Separating Emotions from Your Creative Work
The reality of creating design solutions that work for both the user and the client.
It’s 11PM and you’re working on some design stuff for a meeting that starts at 9AM the next day.
You’re pining over every detail. You’ve clocked 10 hours against the task. It was estimated at 8 hours.
That’s okay though, you’re working “off the clock.”
The images aren’t quite right so you add a light filter over the top. 30 minutes later you switch it back.
You drop the logo down 20 pixels and then sit back and stare at the screen blankly. It’s 1AM and now you’ve nailed it.
The comps are published and you’re ready to present to the client.
The meeting comes quick. You have bags under your eyes, but you feel good. You’re on time to the office and the meeting.
The team dials in, you share your screen and the meeting begins.
You start sharing your story and design thinking. You explain that you wanted to kick out a “white and bright” design that really raises the bar. Before you can continue that client stops you and says, “that’s not my brand.”
Game Over Man, Game Over
These situations happen more often than they don’t and it’s really easy to understand why. We just don’t want to accept the truth. Which is, a website, business and branding is the clients “baby”. Not yours. Period, end of story.
After spending 12 hours or more on the comp, staying up until 1 AM, getting about 5 hours of sleep and putting your heart into every pixel. You can’t believe what you’re hearing. When a client says “that’s not my brand,” every designer pretty much knows it’s game over and no matter how much you try and disconnect from your work, it sucks.
At the core, nobody wants to do bad work. Do you know someone who wants to do bad work? Unfortunately for some of us, that’s all we tell ourselves when a client says you missed the mark. What’s even crazier is that it’s entirely the fault of the designer and the team. Here’s why…
- Design should never ever ever be a “one designer” show. If your designer locks themselves in a room on a regular basis, you’re going to lose eventually. This generally means there’s a lot of ego involved and the only good ideas come from the designer.
- Your team has suffocated collaboration. The designer locks themselves in the room, you have one meeting with a client, nobody talks to each other and the next thing you know you’re in a meeting with the client presenting your ULTIMATE CREATION which is a fatal mistake.
- Context and ideas are lacking because of ego, posturing and too many people trying to establish their dominance. Some of my best ideas aren’t even mine. They came from the team!
Strategies for Building Design without Over Investing
We create some really stellar pieces for our clients and our portfolio. We love what we do and we’re extremely lucky to be able to do what we love every day. Creatives are often full of feelings and ideas. Those things blend together and become a client design. It’s some parts intuition and many parts context. It’s always a gamble.
In the example I provided earlier, it would be easy to shrivel up in a shell never to see the light of day again, but what separates “good” creatives from “great” is their ability to take a conversation that starts sour in a direction where a client realizes you could be right. Moreover, how you carry yourself through the process and presentation can be the difference.
By communicating you’re on the client’s team (not your own) you develop a real working relationship. When the client tells you to swap a logo, you do it. When a client says they want neon green for the content sections, you battle it out.
Ladies and gents, this is called COLLABORATION. We need more of it. Rather than pretend to be an expert, be an asset to the people and clients around you. That’s the power of a real creative and a real brand. You instantly improve the relationship and the final piece will be better off for it.
Breaking the Emo Barrier
It’s virtually impossible to detach from your work 100% of the time. This is largely because of the creative output and energy that’s necessary to move the comp from a blank sheet of paper to a fully interactive comp. When you get negative feedback (and you will) look through the emotion and go straight for the roots of the concern.
9 times out of 10 negative feedback is a result of a button filled with red, instead of blue.
Respond by asking questions like:
- When you say X, is it because Y is COLOR or SHAPE?
- Are you thinking it’s more of the structure or color choices?
- Do you feel rounded corners would soften up the overall feel?
Essentially, you want to get to the core of the issue. Never stop asking questions and you’ll eventually hit that context you’re looking for. Because you’re being thoughtful, you and the client will feel more aligned, the collaboration will improve and you’ll be well on your way to an approval.
We Collaborate All. The. Time.
We are a collaborative team that works with our clients in a way that makes them feel part of a larger family. We push and pull until we all get the results we desire. We don’t always agree, but we get it done and we achieve the client’s goals.
From WSU to your local plumber, we work with businesses of all sizes. We love what we do.