There is an inherent danger whenever you work with a new client, whether designing a new website, revamping a brand, or even briefly consulting. That is, you might give them exactly what (they think) they want without delivering the desired results.
In a magical world where everyone openly and honestly communicates their needs and desires, both you and the client are satisfied with the work and accolades are poured out upon your head. However, as you work through the project, what is more likely to happen as a precursor to this happily-ever-after ending are one of these three things:
1. Client finds their own idea to be, well, bad.
I was once asked to redesign a church’s logo. “New” and “Life” are in their name, and so with no direction or prior knowledge of their current logo, I proceeded to design something fresh and clean that was new and full of life (pun intended). It was rejected, and I was given very specific instructions on their vision for a new logo. I learned my lesson, so instead of delivering a finished product that would have taken hours to perfect, I instead offered up a more than decent rough Illustrator sketch. It was a good thing, for not only did they not like my work, they also abandoned their own design idea and ended up sticking with an updated version of the old one.
2. Client finds that their personal preference is not what’s best for the organization.
One of my professors in undergrad often tells the following story to his new art students. My beloved college had been suffering miserably from a lack of student enrollment. The new president, “Dr. Smith,” then in his early 60s, decided they needed a change in marketing strategy. The college hired a team of designers to oversee the development of a new look for print media marketing purposes. After some time, they presented their work at a meeting with the president and some faculty members. New colors, new layout – a brand new approach. The president’s reaction? He hated it, and delivered a detailed list of why their work was unacceptable. The designers’ response? “No offense Dr. Smith, but exactly how many 60-year-old men do you want attending your college?” Dr. Smith then humbly approved of the new design.
3. Client finds that 1+1≠2.
From the perspective of the client: they have a problem, they see a solution, they implement said solution without regard to professional advisement. Need+client’s idea=solution, right? In the case of the local neighborhood eat & bait shop, they serve good food but needed a place for their customers to dine. Did they find a good solution? See photo below. In this case, need+client’s idea=potential traffic fatalities.
So much of the design process is about gaining a clear understanding of the vision of a client, while steering the client through the minefield of potentially bad ideas. For me, it is learning how to balance a selfish desire to be “right,” delivering the desired outcome, and making the client happy at the same time.
Dangerous, but it can be done.