Time to Listen

To my fellow graphic designers:

Client requests, when it comes to graphic design, usually have an unspoken, underlying motive… the “why,” if you will.  While clients don’t always know the best way to reach a creative solution (hence the reason they hire designers,) they are smart enough to know when something isn’t working.

Today, I was at a public place and overheard a conversation happening just two seats away from me about graphic design.  A woman was speaking loudly to her friend about how she is designing a man’s business logo, and naturally I became interested.  I waited for the right moment to introduce myself as a fellow graphic designer. When she started belittling her client’s attempts to inject his own creative ideas, I quickly changed my mind.  Even the greatest talent loses value behind a haughty or proud spirit.

The designer felt that her logo design was perfect just as she had designed it. The client was not completely convinced. He offered his own ideas to which the designer wouldn’t give any fair consideration. Instead, she insisted on her work’s perfection and belittled his ideas.  I felt badly that the client had to accept her work as is (unless of course he chooses to go to a different designer, which, unfortunately, I hope he does.)

Client Requests: Don’t Ignore or Belittle

Don’t get me wrong.  As a creative professional, I’ve experienced my fair number of moments with folks who want to control the creative process despite their lack of understanding. I’ve also experienced frustration with professional creatives who are convinced that their ideas are unshakable holy ground.  Obviously, both of these are on far ends of the spectrum and need to meet in the middle.  So please don’t ignore or belittle client requests. Know that there is something they’re trying to achieve, and that it’s the designer’s responsibility to reconcile that motive to a solution.

Listen for the “Why”

I want to stress that my goal as a designer is *not at all* just to create beautiful work.  It’s about hearing deeper into the client requests, solving visual communication problems, and representing my client well. I must find a powerful solution between what the client wants and what the graphic design “ought” to be doing.  By the end of a project, my client should feel fully supported by the solution, and that it’s one they can feel great about using.  So if a client ever says, “Hey can we do this?” I don’t just say “no.”  Instead, I consider the “why” in “Why did the client ask this? What is the problem they’re trying to solve, and what can I actually do to solve it?”  I eliminate frustration and feel great about having served my client well.

What design problem are you trying to solve, and how can I help you to solve it?

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