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The Ideal Studio
Teo Connor

Graphic designer and art director Teo Connor was co-director of No Days Off before setting up her own eponymous studio in east London. She is also co-founder of The W Project which celebrates women in the creative industries. She has worked with clients like Reebok, Somerset House and Tate Modern.

On working in a small, independent studio…

I feel that running a small business, building and preserving relationships is especially important because, as well as making the time spent on a project more enjoyable and satisfying, it is key to getting referrals and future business. Important factors in creating this positive relationship are good communication, honesty and respect. A sense of humour is always a nice bonus. 

The size of the business does have an impact on the closeness of the relationship, which has its pros and cons. Mostly working as a small studio means you work more closely with your client, which can promote greater communication and understanding of the brief etc, and increase client confidence in you. However, without the luxury of a client services or production team, you are the main point of contact, which can leave you wishing you had a couple of clones to deal with every client query while you get on with some work. Let’s just say, it keeps you on your toes.

On being a woman designer in a male-dominated industry…

I interact with clients as myself, and my relationships with them are based on that. On the other hand, I do recognise that there can be an impact resulting from the way in which a client may view or work with me, in the form of preconceptions about my abilities or style based on my gender, and I am mindful to be aware of and work around this. 

I would always hope that what is important are my skills, ideas and approach as an individual that have the impact and I am happy to say that, for the most part, this is what I've experienced.

On active client participation…

Clients and projects come in all shapes and sizes, some may want to be involved with idea generation, others less so. I’m of the opinion that there is value in bringing your client into the creative process, and that doing so can produce positive outcomes. And being an active participant in the creative process, they are more likely to be happy with the end results. Design after all is a collaborative process; an open dialogue between client and designer to find creative solutions to problems. But as the expert in our field and being commissioned as such, ultimately it is our job as designers to find the right answer.

On working with a client whose ideas don't match the designer's…

I’d say personal chemistry is very important in a professional relationship, but this can be developed if it is not immediate. However, I do also believe that creative tension can be a positive thing. Clients are people, and most people like to work with people they feel comfortable with. You will spend many hours with the client during a project, so it helps if you can relate with ease. Potential frustrations can arise when faced with a client whose creative ideas don’t match your own but it is still possible to become comfortable with each other. Both parties should be able to challenge the others’ ideas, but I don’t think getting to the point of a full-on argument would ever be productive. 

For me, chemistry is the spark that can keep creative tensions constructive, and helps to build long-term partnerships.

teoconnor.com

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