Chiara Medioli Fedrigoni (chair): When we commission design, it’s important that we understand how it feels to be on the other side of the fence. Here at Fedrigoni we are simultaneously suppliers and customers of designers, so we need to ensure that not only do we have good final products, but also good relationships with designers. Today we have asked our guests for some tips on how to make a project go well. First up, we have Adele Bacci of Thomas Manss, whom I’ve known a long time…
Adele Bacci: Good projects are not just a matter of design and creativity – they have a lot to do with the quality of the relationship between client and designer. Building a strong relationship takes time, and trust is the key to developing successful projects. At the beginning, trust is based on the reputation or portfolio of an agency, but thereafter it has to be built on the quality of the shared experience.
The designer is a consultant and not just an external supplier. Their role is not just to make beautiful layouts and spectacular logos, but to provide solutions. So it is important that the designer is included in the project from the beginning, giving them the opportunity to understand the context. Once the roles are defined, the design process can start. The first step is the brief. This can easily be underestimated, especially in longstanding relationships, but it’s crucial for building a good project.
So it’s important that the client is clear on what they want, but that shouldn’t force the designer to replicate their ideas. Open communication is essential, but the fewer people involved in the exchange of information, the more we can avoid confusion. We don’t have an account manager in our agency because we believe that the designer in charge of a project should be the only one dealing directly with the client. That should be the same on the client side. One-to-one communication is a good way to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes.
So take time to collect, process and communicate feedback. Taking a few days to create a clear document to share with the agency might seem to slow the process down, but it’s the best way to do a good job without too many steps. Finalising a project takes time. Chronologically speaking it is the last part of the process, but it has to be planned from the very beginning.
Laurent Hainaut: First I want to thank Adele for summarising the steps necessary for a good client-agency relationship so well. The number one thing is trust. That’s an important part of what we do, and what we need for successful projects.
What’s important is to be a good ‘partner’ of excellent creative work – and that goes back to trust. How do we unite the ‘dream’, which is what we want, with the ‘craft’, which is how we make it. There’s a tension between those two things. On one side we have what we call ‘credibility’, but it doesn’t only belong to us, it belongs to the client, too. And on the other side, we have ‘execution’, which technically belongs to the client, but we have a lot of ideas about it.
The tension between those two elements in the creative process is critical to great work. We need to preserve the dream throughout the process, but we also need to find a way for the execution to reflect the initial creation.