Okay let’s just get things out in the open. One of the most difficult parts of the client/agency relationship is giving and receiving critique feedback. I’ve always told people that one of the keys to a great successful project is proper communication, and it really can make or break the quality of the task at hand. Often, the artist or designer is ready to defend their work at any cost, even if that means disagreeing with the client’s wants or needs. The client can sometimes get frustrated that the designer isn’t catching their vision and they may have a hard time explaining what they need or want to see. Enter the phrase, “Make it Pop.”
Designers often laugh at this phrase as it tends to be the most used phrase in receiving client feedback and yet does the least amount of good. Step back and think, what does “make it pop” even mean? Sure, there is an element of understanding there, make such and such “stand out,” but how helpful is it really? In this post, we’re going to look at some tips clients and designers can use to better communicate good critique and be on the same page moving forward.
FOR DESIGNERS: Stop Being Flashy for Flashy’s sake.
Designers often like to use industry specific words they’ve learned in design school to help sell their product. Words like, hexadecimal, kerning, tangent, and monochromatic, to name a few, are usually not a major part of an average client’s vocabulary. Sometimes designers forget that the words they use to explain their work are words very familiar to them, but completely foreign to clients. This is ok, unless the designer is purposefully explaining their work with these terms, to “dress up” the design, or to come across more impressive. In the end all this does is frustrate the client and makes the artist look pompous. When explaining their work, designers should explain things thoroughly in a way EVERYONE can understand.
FOR CLIENTS: Focus on Being Specific
This is a hard one. After all, Clients hire the designer to bring their vision to life. They explain their needs and trust the designer to breathe life into it. Often, those designs come back WILDLY different than the client’s original needs. Sometimes, the product is close, but no cigar. At this point, it is critical that the client figure out JUST what needs to be changed. Feedback like “Make it pop,” or “I know what I’ll like when I see it.” just wont do. Clients should study the design to figure out exactly what needs to change. This takes time! Often discussing the problem or needs in person with the designer helps to pinpoint the changes that need to be made. As a client if you’re paying for something, you want it to be just right. Being incredibly specific will help you get that perfect product.
FOR DESIGNERS: Get Over the Heartbreak.
Working in any creative format is an incredibly emotional experience. Designers catch hold of an idea, and breathe life into it. At the same time they become incredibly attached to said product, it’s their baby! Often times when it comes to critique, designers approach the subject incredibly defensive. It’s time to drop the guarded attitude, and get over the heartbreak of a client not loving the work. The design may be the most amazing thing on the planet, but if the client can’t identify with it, its wrong for them. Save those designs for future projects and listen thoroughly to what the client wants. Sometimes a minor tweak may fix the whole thing, sometimes a total overhaul is necessary. Again, good critique communication can help make this process much more effective, but nothing halts the process quite like emotional barriers.
FOR CLIENTS: Don’t be silent in your critique.
Sometimes clients get concerned that their critique feedback is limiting creativity. Their concern is that any form of feedback or suggestions will prohibit an incredible product coming forward and that they should just let the designer have free reign to achieve results. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Establishing specific needs and wants sets the perimeter for the designer to work in, and focuses their creativity in one spot. (Trust me, as a designer, we need more reining in. We’re all over the place sometimes!) Understand that quality feedback will help get the final result the client wants and designers should always be open to suggestions. Clients know their company and market better than the designers do. However, a certain amount of trust needs to be put in the designer. They’ve studied their craft and are experts at it. Just because the client’s wife likes pink and thinks the logo should be the same, doesn’t make it valuable feedback.
FOR BOTH DESIGNERS AND CLIENTS: Know how to identify personal taste.
If you step into any modern art gallery around the world, odds are you are going to find pieces you love and pieces you hate. I for one, am a huge fan of Jackson Pollock and his splatter paint style, it’s so enjoyable for me to look at. I know others who absolutely hate Pollock and hate even more that he got paid to make a “mess.” This is a clear example of personal taste. While this is perfectly fine for selecting music, food and decor, it can be incredibly troublesome when introduced into the marketing world. Clients need to remember that the design shouldn’t only appeal to themselves, but more importantly to their target market. Sometimes that market’s taste is vastly different from the client’s.
I once had a client who was OBSESSED with the color purple. It didn’t matter what we were working on, in our critique (dressed in either a purple polo, button up, or tie) he would ask that we change the color to purple. This has absolutely no connection to the target market and should be avoided. Remember who the audience is and what appeals to THEM. Designers need to make sure their taste doesn’t always affect whatever they are working on. There was a time where I became fascinated with circle logos like the design for the Country Music Hall of Fame. For a few months I found myself incorporating circle type logo design in almost all my work. I had to take a step back and realize this single application did not work for the different clients I was working for. Don’t get this confused with style, it’s ok to infuse the work with personal flair, as long as the design is what the client needs and wants and fits the market.
MAKE IT POP: The Book
In the future, I’m hoping to develop this topic into a glossary type book of sorts to help bridge the critique communication gap between client and designer. This book would allow designers and clients to explain themselves more fully using excellent design terms to dictate needs. Who knows when I’ll have time to get to it, but it’s definitely in the works! For now, be on the lookout for some awesome new work coming from Venture Creative and to clients and designers alike, keep filling the world with awesome creative content!