*by Drew Davies*
On behalf of designers everywhere, I am writing you this letter with a very simple request. My message isn’t particularly novel –¬†in fact, you may have heard something like it before. But, it’s become clear that it’s time to say it again as clearly as possible.
In the course of owning and operating my own design firm, I regularly encounter persons and companies looking for design services. The most promising of the set send an RFP, ask us to sit down for an initial meeting, or ask us to make a presentation regarding our capabilities and qualifications. This is a fairly traditional practice, and in general, it works quite well. We certainly don’t engage in speculative creative work, but I am always happy to explain to someone what I believe to be the value in hiring my firm, and show them a range of our previous design projects.
Quite often, prospective clients like yourself request various documents and proposals, so you can learn about anything from our process to our experience, our price estimates to our ballpark timelines. Typically, the process of developing this paperwork is relatively time-consuming, but it’s something I enjoy doing. It’s always nice to be able to tell our story, and look forward to the possibility of working on an exciting new project.
Here’s where you come in. When you request a customized proposal or an in-person presentation, you have a responsibility. Quite frankly, it’s your ethical obligation as a human being. You owe the designer or firm from which you received this information a direct and timely response.
No 20-minute phone calls or five-page explanation e-mails required. Just a simple note to say “thank you for your time, we’ve decided to go a different direction.” It’s a basic professional courtesy that every person requesting a proposal from another should extend when they’ve selected a different option. But you’d be surprised at how frequently that response never arrives.
I don’t know if people simply assume that somehow designers — straddling the line between art and business — can’t handle rejection. Perhaps this problem is endemic to the complete range of service industries. Either way, let me make this clear: not only can we handle it, we appreciate it, and we expect it. Every designer wants and deserves to know where they stand in a potential business transaction.
You’d be surprised to know how many times I’ve made presentations, or sent proposals, only to receive complete silence in return. After half a dozen unanswered e-mails and voice mails over the following month, I can usually assume we didn’t get the work. Which is completely understandable; we can’t win them all. But not taking 30 seconds of your time to inform us of the decision is at best rude, at worst cowardly.
So, I’m making this simple request. When you ask a designer for a proposal, extend them the same courtesy you’d expect: let them know if they didn’t get the work. If they’re a professional like you, they’ll thank you for your candor, and you’ll both move on. And then you’ll be able to stop avoiding my phone calls.
Thank you kindly,
Owner/Design Director, Oxide Design Co.