Who Do You Design For: Clients or Users?


If you close your eyes and think back to the first design fundamentals class you ever took hopefully you remember the instructor saying,”When beginning a design ask yourself who is your audience? If you don’t know who you are designing for then how can you design anything at all?”

Fast forward to the present. Now you are a freelance designer, you have met with the client, discussed what they want and agreed to do the job. Suddenly the client sends you a sketch of a horrible monstrosity of a design so unholy your eyes begin to burn. The client attached instructions that do not resemble the previous discussions and break every rule you can imagine.

Now ask yourself, “Who are you designing for?” By definition, your job is to communicate a message via images and text. But, as a businessperson your goal must be to meet the requests of the client. If you go against the client’s explicit requests and produce a user-centric design, oddly enough you’ll have an unhappy client. Now the flip side of the coin. If you cooperate, lay down your sword, turn off the grids and produce what the client has demanded, the design will fail and in turn you will fail. The bad design will always come back like Rocky and smash you right in the face.

I still feel there is no right answer, but all I can do is plead my case. This is the very definition of a catch-22 and this 800 pound gorilla shows no signs of going away. I get down on all fours and beg the client not to demand drop shadows and convince them that whitespace is a beautiful thing and is not to be confused with wasted space.

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