How to live happily with a great designer.

Almost all the articles on this blog summarize workshops we’ve held at SVC on design business practices, design, and creativity. But every now and then, something from the outside comes along that’s worth passing along. Case in point: Seth Godin frequently has interesting things to say about marketing, presenting, and the web. Now he’s aimed his pen in the direction of clients of design work. If you’re a designer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find fault with his suggestions. If you’re a client, you might do well to read on.

Why do some organizations look great… and get great results from their design efforts and ads… while others languish in mediocrity? I think it has little to do with who they hire and a lot to do with how they work with their agencies and designers.

Here are the things your design team wishes you would know:

1. If you want average (mediocre) work, ask for it. Be really clear up front that you want something beyond reproach, that’s in the middle of the road, that will cause no controversy and will echo your competition. It’ll save everyone a lot of time.

2. On the other hand, if you want great work, you’ll need to embrace some simple facts:

3. It’s going to offend someone. If it doesn’t offend them, then it will make them nervous. The Vietnam Vets memorial offended a lot of people. The design of Google made plenty of people nervous. Great work from a design time means new work, refreshing and remarkable and bit scary.

4. It’s not going to be easy to sell to your boss. That’s your job, by the way, not mine. If you want me to do something great, you’ve got to be prepared to protect it and defend it. Come back too many times for one little compromise, and you’ll make it clear that #1 was what you wanted all along.

5. You can’t tell me you’ll know it when you see it. First, you won’t. Second, it wastes too much time. Instead, you’ll need to have the patience to invest twenty minutes in accurately describing the strategy. That means you need to be abstract (what is this work trying to accomplish) resistant to pleasing everyone (it needs to do this, this and that) and willing, if the work meets your strategic goal, to embrace it even if it’s not to your taste.

6. Help me out by pointing out the work you’d like this to be on a peer with. If you want a website to be like three others (in tone, not in execution) then point it out. In advance.

7. Be clear about dates and costs. Not what you hope for, but what you can live with!

8. You don’t know a lot about accounting so you don’t backseat drive your accountant. You hired a great designer, please don’t backseat drive here, either.

9. If you want to be part of the process, please go to school. Read design magazines or take a course from Milton Glaser or get a subscription to Before & After. By the way, that one link is the single best part of this post.

10. This one may surprise you: don’t change your existing design so often Not when your kids or your colleagues tell you it’s time. Do it when your accountant says so.

11. Don’t get stressed about your logo.

12. Get very stressed about user interface and product design. And your packaging.

13. Say thank you.

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