No offense to the hard working folks peddling food and drinks at the game, but I have really grown to despise the word “vendor”. Especially as it is sometimes applied in our business. Not only does it sound (and feel) condescending, but it reveals an underlying mentality from the speaker of ignorance to what a designer is and does. If you hear that word coming from the mouth of one of your clients, run–don’t walk–away as fast as possible.

A healthy client/designer relationship is built on trust and mutual respect of each others skill set. A good designer brings fresh, creative thinking and unfiltered perspective to a client’s business. He or she can help them see new avenues for growth. Educate them about the messages and images that will resonate with the needs and desires of their audience. Work with marketing, accounting and management teams to help craft an overall branding strategy that communicates core values and propels a brand forward in ways never before imagined. A good designer is more like a partner than a vendor.

Having run a small design firm for almost 30 years, I know first-hand how difficult it is to say no. I struggle with it to this day. But even though it might seem counter-intuitive to refuse work, saying yes to folks who treat you like a vendor just leads to frustration and ultimately, bad design work. So the next time a potential (or existing) client calls you a “vendor”, kindly direct them where the real vendors do their work–the nearest ballpark.