Color Bars

Managing Expectations in a Fast-paced, Creative World

In a world that is increasingly living by sound bites, how do we manage the expectations of our clients and still hold true to the process of design?

I pursued a career design for the love of the creative process, which included making decisions about what was a strong visual statement that communicated what the client wanted. We did it with markers and paper, a thousand little thumbnail sketches, paste up and comping. We spent many hours tweaking and moving pieces around to finish a puzzle that was, in the end, a printed piece. And while the initial reason, the love of design and the creative process, has not changed, the world around us certainly has.

Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee myself sitting with multiple screens in front of me, designing in record time the same ad, brochures, etc. that would have taken weeks or months. Now the upside to this is many of us were able to make the jump, remain creative and still embrace new media. The downside is new media became easily accessible to everyone, which in fact lowered expectations for a creative outcome. Speed became more important that quality. Everyone with a laptop suddenly thought that by opening it, they became a designer.

Twenty years ago people had the tools to be an artist (Exacto, wax, boards and markers), but they still needed the design skills to be a designer. The same holds true today. Everyone has access to Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and In-Design, but you still need the formal training and/or natural talent to be a designer. You need to have the technical as well as the artistic skills to visually bring to life a project – coupled with the ability to make it work not only in print, but also in the ever-changing world of the Web. Whether it is a Web site or a phone app., people are expecting award-winning creations with little or no up-front planning or budget.

It is true that you can have everything, but do you need everything? Up-front planning and careful attention to the real needs of a client can help make the process smoother. Managing the expectations of clients within the confines of their time schedule and/or budget up front will help to keep the project on track. We also need to understand the fastest way to obtain an ideal outcome is not always by doing the project fast.

Too often, both clients and companies lose site of the process that a designer and the creative team take to convey a message. Where as we used to do a hundred thumbnail sketches on paper, we now do them in our head or on the computer. But just like the hours spent on a drafting table, mulling, reflecting, revising, we still need the time to do the same thing on the computer. Since there is no magic key on the computer to print out award-winning design, we cannot create a fully successful design without careful planning and understanding up front.  Time and communication are still essential tools in the process.  Time should be our friend, not our enemy. Giving the designer and the creative team the time to fully flush out all thumbnail ideas is the critical element of eventually having a clear and effective visual outcome.

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