What makes a great client?

A few years ago I was dining with Bob, a friend and principal with a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm - one of the top in the US. Bob said, “You know Rick, what I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t achieve a great project without a great client.” I responded, ”Surely, given the ‘level’ of your projects, all of your clients are great?” He said, “Not exactly…while most have been great, an exciting project locale, dynamic program, and ample budget don’t always ensure a great client.” In our ensuing discussion, we compared notes on some of our clients, and discussed the traits of a great client. 

Clients typically possess a few common characteristics that the designer must understand if a truly successful collaboration is to be achieved:

  • Most clients aren’t involved with design/construction projects as part of their job…it’s a new frontier for them. The designer must be cognizant of this reality, and be thoughtful, and even educational, in their approach.
  • Projects require time, energy, and emotional investment, and can take considerable time away from the client’s daily routine. The design process must efficiently utilize the client’s valuable time.
  • Most clients aren’t trained in design, so the designer must express concepts and supporting information in a clear and logical fashion. 

Bob and I agreed that a great client… 

  • Is genuinely excited about collaborating with the project team to achieve something special;
  • Devotes the required time and energy; 
  • Understands that a successful project is dependent upon their thoughtful and timely input throughout the process; 
  • Trusts the design team, and appreciates their skill and commitment; and
  • Knows that a project requires foresight and vision. While short-term results are important, it’s often more about achieving long-term results that successfully serve companies and communities well into the future.

PLAID has been blessed with many great clients over the years, and we want to mention a few. We’ve collaborated with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on the development of the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park for almost 30 years. Their staff is talented and enthusiastic, and committed to making their institution a wonderful and iconic place for Kansas City. 

A newer client, the City of Lenexa, exhibited the foresight to develop a centrally-located mixed-use civic center that integrates a pedestrian-friendly plan with a distinct design motif. Lenexa Civic Center (designed by PGAV and PLAID) will serve as a dynamic community hub and support Lenexa’s westward growth. 

The City of Raymore collaborated with the design team (DRAW and PLAID) to create Centerview, a new ‘civic building within a park.’ Currently under construction. Centerview embodies the City’s goals for community image, service, and sustainability, and will support a range of civic events and celebrations.

We greatly value all of our clients and collaborators (past, present, and future), and wish you a successful and prosperous 2017!