This is one of those re-learn your lesson stories. I recently did a project (poster and invitation) for a client who was hosting a charity event. They loved what another designer did for them for last year’s event and wanted me to update the poster for this year — change the dates, change the photos, nothing major. I thought the original design was pretty awful and figured they’d be pleased with a fresh new approach. So after spending a week working on a new idea imagine my surprise when their response was, “Everyone loved last year’s idea. Why are we reinventing the wheel on this?”
Why indeed? Despite what you may think is best for the client, sometimes you just have to give the man what he wants. Of course you make it as good as it can be given the constraints but, in the end, he’s the one with the checkbook. All projects have constraints, be they budget, time, scope or even a misguided client. Mine was open to a few changes of color and font, but nothing as substantial as what I had in mind.
I’ve read other blogs on this subject and most say: do the work, take the man’s money and move on. I disagree. Of course you take the money, but buried beneath this take-the-money-and-run attitude is a lack of understanding of what your role is in the creative process, which is… it’s not about you. Your job as a designer is to solve a visual communication problem. The design process is driven by the client’s needs, and by client I also mean working for a company as well, as they are your ‘client.’
Come to find out I was the one who didn’t understand the client’s needs, and their audience, as much as I thought I did. I was too quick to design something better but failed to recognize that the client knew his target audience better than I did. My fresh new approach? Too fresh, too new. They wanted something much more conservative and familiar so that’s what I did and guess what, they loved it! They were happy, and because of that they will hopefully remember me when next year’s event comes around as that guy who did that poster they loved… and call me.
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