Bonnie Siegler’s Dear Client is a type of self-help book that teaches non-creative folk how to better interact with creative professionals for a more seamless, productive, and cost-efficient work experience (or, as the front cover says, Dear Client, This Book Will Teach You How To Get What You Want From Creative People. Sincerely, Bonnie Siegler). A few members of our team have read this book (we are now the proud owners of five copies, collectively), including members from Creative Services, whom we asked to read it on a “does this ring true?” basis as they compare it to their experience in direct mail design. Spoiler alert: it does.
Nuts and Bolts: How Dear Client Makes It Easy to Read on Your Terms
The book itself is graphically eye-catching, with large block text in pure CMYK tones against a black background on the cover. I don’t know if I’d trust a book relating to design if the book itself was ugly. Congrats to Bonnie and her publishing team—you’ve earned my trust with your aesthetically edgy book cover.
The hardcopy of the book is almost an inch thick, which seemed like an excessive amount of knowledge needed to work with a group of people. Crack open the pages, and there’s a big sigh of relief: not only are the pages a nice, hearty stock (so what looked like 200-something pages was really under 150), but it’s not rambling pages of text blocks, so it’s easy on the eyes. (Oh, I see what you did there, Workman Publishing… you designed a book about design!).
Instead of chapters, the book is comprised of 66 mini-essays (I call them “rules”) which mostly take up the span of just one or two pages. That’s about two minutes per “chapter”—not excessive at all! We can do that! Grab a coffee, read a rule; end a call early, read a rule. Better yet, each of these mini-essays puts the tips of working with creative people in the title, so getting to the meat of the matter is not a treasure hunt—it’s literally spelled out in big, bold letters. Bonnie and her team made this book easy to read. Imagine that.
Take-Aways: What Really Stuck with Us
The 66 rules in Dear Client cover the gamut of working with creatives, from finding the right person for the job to acknowledging everyone’s efforts when work starts getting recognized and everything that happens in between.
It’s also worth mentioning that this book is devoid of what you might expect from the premise—the notion that “creative people are the best and you as the client are ruining everything for everyone.” In fact, its message is surprisingly tempered between “this is what you’re doing wrong, here’s how to do it right,” and “you’re paying these people, you should be getting what you want—here’s how to get it with as little hair-pulling as possible.”
A lot of her advice applies to working relationships in general, not just working with creatives. For instance, always saying “please” and “thank you.” Really, some of her advice really resonated with me on a deep, personal level, like rule No. 62: Serve Lunch During Lunchtime Meetings. YAS, BONNIE! Hanger is a real thing and food is the ultimate offering of goodwill.
Just like the lunch scenario, many of the tips and rules were incredibly simple, but so often ignored that they seemed ingenious. For instance:
- You are paying a creative person to be creative—don’t tell them how to do their job (provide feedback instead).
- Open communication (and asking “why” certain choices were made) will help you get an end product you’re happy with.
- Be upfront about your expectations, budget, timeline, and opinion.
- Stay positive and be nice, but remember: being polite doesn’t mean sugar-coating or hiding your displeasure about something.
Of course, there’s plenty more “I never thought of that” advice that you’d only know after years of working as a creative mastermind, but I think it’s only fair you get that from Bonnie herself.
Why This Book is Needed by Marketers
The introduction Bonnie gives tells a story that leads to an incredibly simple premise: you need creative people, and creative people need you—here’s how we can best work together to avoid uncomfortable office breakdowns and dart boards with faces on them. Also, her introduction begins with Oprah, as any good introduction should.
It’s a fast read and gosh darn it, it’s actually helpful. Plus, it looks pretty on a bookshelf and will hold up to passing around to all of your friends and coworkers, whom you should share it with.
We love a good read—if you want to discuss Dear Client, or have another book suggestion for us, send me an email!
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