an online conversation
about design management

Why do clients choose to work with you?

A simple question but the answer can have a major impact on new business development.

When I ask this question to studio owners in mentoring or workshops they usually come up with a lot of vague unsubstantiated responses: 'they like dealing with us, we always get the work done on time, our pricing is competitive' etc.

When I first thought about this question I decided I needed a system to help studio owners answer the question in the same way every time, with every client. I decided that I needed to look at what it is that designers understand about their clients and how the designer client fit worked.  I looked at scenarios, empathy maps and three parts of the Design business model canvas; the design value proposition, client relationships and communication channels.

The process begins by writing a profile on the client. The normal demographic stuff is collected and then you visualise their experience as they walk into work each day and describe what it is they do, how the do it, with whom and with what success.

This information is then put into an Empathy map to understand the client in more detail. See more about empathy maps here.

This then allows you to define the pains that the client has and the gains they could get. These are matched  to the services you offer which helps develop a design value proposition statement.

The next stage is to look at the type of relationship you have with the client. Do they prefer to meet to discuss the job or do they just want to do it via email? Can you change the relationship so that it is more about co-creation? From what you now know about the client can you develop a closer relationship offering co-creation? Or do they just want a designer who does what they are told and is paid by the hour?

This stage also divides clients into those that you want to gain, those you want to retain and the ones you want to grow.

The relationship stage allows you to understand which clients you would prefer to work with and that leads to the type of communication you would have with them.

All this gives the information for a communication strategy that keeps the client informed about the services you offer. This stresses areas such as co-creation, value-added design and design thinking - the services that are additional to the normal design and artwork offered by your competitors. The analysis  shows which clients would prefer a personal presentation, an email newsletter as opposed to a printed piece, or a breakfast seminar.

I show the use of scenarios, the Design business model canvas and empathy mapping in mentoring and in workshops such as the Selling design value  workshop. Designers who have learnt this technique are now applying it to all their clients giving them a better understanding of their needs; this is leading to more and better work.


Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed a series of business tools to help designers manage their business better along with a series of workshops that show designers how to use these tools.