With brains or no brains?

A common misconception is that a designer’s work is a no brainer thing. Give them a brief, let them come up with the design and that’s it. For creative stuffs either look for an agency to come up with something neat or find a copywriter.

I wouldn’t say it’s wrong, in fact, it’s the safest way to do so. But when budget are short and you just want to have something up running, you just can’t afford to hire an agency to do it.

Then came disaster – you thought your ideas were superior – until it’s too late, the idea backfired, and everything came crashing in. Then who is to be blamed? You? The designer? What is his role anyway? Wasn’t he supposed to provide some feedbacks?

But I would ask you back – would you take his suggestions seriously in the first place? Would you really willing to be criticised and able to swallow up all the comments that you wish you would not get? And also important – is he to be trusted?

However, I have to give a benefit of the doubt that in some cases, the designer actually won’t utter a single word. He would blindly follow what you asked him to do. And his rationale would be “Hey! You paid me, so I just follow. I don’t care about the outcome.”

This is quite a typical situation, and I can’t blame the designers sometimes. Some are totally clueless about what they do. Whether I want to blame the rapid education programme in some colleges/universities that sacrificed quality by offering too much subjects to cover in a short period of time (ka-ching!), that they were just not trained to “think” or the direction that the students groomed were towards “skill” than “thought”.

As a client, you have the privilege to seek advise from the designer. In case you didn’t know, if, let’s say the designer really went though a good and proper education, do you know he was taught not only about art and learning design software, but also basics such as marketing, sociology, psychology, research, theories, history and probably a lot more than that? Where else do you think he or she spent in their 3-4 years of education?

As my mentor used to say – garbage in, garbage out. It applies to the quality of education institution the designer enrolled, all the way to the designer you hired. If the input is bad, expect the output to be REALLY bad.

So how would you know? Does your designer knows what he is doing? Is he just another Igor?

When you look at portfolio reviews, and found them really attractive, creative and well executed, you can do the following:

  1. Ask him how much is his involvement in the project. Who came up with the creative? How it was developed?
  2. Have a chat with something in general – see how much he knows and how he answers it. Some might not be eloquent so perhaps you should also check the way he or she answers email.
  3. Some designers are slow, but doesn’t mean they aren’t good. So throw them some questions, perhaps the current creative problems you are having, and see how they can answer impromptu, or wait for their email/phone answer once they started brainstorming.
  4. Do not look only at the execution, but how their work reflects their personality. If the work has a personality, it means great thought and effort have been placed into it. And that probably means he is a thinker, not just a worker.
  5. Overall, your budget also reflects who you are hiring. You can’t expect to hire someone good if you are paying less than 50% market value. Unless he is a freelancer or he is desperate… but squeezing people like this is just really bad.
  6. Unless you are a visionary, just lacking the skills, then you can happily engage a really affordable designer and just follow what you do.

Now, from my point of view as a client (I hire people to do work for me as well):

  1. I always keep my core ideas 75% tops. The other 25% I hope the person who is executing it would give suggestions and ideas how to improve, or do it in his way. But, before I give him this freedom I make sure I have chosen the right person to do it (based on the 6 points above).
  2. I am always open to criticisms, but only at a restricted crowd. I only give this to people whom I know qualified to give comments, and are open (not shoe polishing type). Normally it would not be more than 5 people.
  3. Unless it is very crucial to get opinions, then I contract a market research company. And not any tom, dick and harry!
  4. I always have to imbue the idea that nothing is free. If I want quality, I have to get the budget to do it.

Finally, from my point of view as a consultant and designer (I have also written a similar article about this, read back my previous posts):

  1. Be responsible. When client hires you it means he is relying on you. Don’t mess it up and give yourself a bad name. Words can travel fast.
  2. You have to project yourself as the brainy type if you expect them to listen to you. If you think you have the qualities as a consultant, make sure you project that image the first time client set his first impression on you (or on your website).
  3. If you wish to remain to be Mr Igor, then it’s easy – cut to short and simple emails, and set terms about your scope (just do, no thinking) and bill them by the end of the project.
  4. If there is a grave mistake and your gut feeling tells you he is landing himself in trouble, speak to him nicely and point it out. If he doesn’t want to listen then too bad if it happens. If he does, he will trust you even more and grateful of your comments.
  5. Every one has an ego. Be sensitive and don’t burst your clients’ especially. Go for the soft approach.

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