I need to vent and say that the fact that designers portfolios and award shows are littered with “agency” versions of campaigns drives me crazy. I don’t agree with this thinking that there is a good “agency” version that was done by the smart people at the agency and a bad “client” version that through client interference was made into a weak and diluted derivative of the what the agency really wanted to do. The reality is that when that TV spot runs, that print ad is printed or that website goes live, consumers only see and your success metric will only be based on the “client” version. I think that if the “client” version sucks then it is your fault that you weren’t a good enough salesman to keep them on track. So since you are going to do a ton or work either way why the hell don’t you make it something you can be proud of?
Before everyone goes leaping for the comment box to tell me it isn’t that easy know that I say that having had more than my fair share of difficult, demanding, headstrong, screaming and clinically insane clients so I know it isn’t as easy as just saying there should only be one version and call it a day so here are something to do to keep things on track.
Practice safe design. Use a strategy and concept.
I have written about this before but always get your client sold on a strong strategy and concept. It gives you a clear direction and standard that you can use to keep things on track after the presentation when the client begins to get nervous about if the idea is really good enough, what will their boss think about it and if it will really work. Those nerves make them start to rethink things and make nervous changes. Having that concept that answers their needs will help you weed out a lot of those changes because it is easy to take a pass through the changes to see if they will support the concept or not.
Also, if you keep the focus on the concept for the project and show them how it will answer their business need then it takes a lot of the pressure of the actual visual design. When they don’t see that solution then they try to find it in the visual design and they will tear it shreds looking for it.
Don’t follow blindly – Listen and find a reason to make the logo bigger.
If you work for me you know that it’s not your job to not just blindly take orders and do the clients bidding. It is the job of every designer that if you get feedback that isn’t going to help or support the concept then go back to try to understand the reasoning behind the request so you can find a better way to solve the problem we will all be happy with. I have found a lot of success with this because the client knows you are listening to them, they feel like they are part of the solution, we can create a reason for the change to happen and I don’t have a concept that gets derailed at the 11th hour.
Embrace changes from everywhere.
We all know that change is a core part of the creative process. When a creative director tells you to fix something in a comp it is changing. When you rewrite a TV script it is changing. But when a client tells you to alter something then change takes on a different and negative connotation. I this happens because it is input that is external to the creative group so it isn’t accepted in the same way. It’s critical that you alter your process so all change is looked upon equally and, like I said above, you find ways to make those changes make sense in the concept so you keep your concept on track.
The last part of this whole process is the unspoken power struggle for trust and respect that is at the root of all of this. When you present the work you are in control. Things go well if your client respects and trusts you then they will trust your vision for the project so the final result is produced to your vision. If they don’t trust you then after the presentation they will take over control and show you no respect by dictating changes, tell you how to change the concept and doing your job for you. When this happens you have to find a way to regain control of the project and build up that client respect or you will find yourself in situations time after time where you weren’t in control of the creative direction but you will be held responsible for the results. I have an article I wrote a while back that goes into more detail on the issue and is a good read if you are having issues in this area.
I think that if you try to make this change and change the mentality of your creative group then you will not only have to no longer create two version of every project but you will see happier clients who get better and more effective work.