trade tales | Oct 30, 2020 |
Are you talking about the election with clients?

To say the current political climate is polarized would be putting things rather mildly. Whether you’re talking to close friends or making small talk with a stranger, it’s likely the conversation will veer toward the election. We asked eight designers—Gail Davis, Jamie Drake, Ashley Evans, Corey Damen Jenkins, Joy Moyler, Noz Nozawa, Jeffrey Quaritius and Becky Shea—if they’re talking about politics with their clients.

Corey Damen Jenkins
Corey Damen JenkinsCourtesy of Corey Damen Jenkins

Follow their lead
“I’ve worked with many clients possessing a diverse range of political beliefs and world views. By taking cues from them, I can gauge their comfort levels in discussing politics. Do they vocalize their beliefs on social media? Do they have candidates’ signs on their front lawns? If so, and if we’re in alignment, I might casually broach the topic—but only after some time has passed, and trust has been built. I’m not exactly ambiguous about my political leanings on social media, but I’ve worked for some clients for years without ever ‘going there.’ And that’s perfectly fine too. Sometimes red and blue is best left on the color boards.” —Corey Damen Jenkins, Corey Damen Jenkins & Associates, Detroit & New York

Ashley Evans
Ashley EvansCourtesy of Ashley Evans

Company policy
“I have had an ‘unofficial’ internal policy not to discuss politics with clients. There are often very personal, strong feelings and opinions attached to the topic, and I don’t really think there is a place for it during a project. This includes both in-person exchanges as well as on social media. It’s not always easy. However, especially right now, for me it is a policy that will continue. Besides, there is a lot of work to be done and these usually are not short conversations!” —Ashley Evans, Ash Lane Design, Milwaukee

Noz Nozawa
Noz NozawaCourtesy of Noz Nozawa

Out in the open
“Because of how I broadcast my political views on social media (by the way, I don’t think racial injustice and ending police abuse of power should be partisan topics), it’s pretty much just implied with my clients that there’s only one way to see political opportunity right now. In general, because I live in the Bay Area and work with Bay Area clients, anyone who might dare vote for Trump is going to be way too ashamed to admit it publicly. So, I have the privilege of only having clients whose political views I can co-sign. Really, the only thing that has changed for the better in this election year is my agreement that Black Lives Matter is out on my public Instagram instead of remaining on my personal Facebook page. Otherwise, to enjoy working with me as your designer, a client should probably believe in science, agree that systemic racism exists, believe that our criminal justice culture isn’t working, and that immigrants make us better—and frankly, in California, immigrants build our homes!” —Noz Nozawa, Noz Design, San Francisco

Jamie Drake
Jamie DrakeCourtesy of Jamie Drake

Talk it out
“I feel comfortable discussing politics with clients, especially this year, with our heated presidential race. Yet I say this with a proviso. The bulk of our clients’ views are aligned with my own liberal ones, and with them the conversation is easy, enthusiastic and often laden with black humor. We do have some clients, though, who are pro-Trump, and those are different in tone. There are those with whom I dance around the issue and others I can confront directly to have intelligent discourse. To be honest, the most difficult dialogue in this overheated election season is not with a client, but with my brother!” —Jamie Drake, Drake/Anderson, New York

Jeffrey Quaritius
Jeffrey QuaritiusCourtesy of Jeffrey Quaritius

Hot topic
“I generally steer clear of politics as a basic rule. During election years especially, it does seem to come up at some point, and when it does, I listen intently to the clients to try and get an understanding of where they stand. If our views align, I may engage more, but always err on the side of caution. If I feel that our views may be at odds, I will acknowledge their view and steer the conversation in a different direction. I never want politics to interfere with any client relationship. I respect my clients too much to let a political cycle get in the way.” —Jeffrey Quaritius, Jeffrey Quaritius Studio, New York

Joy Moyler
Joy MoylerCourtesy of Joy Moyler

Read the Room
“The current election and political climate is on everyone’s minds and is unavoidable. I always try to respect opinions, even when we’re clearly on completely opposite sides. I do my best not to bring the subject up, unless the other person, whether a client or vendor, initiates the conversation—then it’s game on! Recently, I was chatting with someone about the importance of masks. They live in an area that doesn’t support mask-wearing. I ended my rant midstream so as not to make either of us uncomfortable. Sometimes we have to catch ourselves. The bottom line is to hear someone out, be respectful, and then move on and don’t let politics dominate the conversation. Stick to the business.” —Joy Moyler, Joy Moyler Interiors, New Rochelle, New York

Becky Shea
Becky SheaCourtesy of Becky Shea

Changing with the times
“I’ll start by saying, I’ve always tried to stay mum with my political views, but the last year has shown me that all of our voices matter and coming together is more important than ever. There are so many issues at stake right now—climate change, women’s reproductive rights, gay rights and Black Lives Matter, not to mention a global pandemic and the economy. The pandemic is something we're all living through and how we react and work together ultimately impacts everyone. It’s been engaging to participate in such discussions with our clients and hearing their points of view and how this political climate has shifted their lives, personally and professionally. Luckily, we have a really incredible group of clients with whom we can openly share conversations around all these extremely important issues, and often, we come together to have open discussions about what we can do to change the world at a grassroots level.” —Becky Shea, Becky Shea Design, New York

Gail Davis
Gail DavisCourtesy of Gail Davis

Duty-bound
“I absolutely have conversations with my clients about the current political climate, racism, and race relations in this country. It always inevitably seeps into existing conversations. My clients want to talk about these topics, especially with me, as they often have questions. When it happens this way, I feel it is my duty to help clarify the issues and help them better understand. When you do that, you allow people to evaluate their opinions and acknowledge their privilege. Racism is undeniably pervasive in this country; we have to accept that fact and make strides toward eradicating it by changing people’s prejudices and perceptions. Now that the gates are wide open, it’s essential to have these conversations, to be open, honest, and willing to hear what people of color have to say. If we ignore these opportunities, then we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our willing audience.” —Gail Davis, Gail Davis Designs, South Orange, New Jersey

Homepage photo: A project by Joy Moyler | Courtesy of Joy Moyler

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