One Other Thing…
Nine years ago, I came across this little blurb on the back of a book entitled Unspecial Effects for Graphic Designers by Bob Gill.
Around that time, I was just grasping the idea of what it was like to be a real graphic designer, working at a real agency on real accounts. And I was learning the hard way of how it felt to have your ideas rejected. During that period in my life, I was in love with design and every visual thing it had to offer. I listened to blogs, read books, and consulted with my peers. I was feeling pretty confident in my skills so when a client would come back with changes like, “make the logo bigger,” or “change this color to red,” I felt a sense of defeat and even anger. “How could they not trust us,” I would often think. “Why don’t they value our knowledge; our theory?”
Then one day I looked at the book I was carrying around with me since college and really started to read it. As I came across the back cover, I walked straight over to the copier and put that special statement on a piece of paper that I could pin up on my cork board and look at everyday.
Bob Gill’s words on the back of that book comforted and reassured me that another solution would come to mind. And all I really needed to do is take my ego out of the project.
As years passed, I realized a deeper meaning to Gill’s thoughts. This was less about egos (whether the designer, client, or account manager) and more about changing the conversation. His words were about the project solution at hand. He may have been speaking to the designer directly, but gave a road map to all parties involved.
So while the designer might be thinking, “How could they not trust us,” the client may be thinking, “Why don’t they understand my vision? and the account manager is probably thinking, “Just do what the client says and lets move this project along.”
I believe this is where everybody needs to step back and approach the conversation differently. The effectiveness of the project is at stake here. And let’s face it, for the best return on investment – the designer, client, and account manager need to come together and learn how to play in the same sand box.
How do we do this?
First, let’s adjust the way we converse with each other. The conversation can be steered by the designer and account managers asking the client appropriate questions that garner effective results. So instead of asking, “What colors do you like?” ask, “What kind of feeling would you like to convey?” This way we are identifying reasoning and not just personal preferences. Designers need to hear descriptive words in order to seek creative solutions, such as “friendly, intuitive, easy, hard, cold, etc.” It’s not the client’s job to solve visual problems, so why would they need to give answers to “What colors do you like?”
Above is merely one example of how to change the conversation.
As a creative team, we need to focus on our individual contributions to a project while recognizing the bigger team picture in order to be successful.
1) It’s the client’s job to express their needs and goals.
2) It’s the designer’s job to creatively problem solve, breathe depth into a project and make sure the client’s needs and goals are met.
3) It’s the account manager’s job to make sure the job is performed on time, on budget, to scope, and the client’s needs and goals are met.
In the end, all parties involved are happy (well, most of the time) and the final solution that is discovered – by simply working together – will most likely be even better.
To this day, I still carry around that same piece of paper I photocopied nine years ago. I bring it up in times of needed encouragement, whether it’s for me or one of my co-workers. So the next time your ideas get shutdown, just remember this: with a small adjustment to the conversation, there is hope for an even better idea. Compromise and collaboration will get you there.
I promise you.
– Jodie Pundsack