create a relationship. If you are feeling some of these barriers on your own side and from your own perspective communicate them to the creative that you were working with. Being forthcoming and honest with the creative will help them keep your concerns in mind. If they truly value the creative relationship that you both share they will work tirelessly on removing those barriers for you.
The moment you’ve all been waiting for, the following barriers that we are going to discuss in this section are the following: egos, budgets, trust, process, fear, timelines, shared vision. What’s interesting about the diagram that is provided in the WeTransfer report is that the weight between creatives and clients are different.
For Creatives egos rate number two from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers. For clients egos are rated number one from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers.
What’s interesting here is that these are both on the upper end of the list for both clients and creatives. Someone’s ego is something that can be very difficult to discuss with that person and often times it goes unsaid. But there are ways that you can communicate with someone who has a hard ego and still have the relationship flourish.
Looking from the creative’s perspective, this will be the clients ego. Typically this happens when there’s a disagreement between the design that’s being delivered from the creative to the client. As a creative certain feedback can be tough to swallow sometimes especially if we are fully invested in the design. But what creatives need to understand is that the client is ultimately the customer. The best way to handle a client in ego is to communicate your passion and the reason behind why you did what you did with the design. At this point you were ultimately trying to sell the client on the details in your design. Sometimes it might take this discussion and exercise in order to eliminate a sour ego. On the other hand if you’ve gone through this exercise and the client is still not on board with the design that you have delivered to them, then you might have to make the appropriate changes to your design. As a creative myself, I can understand how difficult these changes can certainly be. But what’s important to you as a creative in a creative relationship with the client is that what they want is ultimately what you were going to deliver to them.
A lot of creatives from the client standpoint are known for having big egos. This is definitely not something that we want to have in this industry. Designs are meant to communicate a message to an audience. In a creative relationship scenario this audience is the client and their audience. It’s interesting from the client perspective that this is the number one item in this list. If you are a client who’s dealing with a creative who has a big ego, the best thing is to communicate your concerns and reinforce the message and the key details that you were looking for. Sometimes, especially if you aren’t entirely sure of the design direction before engaging with a creative, their first draft will ultimately help you see what you are looking for versus what you’re not looking for. Frustrations with communication between creatives and clients are often the result of these ego issues. The best thing as a client is to be completely honest upfront if you are unsure of the direction and be absolutely clear on the specific points that you want to see in the design.
For Creatives budgets rate number one from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers. For clients budgets are rated number two from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers.
Budgets flip everything that we had in the ego barrier. Budgets are still on the top list out of all seven barriers. Both the creatives and clients are restricted by their budgets. This is a barrier that can definitely be shared between both sides.
From the creative perspective budgets are typically the number one reason why a certain design commission by the client cannot be completed as desired. Well designs are ultimately art, it’s a business for the creatives. Creatives are creative because they have a passion behind what they do. Sometimes what they want to do in the vision they have for the project just simply do not align with the budget. This is evident with budgets being number one on the list for creatives. Having budgets as a frustration for creative means that they want to do more and they want to help the client more based on the vision they have for the project but unfortunately the client isn’t willing or doesn’t have the budget in place to bring that design to full fruition. As a creative if a budget restriction is limiting you on how you wish to deliver the project to the client communicate with them. Outline exactly how the budget is limiting you and the design and give the client a clear estimate as to how much more money might be needed and why. If you can ultimately communicate the value to the client and they buy into the vision as well you could ultimately crush this barrier in the creative relationship.
For clients you are ultimately the person who is paying for the design and project. Understandably, you have a budget that you need to stick to. A way that you can easily communicate this to creatives is by telling them the constraints that you have yourself. If the budget cannot be increased for any reason you should communicate this with the creative before the project begins. If they ultimately have a bigger vision that goes beyond your set budget this gives them the opportunity to deny the design project to allow you to find a creative who can work within your budget constraints. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having to go to another creative for your design. What’s more valuable to you as the customer is maintaining that relationship with the creative. If the box is too small for the creative it’s best not to try and shove them into it.
For Creatives trust is rated number four from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers. For clients trust is rated number three from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers.
