How to get the best work from your Designers

Brand + Business x Christine Moody*

How to get the best work from Designers? Step One: Back Off!
Earlier this week I shared The New York Times’ article, ‘How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off’ on my social media sites. This article resonated with me because I see kids pushed to far towards maths and science to the detriment of creative pursuits but also because ‘Creativity’—is Design—is often under appreciated. While the article was clearly aimed at pushy parents it also contained many lessons for clients working with Designers. The reason I am writing this is not to criticise clients in any way, but to allow them to see ‘the other side’ and how they can achieve the best possible results for their businesses when working with Designers.
Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart.
One of the most standout comments from the article was, “Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart”. Clients may be unaware that they get the most value and the best outcomes when they treat Designers as the professionals they are, and leave Designers to do their job. Put aside the fact that most Designers are highly educated with broad, ‘real life’ experiences, clients are paying the Designer to bring in expertise that they do not possess. Clients therefore need to give Designers the freedom to do the job they are paying them to do.
Designer’s value add by immersing themselves in the business, thinking deeply about the problem outside of day-to-day operations, and creating original designs that communicates the business strategy. In a commercial world, working with professional Designers allow client’s businesses to achieve their objectives ie, to perhaps attract external funding (crowdsourcing or traditional banks); to assist in creating new markets; to allow them to stand out in a crowded marketplace; to attract the best staff and the best clients; and to create value in the business when it’s sold. If a Designer’s role is to simply to reproduce a more refined design of a client’s idea the client would be happy, but the clients are not getting the best possible outcome. Instead they are getting ‘paint by numbers’ and an under-utilised design resource.
Getting the best outcome is all about getting the brief right before commencing the project. The brief does not solve the problem but outlines what is known about the product or service at the time of writing. The best briefs are created together—with all stakeholders present—with the final outcome presented in the context of this brief. It’s about working together via work in progress meetings to see the development as the solution reveals itself and to gain an understanding of the thinking behind the design. It is not an aesthetic decision, but instead, a strategic decision. Design is a combination of creative freedom within the constraints of technical and budget reality overlaid with a strategic focus.
If there is one thing I know for sure, the more the clients leave the design to the Designers, the better the result. So remember—and I say this in the most respectful way…please clients, “Back Off”!

*Christine Moody is one of Australia’s leading brand strategists and the founder brand management consultancy, Brand Audits. With more than 30 years’ professional experience, Christine has helped a diverse client base of local and international brands, including Gold Coast City Council, Hilton Hotels, and Wrigleys USA, to develop, protect and achieve brand differentiation. Her particular interest is personal brand audits to assist executives realise their full potential.

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