More times than I can count, I’ve observed the frustrating battle between a creative with talent and vision and a client pursuing company strategy and goals. With experience hiring designers, videographers, photographers, and copywriters to work on projects at my previous job on a marketing team, and now as a bridge between clients and our creative team at Thinkbox, I hear both sides of the argument:

“They’re crushing my ability to create something good with all these changes and restrictions.”

I’m more than hands with Photoshop skills, but they won’t listen to any of my ideas.”

“We’ve gone through 4 rounds and the client finally likes it, but it’s the worst it’s ever been.”

“He keeps doing things outside of our typical look. It doesn’t match our brand.”

“She didn’t change the design how we talked about. There’s no way I’ll get approval for this piece.”

“I need it to work for our audience, but he doesn’t get it.”

Why don’t we trust each other? Why do we fail to listen? Why do we believe we don’t need each other?

Creatives breathe life and emotion into strategy, crafting the visual communication that clients need to reach the right audiences and achieve goals. Clients give creatives an outlet and mission to work on, enabling them to reach the world with their art and skill at capacities often not otherwise possible. Without each other they are staggeringly out of luck.

Together, creatives and clients can move more people, accomplish more good, serve more communities, topple more misconceptions, and color the world more beautifully than they can alone.

With a nod to the beautifully interdependent relationship creatives and clients will always inhabit, I propose an agreement of sorts:

I, the creative, promise to honor the client’s considerable experience with the organization, brand, and audiences I am designing for. When I work on a project, I will acknowledge the client as an authority on the history and future of the organization my work represents and the needs of the audiences I hope to move. I will ask the right questions―helping me understand the uncharted territory I am venturing into and allowing the client to be my guide. I commit to bringing all of my tools and creative capacity to the table, consistently striving to deliver pieces that effectively accomplish their purpose while moving the audience with my artistic vision. I will set expectations up front that help guide the client and cultivate an atmosphere of open communication. I promise to trust and listen.

I, the client, commit to honoring the instincts and skills of the creatives I work with. When I hire a creative with the intention of creating a truly unique, compelling piece, I will utilize their full capability to create the right message for my audience delivered in the best way, free from any unnecessary constraints. I will not see the creative as mere “hands to guide,” but rather as an expert and an important part of the collaborative process. I will disclose all information to help guide the creative. When I give feedback, it will be logical reasons, clear motives, and an invitation to collaborate for a better solution: “I don’t think this will work for our company because ________, so can we try ________, or find another way? What do you suggest?” I will lay down my personal preferences. I promise to trust and listen.

Let’s shift our mindset and see each other as partners and co-conspirators. Let’s trust and listen. We’ll climb farther together than we can alone.