For this section I’m going to talk to both creatives and clients in the same section. If there’s no trust or the trust level is low between the creative relationship, just end it now. Without trust there is absolutely nothing positive that will come from a working relationship between both parties. If creatives do not trust the clients they will not deliver good designs. If the clients do not trust their creatives how can they ensure that they will deliver a design that is based on their vision?
If trust between both parties is harmed, identify the reason why. What happened? Can it be fixed? I ultimately place trust more on the creative than the clients. As the creative you need to foster and maintain the trust between you and the client.
For Creatives process is rated number six from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers. For clients process is rated number four from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers.
This one I think is really interesting. The process in the creative relationship means more to the clients than it does to the creative themselves. This shows that creatives are willing to be more flexible and work with the client on a specific process that they want. This is hard to do with design. I know from personal experience I have my own process as I’m designing. What I can say about the design process is that creatives should inquire and discuss the desired process with the clients first. Hearing their side and asking them questions into why this is their process can help share an adoption of that process. The same goes for clients to creatives, be very clear about the process that you are expecting from the creatives. Give creatives enough room to be creative and work but define the working parameters you need for your project.
For Creatives fear is rated number seven from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers. For clients process is rated number five from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers.
This one I think is the most interesting one of all. For creative fear is on the bottom of the list. What this tells me is that creatives are extremely confident in the designs that they are delivering to the clients. I think this is awesome! As a creative, the first thing that will contribute to a terrible design is fear. If the creative feels that they can’t go outside of the box and try something different, designs will ultimately come back as the same or in a way that is very boring.
As a client ultimately the pressure is on you. This is your project and you would probably be the one that hired this creative to perform the work for you. Fear is an a one all and all thing. There are ultimately reasons why you might be fearful of the creative relationship and these are things that you should communicate to the creative. If the fear that you have on the project is ultimately related to an external factor like your boss, let the creative hear and understand your viewpoint. This will allow them to help you. Ultimately the whole point of hiring a creative to do design work for you is to make your life easier. Designing and being creative is supposed to be a fun process for both sides. Any creative who loves what they do and loves to design for you will move mountains to eliminate that fear between the creative relationship.
For Creatives timelines are rated number three from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers. For clients process is rated number six from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers.
I believe the ranking for this between both creatives and clients is healthy. What this shows is that creatives truly are keeping timelines in check. They are actively trying to stay within the timelines that the client sets. Another reason why this might be higher up on the list for creatives is that the client may be setting too aggressive of timelines. Too aggressive timelines could potentially cause the overall design to suffer. If the creative doesn’t have the time to work on the design in the way that they want, the end result might seem rushed.
What this tells me for clients is that they ultimately trust the creatives in delivering the designs on time. I can only assume that this is from past or previous relationships with the creative themselves. For all projects in that creative relationship the creative must have delivered the designs on time. The most projects timelines are the most stressful thing so the fact that creatives are taking the timeline serious while clients aren’t stressed out about them is a beautiful combination.
For Creatives timelines are rated number five from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers. For clients process is rated number seven from 0 to 100 out of all seven barriers.
The shared vision between creatives and clients is definitely different. Since I shared vision is towards the bottom for both creatives and clients with this tells me is that most of the time both parties in the creative relationship are on the same page. A shared vision can ultimately help to eliminate all of the previous six barriers that we’ve discussed. My ultimate question is… if shared vision is there, why are all of the other barriers still barriers?
This is why, although most people hate them, meetings are incredibly important before starting a project. Sending messages through email or chat applications loses the human touch and the ability to inquire deeper about the shared vision. Meetings that happen between the creative relationship should happen either in person, over video chat, or at least over the phone. This gives both sides the opportunity to discuss and communicate their perception of what the job ultimately is and what the responsibilities are. As a creative and as a client focus on the shared vision. By focusing on the shared vision you can ultimately illuminate all of the previous seven barriers.
Ultimately no relationship is perfect. They were going to be disagreements and they were going to be things where both sides can agree upon. But the first thing to fixing anything is being self-aware. Understanding as a creative why each of these barriers are ranked accordingly gives you the vision on how to eliminate them from all of the relationships with your clients past, present, and future. Focusing on these barriers as a client of a creative can help make the relationship work better for you and your project.
Understand that a healthy creative relationship isn’t one side over the other. Both creatives and clients need to work together. Now go out there and bring exceptional designs into the world together!