I have discovered one question that holds the key to my creative bliss. Answering this question (with confidence) has turned the most skeptical of clients into starry-eyed believers.
As designers, we have to know why we do what we do.
“Why did you use PMS 872 instead of Reflex Blue?”
“Why is the logo so small?”
“Why didn’t you center the text?”
Why is the question that ties us, as designers, to our clients. They hire us for our skill, but in the end, they have to relate to what we create (sorry for the rhyme). We are not creating art. We are creating a solution to a client’s problem. Without an answer to a “why?” question, we have essentially excused ourselves as the creative professional. At that point, the client’s opinion is as good as ours and we have lost control of our idea.
The best way, I’ve found, to prepare for the inevitable, “why?” is research. Founded research, more than a quick Google search. I start with a creative brief, a set number of questions to help me (and the client) understand: who their audience is, who their competition is, what type of tone they are after and any other excluding factors.
Treat your creative brief as a security blanket. Use it to check the validity of your ideas during the concepting stage. Use it to focus your designs when you’re in the thick of creating. Then, when you are presetting your concept to the client, use it to defend against any “why?” moments.
CLIENT: “Why did you use orange, I don’t like orange.”
KICK-ASS DESIGNER-X: “Well, according to the creative brief, you said you wanted to portray ________ and ________. Through my research, I found that orange was the best way to achieve that.”
There has to be courage in creativity, not just in the aesthetics, but in the logic. No one knows you have a great idea unless you can explain, why?
(Jon Eslinger is a 2001 graduate of the Graphic Design and Communications Program (then known as Commercial Art). He currently works in Lansing Michigan as Art Director for Traction. Check them out on the web at www.projecttraction.com. Jon is listed on our Alumni Page – check it out here.)