Blog Archive Jul 27, 2011

Involving the Man

Should the client be involved into the creative process? The mainstream opinion says – yes, as early as possible. While the “early” is good in many respects, the next question to answer is – how deep?

I have experienced different cases of clients being involved into the process. Even with the same client, the involvement from case to case might differ quite substantially. The decision pattern is difficult to articulate, too – a project might be very personal and get very little attention, but then there is a side project running and the client is obsessed with every little detail.

It is not uncommon to hear that a good design practice should involve the client from the very early stages of the creative process – which is absolutely fine. There is certainly a good argument for that: design, being a commercial service, should consider client’s wishes and commercial goals first, aesthetics afterwords. To get that insight you have to ask your client, listen and ask again. Here we go – we are already in a dialogue discussing things.

However, a lot of design is based on subjective vision of a designer, meaning that a goal can be achieved in many ways, applying different techniques, ideas and tools. Should a designer lay down all his sketches on the table and try to map the path of his thought to the client? Is it a good idea to ask for client’s opinion on every sketch regardless of how raw it is? Will the client appreciate it? Does it add to the value of the design? Does it make the project better?

The obvious answer is – no.

A paying client may appreciate the fact that his service provider (a designer) takes a minute or fifteen to clarify him every step of the process. But with this appreciation comes the agony – what should I choose now? Should I choose now at all?… And then comes the critical part Why are there so many ugly things within the sketches? Does this designer know his trade? If I may choose, my accountant (nephew, daughter, wife, dog) can help me, too… Excuse my metaphor, but this whole thing reminds me of a father participating in the delivery – not every man is ready to see the process of his own baby coming out of his woman.

At the end of the day there is a lot of junk in the head of both – the client and the designer. The former has been exposed to a mass of information, and as a businessman he feels the need to deal with it. And he does. The latter has experienced a waterfall of opinions none of which might be relevant to the project (but now has been aired anyway) and, probably, will be referred to later.

Ultimately, a professional designer is not just a service provider with a pencil in hand. Proper consulting certainly belongs to this trade. Some of the designers like to line themselves up with doctors – “you don’t come to a doctor and tell him what to do; the doctor knows what to do and you accept it”. That’s right. So do it like a doctor – don’t show every line of epicrisis. Ask your questions, get your answers, take a knife and do your job. Stitch and show the x-ray.