Fine designers are puppets, but who’s pulling the strings?

puppet string
Whilst having a chat with a client, who later turned close friend, she said something about the client-and-designer posse that really got me thinking.

She was one of those clients who knew what they wanted, with regards to the overall look that they desired for their business’s logo. Great? Well, it depends.

Apparently, while she was at varsity, her lecturer told them that it’s their job as marketers to up with ideas, and then find a designer to “bring the idea to live.”

So basically, all the graphic designer does, is take the client’s idea and then make it look good. No questions asked. Else, the designer’s rent might not be paid.

A client that already has what they want in mind (and nothing but what they want) is either a blessing, or a curse to the project. It all depends on what it is that the client commands.

I then asked her whether that meant that the major difference between a client and the graphic designer is the fluency in a design application.

And if it really makes sense for a designer to study for years if all that the marketplace requires from them is nothing but the fluency in a design application — a condition that anyone (well, almost) can realize in a few weeks.

I believe that the client knows more about their business, its offering, and their industry of trade. While the designer on the other hand has visual communication expertise. Thus, the two are supposed to team up not compete for authority.

Generally, clients feel as if they weren’t part of the design process if there’s no “something” in, say, the logo that they have requested to be.

The subjectivity of  “successful” design

The talk then triggered a question that I asked myself, and ultimately my friend:
“What makes a successful design project?”

Is it the byproduct of a designer that blindly followed what the client dictated, or the byproduct of a designer who provided the best design solution for the client’s business visual communication challenge, regardless of what the client thought was suitable?

Is any random design solution successful, so long as it has pleased the client?

Allow me to employ an analogy, to better expose what hides behind a scenario that seems straightforward on the surface.

In the analogy, the patient is symbolic of the client, while the doctor respresents the designer. The patient’s body is the client’s business. While the patient’s problem is the client’s business’ visual communication challenge.

The client is in pain. And she assumes that a few painkillers will be sufficient. She then approaches the doctor solely for him to recommend the best brand of painkillers.

After seeing that the patient is in pain because of a fracture on her right leg; should the doctor prescribe the fanciest brand of pain killers, or should the doctor just ignore the patient’s demand and then recommend that she get a cast?

What should designers prioritize; the client’s business’s visual communication challenge, or the easy route — the client’s ego?

Does “anything go” so long as the designer’s rent get to be paid?

Nonetheless, a completed project (read: giving in to the client’s demands, thus, keeping the patron’s mouth shut) and a successful one aren’t necessarily one.

*Another brief, and yet another dilemma.