On Honesty

Do you remember that spark of first love? Do you remember meeting, fizzling with the knowledge that you can tell them anything - good or bad. It's truly powerful, you feel like anything is possible together. Wouldn't it be great to bring that honesty into everything you do - into your work and into the relationship with your clients. Hmmm... apparently not always.

You’d be surprised how often being too honest works against us in our working life. Let me give you an example. You’ve put a job out to pitch, you want a new website and you want it in a month. You’ve got money to spend, and a great brief. You get two tenders back. One tells you: “no problem – we can do that, it’ll be great”. The other says: “we really don’t think that’s enough time to do the job well. The chances are it’ll be because of you that it’s late – there’s input and content we need from you, and you’re probably very busy. We’d rather be honest now and deliver on time, than give you your website late”. Which would you choose?

The things is we do put statements like the latter in in our tenders, and sometimes people appreciate it. Sometimes they don’t, and we don’t get that job; we’ve actually been told outright once or twice we’ve lost them because someone else has said they could meet an impossible deadline. With morbid (and slightly unhealthy) fascination I refresh their page and inevitably the website doesn’t launch on time.

It’s no-one’s fault and I don’t think any design agency goes in thinking “just tell them yes” to deliberately mislead client – but I have been thinking about whether sometimes Venn should skirt around issues like this rather than tackling them head on. The more I think about it the more I realise the answer has to be no. Our job is all about being honest. It’s about managing expectations – not just of our clients but of their customers. Our job is to tell the truth about the products we’re designing for, to find something genuine about a business that truly sets them apart. Sometimes that means telling some difficult truths and asking tough questions.

Honesty is a two way thing too – we’ve worked with some lovely people who have been afraid to tell us they don’t like something, imagining petulant artistic types throwing pencils and tantrums. But we’re not artists, we’re designers – we make things for people to use and hopefully to be with them for a long time.

Without being told the truth we think everyone’s happy and the work is good, we submit our invoice and we see a gentle drifting off of the client, or see the work slip out of use without ever having had the chance to address their concerns. Without being told we’re too expensive we don’t get the opportunity to find creative and inventive ways to break through constraints. Without being told the truth about what you want to get out of a process how are we ever to meet your expectations?

We go out of our way to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen to us, we implore our clients for the truth, and give them back the caveats that they will receive the same. There may be tough truths to face, but the good news, the positive feedback, the feeling of knowing that through sharing your thoughts you’ve made something that’s right – that’s really special.

Some don’t like the highs and lows that come with that kind of frankness – and I guess we’re not the agency for them. When it works though, and you’ve got two sides that revel in sharing the truth – honestly… its electric.




Venn Creative, 59-61 Killigrew Street, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3PF

01326 377 105 | [email protected]