We hear it all the time from clients – “We were working with a designer before, but they just didn’t get us”. Hmpf. Not a good situation for them or the designer.. or for us really.. Obviously it’s great to get a client but it sucks when they come to us suspicious of these grifting designer types who take your money and give you little in return.
So this one’s for both parties, the designer who doesn’t know how to please their clients and the client who wants a good outcome from their project. I’ll address the client if that’s okay with you? Aww you client, aren’t you lovely?! Yes you are! Cuties 😍 Pandering over, let’s get to it..
What’s le problemo?
Your expectations and the expectations of your designer are misaligned
You and your designer aren’t on the same page so to speak. I’ll elaborate..
Most clients who want branding don’t have much experience with branding projects. They don’t know what’s involved or why those things are important. From speaking to clients over the years I’ve found (in general), clients know what branding is but they don’t understand how a company uses its brand to benefit itself.
The Nike logo – when a swoosh is enough for brand recognition
I can feel you’re different though.. I get it, you know what logos are, they’re like that tick thing that Nike has on their trainers, right?
Well first off, you cutie straw man I’ve invented for the purposes of this blog, that tick thing is a Swoosh – you’re not alone in this misconception.. in primary school I argued with my whole class about this – and that Swoosh is a representation of the wings of Greek goddess Nike.
Oh wow! I hear you call, ain’t that interesting?! Well Ms/Mr/Other Strawman you see that maybe there’s more depth to this logo thing that you expected.. Want some more? Adidas is a podium tilted on it’s side. The Tour de France logo has a hidden cyclist. The Orwell met Vila heart is made up of the letters OMV.
When they’re done well, logos have meaning beyond their physical image. But they’re only one part of a brand. You might see a Nike ad with just the Swoosh and little else, but you’d be blown away by the billions Nike spent to make their brand that well known, that powerful.
In Glasgow they wrapped the old post office building on George Square in a huge black panel with a single Nike Swoosh in the middle. No text, URL or celebrity endorsement. Just a white Swoosh. Honestly ask yourself, if you did that with your logo, would anyone even know what to search to find out more information?
Likely, no. And why would that be? Because enough people don’t know enough about your brand. In comparison to Nike you’re nobody. But show anyone on the street that Swoosh and they’ll tell you what Nike does. Nike spent biiiiiillions to make that happen.
Invest in your brand
According to Mastercard’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Raja Rajamannar, when they wanted to drop the name from their logo, Mastercard conducted 20 months of world-wide research to make sure people could identify the company from the symbol alone. And I’d bet you didn’t even notice that change on your latest bank card.
These companies have built brand recognition over decades. They invested in their brand. They know what they want their brand to represent and they know how they want people to feel about it. So if you’re coming to your project thinking you can spend a few hundred straw man bucks, treat the project as a sideshow and get a useful brand that communicates what you want to your audience, well straw man, you’re standing out in a field..
So what can you do? Well I’ve brought you this far so I’m gonna give you what you’re due.. a way to make sure your designer gets you. As the Joker said.. “Here.. we.. go!”
How to make sure your designer gets you
Your designer (if they’re worth their Adobe subscription) is going to ask lots of questions. Your role is to answer them as fully as possible. The more you tell them, the more they have to work with to create your branding and the closer their work will be to an authentic representation of your brand.
In my experience, it’s the wee things you say when you’re not even thinking that have the most importance. For example, an offhand comment about percentages led to the idea behind the BioFitness logo.
So know yourself and communicate that to your designer. No more I don’t knows, oki?
Understand, you aren’t your audience
Now I get this.. you’re the client, you should be able to get what you want! Your opinion matters, for sure, but what your audience thinks is more important.
Once when I was presenting a brand to a charity board one of the trustees was adamant we wouldn’t use a set of photos because a person in them was wearing a yellow coat.. their reasoning.. “I don’t like yellow”. That my lovely reader is not a good reason to not include something in your brand.
You’re creating your branding to attract people who will buy from you, that’s who you’re creating this for. So when you make branding decisions and you see something you’re not sure about, ask what your audience would like and go with that.
Know what success looks like
If you don’t know what success is, how do you know if you’ve hit it?
Having an objective standard to grade if something’s working is better than just having your opinion. In my younger years I argued with clients, telling them that I’m the designer and I know what’s best for them. That was not a good idea..
So I learned to make clients share their expectations about what makes their project successful. Then when we found a point of disagreement, instead of arguing, we could discuss how the designs fit the expectations they set. Confrontation becomes collaboration and success is reached together.
Expect a process
Anything worth doing is worth doing right. If it’s worth doing right, there’s likely a process. You’re hiring a professional right..? So expect them to come with a process to deliver what you want done.
That process will take time. A full brand design with logo, stationary, website etc. is the most research and time intensive design project your company will ever undergo. Don’t expect it to be delivered in a week.
Commit to the process
Don’t half-arse this. If you want branding that represents your brand, your designer needs to know about your brand. You might not get why what they’re asking is important, but treat it like it is because the professional you hired is telling you it is. You don’t tell the electrician to cut corners because you think you know better, so please treat your designer and their process with the same respect.
This is a simple one but it’s one folk don’t like to do.
Your audience isn’t “everyone”, it’s a specific group of people who want/need what you do. You definitely have a preference of the colour options and no, 16 brand colours is not a reasonable colour palette.
Making the decisions you’re being asked to make will help your designer get closer to what you want. Vague answers beget vague branding, so make decisions and be as specific as you can.
Be open to trying something new
Most clients come with an idea they want to stand out in the marketplace – if standing out is your goal you can’t do it by looking like everyone else! So be open to trying new things. Push beyond your comfort zone.
People will remember your if you make them feel something, even if that feeling is disgust.. if they hate your branding they were never your target audience anyway, so who cares if they don’t like it?? A small group of dedicated buyers who love you are more lucrative than a sea of shrugging people who don’t even remember your name.
Saying no shuts down debate. Saying I don’t like it gives nothing the designer can work with to improve it. Instead, take from your local improv troop, try yes and-ing.
When you want to say no, say yes, and to make it more on brand we could do…
When you want to say I don’t like it, say yes, and I’d like it more if it was…
Your designer is trying to create something that works for you, so work with them to make that happen. If you don’t you can both end up frustrated and unhappy, and (when you sack them) that’ll only bring you to me.
When your designer doesn’t get you, it’s not you, it’s not them, it’s both if you.
You can help yourself and your project by aligning your expectations. Know what you want from the project and discuss that with your designer. Understanding what you want makes their job easier, they’ll be happy they’re working with you.
Like all great relationships creating a brand with a designer takes communication and patience. So communicate! Patience-iate! Trust the designer to do their job and treat your branding project like your future revenue depends on it, because it likely does.
Thank you for reading Orwell met Vila’s blog. If you enjoyed this post, share it with someone who will find it useful 🙂