The barrier between an average client and effective graphic design


John is looking for a new kettle for his apartment. He shops around, compare prices and then he makes the ultimate sale. Before John went shopping he knew what a kettle looks like and more importantly what to expect from it, as in what primarily makes a kettle, a kettle. It must boil water!

Let’s switch over to Mike; a typical client in need of a logo for his company. I’d like to believe that Mike would have seen a logo before. Mike shops around and finally decides on a logo designer. When compared to John’s story, choosing a logo designer is equivalent to choosing which shop will John buy the kettle from.

The difference is that John knows what makes a ‘functional’ kettle, if it doesn’t boil water then John will know he didn’t get a ‘good’ kettle as it fails to perform its intended task.

But Mike on the other hand doesn’t know what makes a good logo and/or how to measure if the logo performs its supposed duty effectively.
All that Mike is able to do is to choose a logo from multiple concepts by the logo designer, a situation where aesthetics is usually the one and only criteria for clients on selecting a logo design.

In most cases designers work closely with someone from the company’s marketing department or the owner in most ‘one-man-show’ companies. Most of these people will be thinking ‘design’ and ‘logo’ for the first time ever, in their lives yet they’re are the ones who will have the final say on approving a logo design.

You find someone from Company XYZ’s marketing department having the final say in a corporate identity of a company that (s)he won’t even be working for in the next 3 years to come. How should I as a logo designer feel when I’m sort of obliged to agree to whatever the ‘marketing guy’ says must be incorporated into the company’s logo, when I’m dictated based on someone’s personal preferances as opposed to what’s best to the company’s desired brand image?

If a client only sees a logo as just ‘a logo’, then why would they hire a professional when they can get their neighbour’s IT student with a trial version of CorelDraw to do the job? Or when companies promises them “over 4500 quality” logos to choose from at $19?

If clients knew the importance of hiring a professional designer, what makes a good design and how design can enhance their brand and bottom-line, I believe most wouldn’t be in situations like the above.

Back to John and Mike, this how the two would test their purchases:

A kettle that does its intended task will boil water, the buyer will be able to see the ‘performance’ literally. However, the effectiveness of a logo can’t be seen directly and immediately.
As a logo only takes meaning when it is associated with a company’s products or services, and associations resides in a consumers mind.

As much as limited budgets contributes in some instances I believe ‘design illiteracy‘ is the biggest contributer.

Clients are given a huge responsibility of ‘approving’ solutions of a discipline they’re not that customary to.