Process… Communication… and the Designer/Client Relationship

I recently read a fabulous article about the process of design, and how an effective designer must facilitate that process despite any preconceived notions about what the  finished product “should” be.

As a new graphic designer this article was of particular interest to me, because my past experience as a decorative artist taught me that the success of any project was completely dependent on the client/designer relationship and how successful the “process” was.  I’d worked language into my contracts,  meetings and correspondence at every stage, language that prepared the client for the brainstorming, paring down and revisions that would need to take place.  It also limited the amount of changes a client could make once a direction was fully obtained or I’d most certainly have lost money while uncertain clients tried endless approaches to the challenge.  Indeed, I used to explain to my clients that there were countless ways to approach any one project, and that many of those approaches would be equally appealing. There is no “right” or “wrong,” in my opinion, about what colors to use, message to send or composition to choose when creating a mural, faux finish or custom-painted embellishment on a given surface. There are, however,  techniques to choosing these elements to best address the message or feeling a client wishes to capture. As a decorative painter, it was my job to discern what overall effect the client was hoping to achieve and to facilitate choices that would best accomplish that goal.

This same concept can be applied to digital design, as well.  In “Your Ego is a Bad Designer,” the explanation is clear; when designing a website, logo, ad or any piece, the goal is not to create art but, rather, to use design to solve a problem, convey the desired message, or meet a particular challenge. If a designer truly takes the time to get to the bottom of the client’s needs, if s/he gets to the bottom of the message that needs to be conveyed and leaves his or her ego at the door, the end result will be an effective design that meets the challenge presented.

Not only would new designers gain valuable insight by reading this article, I also believe seasoned designers would, as well. It would be easy for any professional to begin “going through the motions” after using a tried-and-true approach over an extended period of time. Unfortunately repetition of technique, over an extended period of time, can begin to stifle creativity and suppress the possibility of innovation. It might also drown out the very real message a client needs to convey.

As designers in any field, I think we owe it to ourselves to stay fresh in our approach to the creative process, to ask the right questions of our clients, and to guide them toward successful answers to their creative needs. The ego is, in fact,  a bad designer.  Curiosity and honesty combined with talent, however, can cooperate to create a very gifted one.

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