For 20 years now, I’ve worked closely with design professionals and clients. When I was an in-house artist or visualisation team lead I would occupy the role of the client when commissioning artists to provide visualisation support for internal projects. As a freelance artist I was the consultant and the supplier. I don’t mind admitting that I wasn’t always the best client and learned some difficult lessons over the years. I also don’t mind saying that the journey never really ends when learning what it means to be a good consultant! However, at Float we have the pleasure of working with some great people who understand the value they stand to gain from the process, and whose character has really defined for us what it means to be a great client.
It might seem obvious to draw a line between the quality of a collaboration and the quality of the outcome, but conscientiousness and proactivity towards the process (as well as a clear shared vision) is the key to forming a truly collaborative partnership. So here’s seven recurring characteristics shown by our clients over the years that have resulted in truly enjoyable partnerships and have enabled them to get the most out of the visualisation process.
1 Accountability. Having a consistent voice is extremely important, even if the message is changing. When working with design teams that often contain a mix of design disciplines and internal managers, those who have had a champion on the client side have greatly assisted us in effectively meeting expectations in environments where the design is still evolving.
2 Commitment. We are never under any illusion about how complicated projects can be on the client side. However, clients who get the most from us are committed to being involved and present at key points throughout the project. Their head is in the game and they put in the work with us, staying close to the project at all stages from briefing to delivery.
3 Considered Feedback. This might be one of the most important characteristics of our clients. Because while we know that in the typical busy day of a complex design project, it can be easy to rush through mark ups and feedback, it’s important to invest time in this and give good feedback. Concise and clear measured feedback will always result in a better more efficient outcome for them and our clients know this. Time spent refining good feedback is always time well spent when working with a visualiser.
4 Quality of Communication. It’s perhaps the most repeated mantra in professional and corporate environments. Communication is sacrosanct but our clients understand that quality of communication is just as important as communication itself. They offer context when explaining detail and bring us into the history of the project without overcomplicating the vision. They remember that we are joining the collaboration often at the 11th hour of the project and adjust their approach with us accordingly. They communicate with us in a way that allows us to realise their vision effectively. Quality of communication is everything.
5 Trust. We know our clients are great at what they do, and they know we are great at what we do, so this gives us the opportunity to use our experience to bring perspective to the conversation. They want to hear our ideas and are willing to explore alternatives because they know that sometimes the best solutions come from the most unlikely of places. It’s our responsibility to challenge preconceptions as part of the briefing process and our clients trust in us is perhaps one of the most important parts of the client/consultant relationship.
6 Understanding Process. Our clients have realised that we as artists love what we do, and nothing pleases us more than when our clients are delighted with what we produce for them. In fact, it’s one of the best kept secrets in the visualisation industry that clients who take the time to understand and respect an artist’s process will often find themselves getting the unexpected benefit of enthusiastic contribution beyond the original scope of the project. Years ago, we worked on a set of visualisations for a fast turnaround emergency delivery. The only way it could be done was to work late but the client, understanding the pressure we were under, committed to staying with us in the studio for as long as it took to finish. We were so impressed with this gesture we worked through the night and the images were delivered to a delighted board who subsequently issued them for press release. The mutual respect yielded the best possible result for everyone involved and the relationship is still strong today.
7 Awareness. “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always” We have all heard this quote, but it’s particularly prevalent in the high-pressure world of design visualisation. Time is not often on a visualiser’s side, but we embrace the challenge and always strive to provide an effective and seamless service for the clients we work with. Behind the scenes can often be a fast-paced, complex, and carefully balanced operation though and our clients know this. They work with us in a very supportive and collaborative manner to enable us to focus on producing great work for them. They help us to help them.
It goes without saying that these characteristics are not exclusive to clients and equally apply to ourselves as consultants. Finding that ‘goldilocks zone’ of effective collaboration is one of the most rewarding things we can achieve in the visualisation industry and understanding how best to engage with each other is the key to being effective. It should be at the forefront of everything we strive to achieve, whether as a client or as a consultant.
Andy Pennington is a visualisation artist of 20 years and the director of Float, a company specialising in producing CGI for design industries. You can follow Float on Instagram Twitter and Facebook, as well as online at float.digital