When the client’s design vision isn’t 20/20

Vision Test

There are times we, as designers, must gently push a client in the right direction in regards to their design. There are other times when we might shove. And then there are other times when we simply raise the white flag. The profile in today’s blog took some gentle pushing, but resulted in a really nice design-outcome.
But before we get to that, let’s discuss the more difficult situations.

Goofy situation #1: Client knows more than designer

Inevitably these client meetings start with: ” I used to be a designer for a publication.” This establishes an erroneous feeling of equality in the part of the client. It doesn’t matter that the “publication” was their high school yearbook, they ARE a designer, damnit! And on no uncertain terms should I forget it. The typical course of action on our part, in the event a design issue arises, and it will, many times, is to make a suggestion, then do it the way they want anyway. After all, they are writing the check. Oddly enough, these types of clients are happy with the results.

A girraffe instead of a backhoe.

"A girraffe instead of a backhoe. Or can we combine the two?"

Goofy situation #2: The “This-But-Not-That” client

Adam Carolla does a great rant on this type of person. In his case it deals with comedy writers that aren’t comedy writers. In our case it goes something like this:
ME: “So, what do you think of the brochure cover for your construction company?”
CLIENT: “I LOVE IT! However how about doing something “outside of the box”?
ME: “Outside of the box”?
CLIENT: “Yeah, like, instead of the backhoe, a giraffe. But not a giraffe, but something like it.
ME: “A giraffe?”
CLIENT: No, not a giraffe, but, something like it, maybe an Anteater! Not an Anteater, but something like it. You’re the pro, you know what I mean.”

At this point I have no fricken clue as to what they mean. A giraffe/anteater instead of a backhoe? None of this “thinking- outside-the-box” talk came up in the initial meetings. I’m being blindsided by a lunatic. Worst of all, not giving me a definitive direction; it’s the ‘ol “This but not that” circle talk. My mind goes numb and my facial expression is that of a robot. My smile is cadaverous.

CLIENT: “Oh, and why did you change the font from Comic Sans?”
ME: (while simultaneously shoving a paper clip under my fingernail) “I didn’t realize I had. What a lovely font, Comic Sans, created by Beelzebub himself. My mistake, I will forfeit my soul immediately and restore the text to it’s original form.”
CLIENT:“Uh, good. So back to the idea of using a unicorn instead of a backhoe, what do you think”?

Don’t believe this really happens? Here’s an excerpt from an email I received a couple days ago from a client in regard to a website mockup we did for him. He is talking about another website he saw and apparently liked. Here is the last part of his diatribe:
“…rich images, 3-dimensional feel, great use of color, clean/simple/uncluttered pages… it’s very elegant and very creative.  It leaves the visitor anxious to contact the company – and it takes a dirty, dusty industrial business and practically makes it look like they operate in a computer clean room environment.”

Then the very next sentence is:
“That’s not to say we want that.”

Client with a clue:

Not all customer input is bad. In fact, most of it is good. I love it when clients bring their ideas to the initial meeting. Sketches, crude mockups, all help in setting our direction. It’s when the client insists we follow their instructions verbatim, that things go bad.

Crude mock up

Crayons, clip art and cut out photos were all employed in this mock up from MoChi Fitness.

That wasn’t the case with a recent project for MoChi Fitness. Dawna and Denny Uhles are taking an old exercise apparatus and breathing new life into it. I’ve had a lot of nutty ideas come across my desk and, being a somewhat pessimist, or as I like to call myself, “a realist”, I try and talk said client out of dumping lots of money into a bad idea. I don’t believe that to be the case with the MoChi Twister. After hearing their pitch, I felt this product had “legs”. They had a well thought out marketing plan along with initial concepts.

It’s fun to look at Dawna’s mockups (above). I loved the combination of clip art and crayon. She knew what she wanted, she just didn’t have any idea how to get there.

My first recommendation was to get a professional photographer, since her product required extensive modeling and photography. And all of their marketing and collateral material would be photo-driven. I hooked her up with Mike Lopez, he has a great sense of athletic photography, coupled with an amazing ability to control light.

Imgages used for the Twist-a-Mania campaign.

The “Twist-a-Mania” logo and the MoChi Fitness were developed by a previous designer. I kind of like the “Austin Powers” retro look. I think it suited the product perfectly. Rather than the predictable Chubby Checker “Twist” theme, the 60′s retro look, I thought, would resonate more with their target demographic… women 20-50. I even came up with their slogan; “A new twist in fitness and fun”. For the web site development and search engine optimization (SEO), I recommended a specialist I know by the name of Coryon Redd. They have been instrumental in doing the writing and content for the web site. Coryon is a self taught SEO guru. Don’t believe me? Google “cell phone batteries”. Out of more than 58 million hits, his site, Batteries4Less shows up number one… in unpaid results. Sometimes called “organic” search results. Trust me, that’s no easy feat.

Austin Powers influence

I channeled my inner Austin Powers.

The web site is still under construction and the box and training DVDs are at the printer. I think the overall look came together nicely. Dawna and Denny are happy and I think we stayed true to her original vision… we just brought it into a little better focus.

Mochi Fitness Package

Don Ambriz - August 24, 2011 - 2:44 pm

Good stuff, Mike. It’s so true: Too much of a client’s creative input is stifling!

Don - August 24, 2011 - 3:02 pm

Where can I buy one!

Rocio Garcia - August 24, 2011 - 3:47 pm

Really enjoyed this!

JenW - August 24, 2011 - 4:14 pm

This is my favorite blog yet. Made me laugh but I also really liked seeing the design evolution of the MoChi.

Ryan Northway - August 25, 2011 - 12:50 am

Great job with that product package designs! Those types of projects are always a fun puzzle to hash out.

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