If you enter the world of design and creativity as either a creative or a client/stakeholder one thing you might consistently see on the internet or social media is all the horror stories and bad experiences that revolve around a project falling apart due to a relationship breakdown between a client and a creative, something became or was unclear at the beginning or during a project or some other of what feels like a million reasons why a creative and a client didn’t see eye to eye.

I’d like to infer that maybe most of the problems with a project and the relationship between a client and a creative has to do with something simple and obvious in today’s user experience driven design culture.

Both clients and creatives are forgetting the U part of UX

In other words, designers and stakeholders are not considering the needs of the user or not considering them enough to make a project truly successful. Never before have we as a people had more access to data, research and user behavior, but the downside to that is that there also hasn’t been this much access before to resources that can bolster personal taste and preference. Overall there is too much of a focus on personal preference and aesthetic taste and thus a battle ensues and one tries to convince the other and vice versa of whose ideas, color palettes, or visual style is the best.

The main reason to why can lead to that newly buzzed design word called empathy. It gets spoken of early and often in design talks, cultures etc. But empathy isn’t practiced consistently enough to the point where users and the business goals are driving the decision making because if that was the case we would hear less complaining about how a project went wrong because of the other people in the room. Too often the needs of ourselves or the individuals participating in the project put their needs first. Designers are worrying about their next portfolio piece or award while stakeholders are worried about their vision or cutting the cost of a project. Usually, some combination of all of those individual desires interfere with the pursuing the optimal results and thus the project suffers for it.

Of course, there are ways to create a human/user-centric creative culture where a project stops going through PX(personal experience) and starts really becoming a UX first engagement. For example, creatives can build and rely on a consistent process for each and every project and more specifically, for how to engage and empathize with users. Creatives can also learn to consistently tie rationale and reasoning that goes beyond aesthetic taste. Finally, creatives can also generate a collaborative environment where they are working with the stakeholders and not just for them.

Stakeholders are used to leading and in the case of a creative project, should look to be part of leading it not simply look to give out orders. Stakeholders can choose the right team for the project and just like creatives they can allow for a collaborative environment that a good creative will probably try to create for the project. Most importantly a stakeholder should try to recognize or understand the goals of the business and how they relate or connect to the needs of the user.

It doesn’t matter what type of creative project is, if there is money being transacted for a creative service that almost always means that something needs to be created for a consumer or experienced by a user, and for a project to go well empathy for those users need to come before what a designer or a client or really what any individual person likes or doesn’t like. If you want to immediately get better results for your projects don’t focus on what looks good and don’t try to convince anyone of anything. Instead, use research and collaborative techniques to find insights and validations into what is being inferred by both the creatives and the stakeholders.

Empathize with users, rely on a process, collaborate on a concept and thinking behind decision making. Guide and be guided. Collaboration and empathy within a project can be hard work but if both are applied, the results are usually what both the client and the creatives are looking for.

UX Strategist/Designer. Husband, Cat Dad. NN/g UXC UX Management. Nerding out on UX processes, strategies, and tactics.