Paul Wyatt discovers why life would be so much simpler without clients
Patience is a virtue, they say.
If that were true then designers would be the most virtuous people around. Tolerance, understanding and the ability not to laugh out loud is the order of the day when confronted with some clients. Clients who really shouldn't be let loose anywhere near a creative agency€¦
1. Mother knows best
On one account the hallowed creative "sign off" was cruelly taken away when the client decides to show the artwork to their mother. This true story involved a client who was previously happy with the creative until over breakfast with his mother when she remarked that she hated the colour green. Distressed, the client went back to the creative agency and four days before launch insisted that the environmental awareness website they'd been working on changed its livery from green€¦ to yellow. His mother just loves yellow.
2. The two-headed beast
Politics is ugly in most companies When two people share similar roles this can really get out of hand. On one major reality TV show the boards were shown to the head of creative for the show in question. He nodded approvingly and signed off the creative. He was then called away from the office. The creatives were then stunned when the joint head of creative piped up that she hated the layouts and wanted them redone overnight. However she told them they were not to tell her counterpart anything about it and to have the work done by 9am. The creative was redone and represented. This caused such an internal political problem for the TV show that both sets of designs were dropped and another set ordered. This gave the agency three days and three sleepless nights before transmission to ready the site
3. A camel is a horse designed by committee
Have you ever looked at a poster, advert or website and thought "How did it get to look so bad?". The answer is simple. Design by committee ruins design. Would you hire a lawyer and tell them how to do their job? Would you give a surgeon tips on cross stitching? Would you tell your grandmother how to suck eggs? No, no, no. As a designer you have a lot of client stakeholders and project managers sat on your shoulders when you start pushing pixels. When design comes down to "move this three pixels to the left" it's time to pack up and find another agency to work in. Creatives should be allowed to be push creative boundaries and give clients something new and inspired. Design by committee results in insipid designs with less impact and no creative punch.
4. Nice and simple
"Keep it simple" is an oft used phrase by clients who "don't get creativity". You'll hear it said by those clients who believe they have no creative judgment, so the less "design" the better. It's a little like going into a hairdressers and asking for a trim. It's safe and easy and no one will notice that much. Clients who avoid creativity can be worse than those who think they're the next Peter Saville. This type of client can be nightmare as they will forever turn down anything which is edgy or unique. A lot of time and effort is needed to hand hold these individuals to realise that making an impact takes more than just adding a "bit of text and an image" to the page.
5. The impossible dream & magic buttons
A major coffee shop chain once asked a bewildered bunch of creatives for "a banner ad which fills up with coffee and then reveals a voucher with a picture of the website visitor from Facebook and their name prefilled and the name of their local (name of coffee shop) shown." How, pray, would this be created without the requirement for at least a registration or login, asked the creative team? Witchcraft? ESP? How? "Hey, that's for you guys to go figure out," was the response. Not an untypical client response...
6. Content is king
Clients are afraid of content. However, content is king, so why is it always cobbled together at the last minute? "I haven't been sent the text" is a familiar cry across design agencies across the land. Without copy a tone cannot be set for the site. It's rather similar to decorating a room and then being given a random assortment of furniture to add into it. Everything then feels uncoordinated. Look at the amount of websites where the overall site design doesn't "fit" the content. It's because the client supplied that content a day before the go live date!
7. "I never said I liked that..."
A fatal mistake to make on any project is to believe that all the approving noises and nods coming from a client in the kick off meeting for a project actually mean anything. They don't. As soon as people are behind email and miles apart the wonderful world of miscommunication starts. What you thought the client liked in the kick off meeting all goes to nought when it comes to showing the initial artwork. The key is to get it all in writing after the kick off meeting. Get them to sign the agreement as well. Possibly in blood...