The Designer Becomes the Client

 "The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." Ernest Hemingway

As designers we're all trained to do our own design work, naturally, to showcase our skills. But we never actually get trained on what it may feel like to be the client hiring a designer. 

Police are put through rigorous training to prepare for being on the force. Training techniques may include being cuffed, taken down, pepper sprayed, possibly tasered, and/or more. This is to help them function and maintain discipline in threatening circumstances and also to understand how much force is required to apprehend a suspect without inflicting injury. 

As designers we're all trained to do our own design work, naturally, to showcase our skills. We design our own portfolios, business cards, and websites to show off what we can do for our clients. But we never actually get trained on what it may feel like to be the client hiring a designer. How do you build trust? How do you find a process that works for you AND your client? How do you ease any concerns clients may have throughout the process?

When you're throwing money at stuff you can see like clothes, shoes, cars...you know what you're getting. There's no secret, no questions. You either like it and buy it. Or you don't and move on. It's a much different mindset when you're throwing money at something you can't see and won't know you're happy with, until it's finished. 

These thoughts have been on my mind recently as I became a client of an artistic venture for the first time; Getting a coverup tattoo. 

When I was 18, I got a silly little tattoo of a butterfly on my chest which I didn't put much thought into. After getting it, I felt so rebellious and proud. But a few years passed and I started to resent it. Everyone asked me about it and I hated showing it off because it was ugly and it didn't represent anything. It was just there. I thought about lasering it off but I came to realize that I genuinely really enjoyed having a tattoo; Just not that one. So over the last year I put more thought into what I might want on my body forever. I looked at themes I was generally attracted to and then researched the kind of tattoo styles I liked. That guided me to the appropriate artists and shops that employed them which led me to Craig Moston at Gastown Tattoo.

Going in I definitely had a few beads of sweat. This was my first major piece over $100 that would have some kind of story behind it and was one I had put more thought into. Plus, it would be much bigger than my last. I wouldn't be able to cover it up so easily so I had to make sure I loved it.

I put a deposit down for something I couldn't imagine which is not something I'm used to. 

What made me most nervous was that I had no idea how it would all come together or what it was going to look like. I put a deposit down for something I couldn't imagine which is not something I'm used to. As a designer, when a project presents itself I have an idea of the direction I may take and loosely get an idea of how it might look. Whether or not it turns out that way is another story but I have a vision and can imagine some kind of outcome. I couldn't read my artists mind so I had to make a conscious effort to not only trust the fact I did my research but also to trust my artist and his skill. Because, really, I have no idea what kind of considerations go into covering up something that's already there. I have no idea how certain elements will play off the natural flow and shape of the body. So after I put my deposit down, I left it in his capable hands to conceptualize and stylize. 

Coverup tattoo by Craig Moston @ Gastown Tattoo Parlour

Coverup tattoo by Craig Moston @ Gastown Tattoo Parlour

The morning of my tattoo appointment was the first time I saw the concept and when I saw it, I smiled with delight. I really loved it. We made a few minor tweaks and then got setup to do the tattoo. But even at this stage my nerves weren't settled as it was still just an outline so I didn't actually know how it would end up after it was on my body. All the "what if's" swirled but I, again, fell back on trusting my artist, trusting in his skill, and also trusting myself in the fact that I chose wisely.

5 hours later...my tattoo was complete. I was sore and tired but I loved how it turned out.

I now have a new found respect for clients hiring me for design work and have learned to trust my decisions/instincts more. 

If you're a designer:

I would encourage you to hire someone for a service you're not familiar with; Writing, coding, art, a tattoo. It will definitely open your eyes to what you client may go through when hiring you to do work for them. Of course there are many that are comfortable with the unknown but a lot of clients aren't when they're throwing thousands of dollars at you for something they may or may not like so if anything, be aware of that.

If you're a client:

Remember you're hiring them because you can't do the job yourself. They are skilled professionals so trust them to deliver. Trust in their skill, experience, and capabilities. If you don't know what that looks like, I would encourage you to research that. Look at their portfolio. Inquire and ask specific questions about portfolio details, their process, and pricing structure. Maybe ask to meet with them if that makes you more comfortable. Tell them what you need to feel comfortable and happy. And always be weary of designers that don't follow a code of ethics. Ex. work for free or cheap. You always get what you pay for.

The proof is in this puddin', I spent the time and the money on a tattoo artist with skill and in the end got a really great art piece on my body I will enjoy for the rest of my life.