Design Indications Kill the Creativity?

One of the things that graphic designers dread is a client who continually pesters them with design indications. Some of them feel that they are no longer creative professionals, but Photoshop puppets. Are they justified to feel this way, or are they exaggerating? We tried to analyze the situation playing the devil’s advocate.

Let us see what a designer and a client may feel in relation to a design project and the creative input that leads to the finished product.

The Client’s Outlook

He pays for the project and has certain expectations. Sometimes he can’t find the right words to explain his ideas so he keeps pointing out what he does not like and how he feels the design should look like. This is one of the most difficult type of clients to deal with and will probably feel that he didn’t get exactly what he wanted no matter how closely you follow his instructions.

In other situations, the design is not fully compliant with the standardized visual identity of the company. The client has his own boss who has another boss and all these hierarchical superiors will unleash fire and brimstone over him if he approves an incompliant design. He will spend hours measuring the position of each graphic element pixel by pixel and will check every color against the official color palette of the company style guide.

The bohemian client will rarely give indications, but do not feel very happy about it. In the end, he will probably reject your design. He visualizes that element colored in dynamic gray or that bluish shade of orange. This font is not stylish enough and that call to action button is not “screaming” at clients to click on it.

The Designer’s Outlook

You cannot work under constraints. You will never be able to imagine the finished piece of design when the creative brief is a bullet point list of requirements and suggestions. It looks like a medical prescription and you feel stumped. Your ideas clash with the requirements and you feel like following a step-by-step installation procedure instead of creating a unique design work.

Other designers feel, on the other hand, happy to know exactly what the client needs. No more lost hours preparing a basic sketch which will be rejected or altered beyond recognition. They are quite capable to harness their creativity in the direction desired by the client and everybody is happy.

The Conclusion

There is no clean cut conclusion to this conundrum. It very much depends on the dynamics between the two people involved in the design project: the client and the designer. As the saying goes “the tone makes the music”, the manner in which indications are delivered to the designer makes the difference between feeling restraint in a cage of “don’ts” and having a positive and fruitful communication with the client, reaching his design goals while feeling that you are doing a creative work.

Whenever you feel that you are a Photoshop puppet, you can choose to abandon a project. However, you must remember that you are not a super-rich person who affords to refuse work and focus only on being creative and original. Finding the balance between the two aspects is the key to a successful career.

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Ionut B
Digital Art Director with an innovative creative thinking able to translate ideas and concepts into useful and memorable interactive marketing campaigns.

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