Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The One Question Many Designers
Forget to Ask

Designers can all relate to getting a project with fuzzy parameters. The specs aren't clear, the desired outcome isn't clear, or even the style or feel isn't all to clear. Often this is because some non-designers really don't see design as objective problem-solving. They tend to view design as subjective decoration.

It's up to designers to help non-designers clarify what they want to communicate visually. That's why using a creative brief to make the objectives clear is so helpful. Clients and designers can begin tackling the issues as communication strategies rather than decorative decision-making.

However, even when this is done well, there comes a point when the hard-to-clarify issues come into play. For example, sometimes it's difficult for clients to express a certain feeling they want to convey in their identity materials. They seem to have a clear idea in their heads, but just can't express it well. Then the temptation is for clients to dictate the design to achieve what's in their heads. That's not a good approach, because it muddles the message visually in an attempt to communicate an emotion or mood. How does the designer know what that is? And how can a designer help their client identify this desire in a clear, workable manner?

Well, the often overlooked strategy is to ask the client for an example.

Here's what I mean. When a client is looking for a particular color combination for their logo and brand, and they ask for purple. Of course there are millions of purples and purple combinations. So, it's a good idea for the designer to ask the client why purple is so important to the outcome. Although this is usually associated with a client's tastes, there might be a certain mood or outcome they are looking for. In this instance, it's a good idea to ask the client for a visual example.

Do this, and now we have something tangible to discuss and analyze.

Today, it's easy to ask for visual examples just because of the internet. A quick search can do wonders. Also, we designers can help our clients clarify their thoughts by offering examples we find. This helps move the conversation along productively. Doing this is just like doing a creative brief, because designers are keeping subjective issues objective.

Photo courtesy mensatic of Morguefile.com

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