Why Not Associates

Why Not Associates is one of the UK’s leading graphic design agencies, internationally renowned for its boundary-pushing work. Clients have included Porsche, Blackberry and ITV as well as personal work like The Comedy Carpet in Blackpool. Founder Andy Altmann answered our questions.

The questions that need asking when striking up a relationship... I guess like in any relationship you are looking for some kind of empathy with the person. Are they interesting? Is what they do interesting? Are they fun? Will they be open to pushing things? Will I learn something from them? Do I like them?

Why you’re only as good as your client... This is something that all designers need to constantly repeat to themselves. I have no problem with a client getting involved in idea generation; every project and client is different. Sometimes a client might come to you with a great basic idea already worked out, and it’s our role to execute in the best possible way. The process is always one of collaboration, and if the client is great to work with then the collaboration can be the best aspect of the project.

On the other hand, you might present a client with several options, and they might go for the one that you think is the weakest, so sometimes we only present the one idea we believe in and hope that they like it. You can try and try to push what you feel is the way to go, but at the end of the day it is the client that has the last say. The work produced is only as good as your client allows it to be.

Why a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing... Some clients may have a little experience in graphic design and now think they can design everything themselves. Nearly everybody has some experience of being a graphic designer because of computers — whether that be choosing fonts or positioning pictures. Instead of trusting our abilities and experience, some clients try to input too much in the design. Even now — after more than 25 years of experience of graphic design at a high level — it can feel like the client doesn’t trust you which can be incredibly frustrating!

With the best clients you build up an empathy, and the process becomes a collaboration. They usually know far more about the area they work in than you, and you will need to glean as much as you can about that from them, so together you can find a solution that neither of you could reach on your own.

The most important lesson of all... What all graphic designers need to remember is that we are a service industry, and at the end of the day if the client wants it pink, then you have to make it pink. Graphic design used to be called “commercial art” and some might even consider us the “prostitutes” of the art world. Ultimately, if the client wants a blow job, no matter how much you argue, you normally end up giving one.