Whose Design Is It Anyway?

15 August 2013 on Business, Design by Gennifer Richie

Remember that TV series that Drew Carey hosted called “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” It ran on ABC in the late 90s through 2007 and boasted a talented comedic crew of actors who excelled at improv. The show consisted of a few performers who created characters, scenes, and songs on the spot in a game-style situation. Game topics were based on audience suggestions or prompts from Carey, and arbitrary points were awarded after each game.

In the design and marketing world, we play a similar game of improv “where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.” Or do they?

Recently, a client approached me and asked me to work with him to develop a packaging insert for his product. I learned about his product and the simple concept behind it. The concept, in fact, was that there was to be no concept. A nameless, unidentifiable creation that was still supposed to be marketable.

I accepted the challenge certain of the fact that less is more, but hesitant that my appeal for smart marketing went unheard. I created a design that answered the call for “non design,” yet still presented a visually stimulating piece through muted hues and smart typography. I submitted a proof and anticipated gratitude for my subtle design enhancements, but what I received was feedback that would revert the design back to its original, uninteresting approach.

Here comes the improv.

How hard do you push back on client feedback when experience tells you that their direction is off the mark? How many times do you try to educate a client before yielding to their direction? Do you implement requested edits without questioning reasoning?

There are no finite answers to these questions. Every situation is different, and how you respond to a client’s criticism (or praise) in each circumstance has to be sensible and beneficial to the project outcome. Make it a priority to gain as much information about a project—and as much insight about a client—as you can so communication is straightforward. Really listen to your client, ask questions, and dig deep. Build a relationship. Then define, translate, and deliver. Share your vision and discoveries. Collaborate.

In the end, you’ll develop winning design solutions that you and your client are both pleased with and proud of. And these improv points do matter.

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