One of the key factors influencing a client when selecting a design studio, is its past work. A portfolio is seen as proof of talent, experience, and design aesthetic. Clients are drawn to work that is often in the same business space as they are in or that has a similar approach to what they would like to accomplish. They expect that what they see is a good indication of what they will get. While most designers and studios are open about the work contained in their portfolio, I do know of situations where this is not the case. I think clients often miss asking some pretty important questions.
What clients rarely ask when selecting a studio is “Who designed this particular piece, and will they be working on my project?” It is seldom discussed, but portfolios can contain work by designers no longer with the studio, or who will not be working on every identity project. Is there any value in seeing work you like by a designer who will not be directly involved in your project? What can clients and designers do?
Ask the right questions so you know who was responsible for what portion of the project. Even solo designers sometimes work with a partner or subcontract work out.
- Who are all individuals that worked on this particular project?
- What was everyone’s role?
- Will the same individuals be working on my project?
- Will they be designing themselves or overseeing other designers?
Be transparent with clients; explain who did what in your portfolio. If the client likes the work of a designer who is no longer with you, you have an opportunity to manage the situation head on. If you can justify the inclusion in your portfolio of work by a designer no longer associated with you, you may overcome the clients concern. If you can’t, then you may want to reconsider keeping the work in your portfolio.
On both sides of the equation, managing expectations is something that needs to happen from the beginning of a project. The success of any project is a result of the people involved, perhaps even more so when speaking about design. Realistic expectations can be set by openly discussing the skill sets and experience of those that will be directly involved.
Steve Zelle is a logo designer and consultant with over twenty years’ experience working with clients. Based in Ottawa, Canada, he operates as idApostle and is the founder of Processed Identity. You can reach him through his website or on Twitter.