Award-winning design agency Praline was founded in 2000 and has studios in London and Paris. Specialising in graphic design, branding and art direction, Praline has worked with clients like the British Council, SHOWStudio and Tate Modern. Creative director David Tanguy answered our questions.
Why a good client relationship is not rocket science…
Like most people, we do our best work when we work with likeminded clients. We often get to work with clients who contact us through word-of-mouth which can give us a good idea of who they are and how we might work together.
When people contact us out of the blue, it's very important to us to understand why they are contacting us, what they actually know about our work and why they think our approach or past projects are relevant to their needs.
It's important to make sure there is a mutual understanding. The client needs to understand who we are, what work we do, and how we work, and we have to understand their ambitions and personalities. Both parties need to respect each other's approach and visions. We love it when our new clients love our work. And we love to work with clients who do things we love too!
On respective responsibilities…
Working closely with a client is very constructive. A good client will always know more about their business than the designers. Therefore it's crucial to collaborate and the designer's role is to identify interesting angles and test these ideas with the client.
The client has to remain open to new ideas, these can inspire them and give them new directions for their project. The designer has to remain open to feedback. We often find that clients' feedback can open new interesting ideas. The aim is to create a successful project and egos should be put aside.
On whether or not it's ever acceptable to work for free…
It can be. We sometimes have to do it; it really depends on what the potential client is asking for, the amount of work, and making a judgement call as to whether the client sounds serious and trustworthy enough. Pitching for free isn't ideal, but sometimes it's worth the risk.
A good and professional client shouldn't ask for free creative work; instead they should ask to see a document outlining the approach and the initial ideas. That should be enough to make a decision on the most suitable partner designers.
How client meetings should work…
Presentation meetings are key. We often treat these more as workshops than formal presentations, using discussions, feedback, possibly disagreements, and eventually coming to an agreed way forward.
It's important to meet in person for the key stages, and to keep talking things through as the project progresses. Of course it's acceptable to exchange documents via emails, but only when the main direction has been agreed.
How tighter budgets have affected the client relationship…
I actually think designers and clients challenge each other even more now as projects have to be more relevant, efficient and successful. But the financial downturn created a situation where some clients take less risk when they are choosing a designer.
I personally think it's the role of the designer to take the client on a journey and to dive into an explorative process which will result in an end result that both parties are happy with.