Now more than ever, good communication is critical for promoting your product, service or business. The following example illustrates how communications can break down between experienced business professionals and graphic designers--especially inexperienced graphic designers.
Old Sal just didn't understand why the graphic designer was not able to "see" what he was trying to tell him. After all, young Billy was one of those visually creative types. After three brief meetings on the project, they weren't anywhere close to hitting Sal's needs.
Believe it or not, there are many reasons that these two were failing to connect on this project. Regardless of the complexity of human communications, there are five key areas that will help improve productively when working with graphic designers and other creative professionals.
Understand the creative process: Creative professionals, especially the visual types--designers, illustrators and photographers--need to experiment with a hands on approach based on initial input. If there is not adequate time spent in the early discussions, the designer will not have enough information to work out an effective or desired solution.
Understand the difference between an early draft and a final presentation: In the example provided at the beginning of this article, the graphic designer had provided draft concepts early to gauge the client's reaction on whether he was headed in the right direction. With today's computer technology, this can be a perilous approach by the designer as even drafts can have a finished look. Prior to the computer revolution, graphic designers would present rough drafts in the form of sketched layouts for review. It was easy for clients to understand the difference between a draft and the final product. Today, more experienced agencies and graphic design firms are deliberately clear on what they are presenting in the early stages. Younger creatives may not adequately articulate that they are seeking feedback on a draft concept and often set themselves up for a long series of revisions.
Understand that the creative professional does not know what you know: Everyone, and I mean everyone, thinks in generous terms and often fail to realize that they are assuming that the other party automatically has insight to their knowledge, wants and desires. With the pace of today's society, it is often important to get to the task at hand as quickly as possible. This short-hand approach to confirming project objectives leaves a lot of important details out of the conversation and also leans heavily on assumptions. Getting back to our example--Sal spoke in very general terms that left Billy to connect the dots and yet were simple enough that he thought he understood Sal. In this situation, Sal mistook a few head nods as complete understanding of his objectives. Neither party adequately articulated understanding or confirmation of objectives. Hint: A creative brief submitted by the designer that is confirmed by the client, before starting the creative process, will improve overall project communications.
Understand that most creative professionals have pride in their profession and abilities: Think of it this way--graphic designers, illustrators and photographers spent more time developing their skills. For instance, they often spent five or six hours a week on a 3-credit hour course due to the nature of the technical skills that they needed to acquire to be proficient in their profession. Contrast this to one and a half to two hours a week required class room attendance for a 3-credit hour marketing communications course. This disparity also applies to homework and lab hours necessary to complete a class project. Understandably, these folks have a lot of pride in their abilities. They are true professionals that spent a great deal of time learning the creative process as well as complicated software programs necessary to compete in their profession. To the untrained eye, what they do appears easy, it appears fun. While it can be fun, it is still work. If they are dealing with a client that does not appreciate their skills, knowledge and technical aptitude, there will be a lot of frustration and missed opportunities in connecting.
Understand that the client still owns the project and that the creative professional is a partner: Clients that engage a creative professional on a project need to be committed to the project. In the example above, if Sal is not truly committed to the project he will not provide Billy with adequate support. In contrast, if Sal is fully engaged and feels ownership for his project (after all he brought the project to the designer) he is more likely to make sure that Billy understands the goal. He will also be more likely to provide more detail after seeing that the first draft missed the mark. It is in his best interest as ultimate project owner to make sure that the designer fully understands the outcome. If Sal is not engaged, he will take little time to review subsequent drafts. This will increase both the level of frustration and the number of revisions required to complete the project. Apathy on part of the client will ultimately push the deadline past its original required date. Caring, on the other hand, will help keep the project within stated goals and on time. Make no mistake, the designer has to care as well, but his job is almost impossible if the client does not take his own project seriously.