March 4, 2012

Sometimes we lead, other times we follow

Some clients know exactly what they want, or last least they think they do…

Briefs come in all shapes and sizes
Occasionally I receive a well written, concise brief, outlining the objectives and deliverables of a project. Other times the client ‘isn’t sure exactly what it is they are after, but will know it when they see it’. Then there are those briefs that are plain confusing for all involved.

Designers are not renowned for their mind-reading skills so as a good designer I ask questions – sometimes quite a lot of them. Some of these questions are easy to answer, others throw up further questions. Some of these can be answered through competitor analysis or market research, others will be answered during the creative process. But answered they must be, or there is a risk the project may fail to deliver when let to run free in the big wide world. It’s about finding the right balance between asking questions and delivering answers.

When to follow
Some clients know their onions. They’ve undertaken the market research and know exactly what it is they need to do and how to go about achieving it. Other projects have painfully short deadlines so there isn’t the time for too many questions – this is where experience and intuition kicks in, designing from the gut and by the seat of your pants. Not all projects have sensible timescales so from time to time it’s about doing the job to the best of your ability within the given time.

When to lead
Some clients want their designers to lead – after all a designer has a wealth of experience and can offer valuable advice. Some clients want their designers to be proactive, to help them to understand their objectives, the creative process and what can be achieved in both the time and budget. By taking the lead a designer can become a real asset to the client, on call to offer advise both during and between projects.

Some clients are used to commissioning design on a daily basis – they know how the process works and what to expect. Others may never have dealt with a designer before. Regardless of the clients experience I see it as part of my job to question, interrogate and challenge any preconceived ideas the client may have about their project. This helps give me a better understanding of the task and it can, on occasion, unearth a different, even better approach! Whilst some clients may not initially appreciate having their judgment tested (after all the client is ALWAYS right) it is for the good of the project and the relationship and always pays off.

Ultimately it’s about client and designer pulling together, at the same time, on the same rope, in the same direction…after three HEAVE!