You're My Favorite Client cover

We’re inundated here with books that promise to improve how we do our work. Most of them don’t live up to their promise, but there are enough that do that the only way we can keep up is with a list. But occasionally a work book comes along that rewards us by making us slow down and savor it.

Mike Monteiro’s You’re My Favorite Client is the twelfth installment in A Book Apart‘s series of “brief books for people who make websites.” Of the five I’ve read, all are serious explorations of their chosen topic and most of them are relevant beyond the web. For example, the installment on Designing for Emotion has advice that’s useful for people who design far more than websites. That’s even more true of You’re My Favorite Client, which stands as one of the smartest, truest, funniest books around on how to train your clients to help you do great work for them. Wait: did I just write for them? One of the key lessons of this book is that the smartest designers work with a client rather than for a client. You’re My Favorite Client is explicitly about design — it’s a book for designers to give to their clients to demystify both design and working with designers — but I could see many flavors of clients (and the consultants who collaborate with them) benefitting from following Monteiro’s advice.

For a short book (115 pages before the backmatter kicks in), this is remarkably diverse, including

  • aphoristic definitions of what design is (“Design is how we communicate what an object does, or its function, through its shape or form”);
  • some of the most-eye opening advice on how best to communicate failure both directly and humanely;
  • riffs on the limits of design;
  • guidelines on how best to work with a designer (“Once you’ve hired a designer you need to trust them to do their job. This is harder than it sounds” … “give the designer enough information to do their job” … “invite argument”);
  • clear exploration of the ramifications of compromised intent;
  • the dangers of stealth stakeholders;
  • sections on both why RFPs stink and how to fashion a great RFP if you have to; 
  • a photograph of a unicorn and some of the best use of cursing to get points across than I’ve read in way too long. 

Designers, Monteiro writes, “make things, solve problems, advocate for your users, work well with others, have reasons, take feedback and criticism.” In this book, Monteiro lives up to all this; You’re My Favorite Client will likely make life easier for designers and the people who hire them.