“Would you like fries with that?”
Sadly, I think the vast majority of graphic designers are simply that: order takers. And it’s to the detriment of their clients, and their clients’ businesses.
Think about it. Your graphic designer—if they’re any good—is a design professional. What does that mean? Several things.
First, they most likely went to school to learn their trade. Just like a doctor or other working professional, they spent many years learning about and practicing their craft. They took courses on color theory, typography, Gestalt psychology, etc.
Unless you yourself also went through design school, you probably don’t really know much about these things.
But your designer does, and you should listen to them when they tell you that the reason your logo shouldn’t be bigger is because it will conflict with the main message. Or that putting small text on a busy background is a bad idea. Or your Fortune 500 company shouldn’t use Comic Sans. Ever.
Most trained designers also have a strong foundation in human psychology. What this means is, they understand how people see, read, and think about things. They understand what grabs the attention and holds it. They understand what makes something legible and what doesn’t.
While these types of things may seem easy to implement, the truth is they must be carefully planned and executed.
I’ve seen far too many eager clients offer feedback that compromised the integrity of the design, and made it less effective or powerful. Graphic design is not art, where your guess is as good as mine; it’s science with a creative bent.
Secondly, a good designer has years of experience working with real-life business problems, and coming up with the solutions. After all, graphic design is about meeting business goals, NOT making you feel good.
For example, let’s say I do an audience analysis and found that blue, green, and purple appealed to your audience of primarily middle-aged women. But you want your brochure to be orange because that’s your favorite color. It just so happens that orange is hated by most women. And if I were an order taker type of designer—I call them pixel-pushers—I would make your brochure orange anyway, while you wonder why you’re losing business.
It’s all about the audience
This sounds harsh, but I tell all my clients this: I don’t care if you like whatever it is that I’m designing. I don’t even care if I like it.
What I care about is whether or not the design resonates with the audience.
Because it’s the audience—your target market—who decides whether or not to buy your product or services. Not you, and not me. That’s why design is ultimately about meeting business goals.
Imagine this scenario: the breaker in my house goes caput. I call an electrician. They arrive and start going to work, while I hover anxiously. “No, don’t connect the blue wire to that red wire,” I instruct him. “I think all the blue wires should go together.”
Now, I’m not a trained electrician, so I think we’d all agree this should never happen. (I don’t even know if a breaker has blue and red wires.)
I hired the electrician, who’s a professional, to do what I don’t know how to do. Most normal people would let him do his job, since he’s good at it. My part in this is to show him what went wrong, and trust him to fix it, according to his best judgment.
Why on earth do we think it’s okay to treat designer professionals any differently?
I think the problem is that we live in a customer centric culture. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about delivering good customer service.
But it’s gotten to the point where we give real validation to the mindset that “the customer is always right.” Well, a lot of times they’re not.
Just like with the above example of the electrician, should he have listened to the customer and crossed the blue wires? Even if it made the whole electrical system catch on fire? Likewise, as a designer, should I follow every opinion a client provides? Even if it means they’ll lose money over the long haul? This is why being an order taker designer is bad for both the designer and the client.
I know what you’re thinking: “So should I not provide any feedback on my designs?” Absolutely you should provide feedback.
And that’s what we’ll talk about next week—how to give your designer the right type of feedback, so that you’re both happy and that your business goals are being met. Because that’s what it’s all about.