How to win over clients

Even with the best of ideas, and even if you're the art director, sometimes convincing your client that your idea is the way to go is the most difficult part of the design process. But Canadian design studio Bruce Mau Design is adept at doing just that. We spoke to CEO Hunter Tura to find out how the studio wins over clients from all over the world, including ASICS, Sonos and The V&A. Read on to discover his top three tips for winning over clients...

1. Make it about them, not you

symbols created for Metrolinx

Bruce Mau Design helped to re-envision Metrolinx’s “higher purpose” as one of creating connections between people, places and transport hubs

When I pitch business to a client, I spend very little time talking about us, and a lot of time talking about them. They’re generally aware of the work: they’ve seen the Sonos project; they’ve seen our work with Unilever. They don’t have to spend the next hour hearing about that all over again. It’s like going out on a date and all you hear about is the girl’s six last boyfriends. The client doesn’t want to hear about our last six boyfriends. They want to talk about what we could be doing together. 

02. Make the client a collaborator

three leaflets for design society

Bruce Mau Design worked with China Merchants Shekou Holdings and the V&A on branding Design Society

Ola Bowman is the director of the Design Society museum we collaborated with in China. But he’s an incredibly sophisticated thinker about design in his own right. So I said: why don’t we co-creative direct this project together, rather than me being the designer and you being the client? And it worked brilliantly. 

Knowing the people that were paying me also had a role in the creation of this thing – and that I was leveraging the intelligence of one of the world’s leading design thinkers – certainly made my job a lot easier. Essentially, I don’t care how I’m credited; I care that our work really helping drive organisations forward. You can call me the dishwasher if you want. 

03. Manage client expectations

ASICS Tiger rebrand with man walking past shop window

Bruce Mau Design developed a global brand identity for ASICS Tiger

Imagine going to a bakery and asking for the person there to bake you a cake. Imagine the guy tells you he’ll bake it at 350 degrees and it will take an hour.  But you say: ‘That’s no good – bake it at 575 degrees because I need the cake in 15 minutes.’ The baker’s going to tell you: ‘Well, I could do that, but I’m telling you, baking it at 350 is how the cake is going to taste the best.’

It’s a similar thing with clients. When they ask, ‘Can you complete our project in two months’ less time?’, we say that we can – but that this runs the risk of it not turning out quite right. It’s a pretty simple concept to grasp if you explain it in the right way.

This article was originally published in Computer Arts, the world's leading magazine for graphic designers. Buy issue 279 or subscribe here.

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.