April 2013

I’ve had a few instances where clients have been afraid to give me their opinion for fear it might hurt my feelings.  To this, I usually respond, you have no idea what I went through in college – I can take it.

As a designer, it is my job to pour 100% of my effort into a design, to present it with conviction, but also to be willing to take a new direction on a dime. It is, after all, a commercial product.

If you’ve ever read “The Cheese Monkeys” by Chip Kidd, my professor was a lot like Winter.  There were stories from past classes about him both taking a bite out of a project (quite literally), and throwing a piece out the window. His goal was to teach us not to get attached to our work.  Design work is, after all, for the client.

We put our work up in front of the class and listened to comments from both the professors and the other students.  It made us better.  It made us stronger.

So next time you decide that the project isn’t going in the right direction, don’t be afraid to tell the designer.  They may explain their reasoning, and you may decide they are indeed right about taking the risk.  But you may decide you don’t like it and that is ok too.  They won’t go home and cry.  They’ll start fresh – and you may get something even better.

Last week I went to AIGA DC’s “Perfect Pairs” event.  It was interesting to see that we have so many couples in business together in DC – and there is at least one more, as * DesignArmy is run by a married team.

The round table was interesting – including the studios of Kinetik, Catalone Design and Studio A. All the couples said that they liked spending the day together. Lisa Catlone-Castro said it gives them more time with their children, since they already know what they did all day.  Antonio Alcala advised to make sure your relationship is strong and that you share values. The team at Kinetik expressed that they actually broke up for a time, but being in business brought them back together.  It was an interesting mix and an inspiring discussion.

That said, I have to say, though my spouse and I pair up as a team to work on websites (I design and he codes), I don’t think I could have us working in the same space all day, every day. I like coming home and telling him about my day.  I like having some time that is just mine, too.  It makes the time we do spend with each other that much sweeter.  It also can’t be easy having both of your incomes relying on the same business.

Can anyone else think of any design powerhouse couples?

I just finished a presentation on Handwriting Analysis (Graphology) for one of my grad classes, and it got me thinking about how we approach logo design.  An article on the psychology of fonts mentions says that though fonts have little or no meaning for children, as adults, we create prejudices and associations with typefaces that might color our opinion of a brand.

In graphology, we analyze size, slant and baseline of a person’s signature, among other things.

Size indicates “personal presence” – does the person have a desire to be seen?  Noticed?

Slant indicates “emotional interactions” – is the person social?  Outgoing?  Ambivalent?

Baseline indicates “disposition” – is the person positive or negative?

If these things tell us about our own personality, why not use it to infuse meaning to the value of a brand through a good font or logo?

Arial takes up more space than Times at the same point size – anyone who has ever written an essay knows that.  This would make Arial more adaptable and Times more introspective by comparison.  Zapfino has a strong right slant. This would make Zapfino impulsive and social.

LogoLounge suggests that ascenders are about intellect and descenders are about the physical.  Joined up handwriting shows fluidity – and this can easily be conveyed in a connected typeface.

This becomes even more interesting for hand-drawn logos with custom typefaces.

What are you saying with your font?  Your logo?

For sources and more information, visit:  An Excerpt of LogoLounge, Psychology of Fonts, and Handwriting Insights.

The other day, I heard someone say that as designers we provide a service. This term always makes me cringe. Yes – by the strictest definition we do provide a “service” to the customer, but in my opinion, the term has entirely the wrong connotations. Service implies that we are creating what you ask, that we are hired to be the production artist – and it leaves off the fact that we, as designers and creatives, have a certain amount of expertise to lend to the project.

The tech industry has long realized this fact and redefined customer service.  When you go to Apple for tech support, you meet is a “Genius.”  At Best Buy, you meet with a member of the “Geek Squad.”  They position themselves in a way that their customer service is not just a service, but a subject matter expert. People respect their opinions and their recommendations, as it should be.

So why are we as a design industry, still referring to ourselves as a service? The waters are already muddied by the fact that design programs are so accessible to the public. But it is not a design program that makes a designer. Why not say that we provide innovation? Design expertise? Creativity? We ARE the experts in our field, so don’t settle for anything less. Present with pride and make people aware of the rationale behind your design decisions. After all, good design is more than subjective. It is intelligent, it has meaning, and it has the power to influence people.

We are more than a service – we are subject matter experts.  Be proud of that.

In my Marketing class last week, my professor said something profound that I think everyone should hear.

He said “The customer may not always be right…but the customer is always the customer.”

I think this statement says volumes. Yes, as the CEO, business owner, brand ambassador, etc. our goal is to keep the customer – this is a fact.  People are more likely to talk about a bad experience with a brand than a good experience, and it is harder to get a customer than to keep a loyal one.

BUT inevitably you will come across clients that you don’t agree with – and the object is not always to allow them to be right – sometimes it is impossible.

You might ask, “If we do not allow them to be right, then what is the goal?”

The GOAL is to come to a resolution that will make them walk away feeling heard.  It may not be giving them exactly what they ask for up front, but rather finding a middle ground that will satisfy both parties.

If the customer has a good brand experience with you, if they feel heard, they will return and tell their friends.  And THAT is good business. It doesn’t mean the customer is right, but it does mean you treat the customer with the same respect and loyalty you expect them to show your business.

They are, after all, the customer.