Design is subjective—it’s going to resonate with people in different ways. Whether we like to admit it or not, personal preference always comes into play in one way or another.
I have had clients come to me after working with other designers or firms, lamenting things they didn’t like about these past experiences. In some instances, clients were provided with a design and if there was something the client wanted to change about it, they were told no. In other instances, the designers asked the clients to tell them what they wanted to see in the design, forcing the client to come up with the concept for the designer to execute as an order-taker.
This brings us to the question: Is the client always right, or is the designer always right?
Neither, actually. The middle ground is the sweet spot.
Design is very much a collaboration between the designer and the client. The client has lived the history of the business, running it, creating the products and nurturing their vision for where they want the business to go. The client brings this information to the relationship as a foundation for the work to be done together.
Where the designer comes into play is developing the packaging and branding that bridges the gap between where the client is now and where they want to be. Only by assessing the brand, product, target audience, consumer values, competitors and retail environment, can a design be strategically developed to get the client from Point A to Point B. The client needs someone who expertly knows their industry—best practices, what works and what doesn’t—to guide them to the right solution.
It is through this partnership and understanding of each party’s role that the creative process is fueled. Within that process, so much happens, often unexpectedly. This is what I love most about design: you don’t always know where the process is going to lead you. That is where the magic of collaboration comes alive.
At the beginning of a project, I may have a clear vision of what the end result will look like. But through the collaboration with the client, the concept morphs into something even better because it ends up being exactly what the client wants and needs, yet didn’t know they were looking for. Understanding each other and being open to new ideas allows this to happen.
From my experience working with a wide variety of clients over a long period of time, I can say with certainty that personal preference comes into play, and that’s okay—it’s part of the process. Sometimes a client may want to tweak a minor aspect of a design we develop. This might be shifting the hue of a color slightly, or changing a font style, to be more suitable their personal tastes. Whether it’s the owner of a boutique brand, or a key decision maker in a large corporation, there is always someone’s personal preference to meet. Unless there is a reason not to, incorporating these changes is a way for both sides to contribute to the end result.
Ultimately, if the client can’t get behind the concept 100% with enthusiasm, then it’s not a great concept. If there’s some aspect a client just can’t live with, we find a way to make it work for everyone—without sacrificing results.
It’s this partnership, this two-way street, that is the design process. When both sides understand this going into the relationship, amazing results happen.