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Carey

The "One Concept" approach

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Thought I'd throw this out there. Our industry, as a whole, kind of bends over for clients. This guy is coming from a logo design perspective, but I wonder if it's equally applicable here.

 

If you believe that a professional designs for their client, you are mistaken. A professional designs for the client’s customer. You do not design for your client. It is not your job to serve the preferential whim of your client.

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This kind of stuff always sounds great in theory, but in the real world, I just don't see it working very well. There are some clients who understand the process better than others, so maybe it'll work on them. But more and more I'm just coming across people who have NO idea about design at all and just change stuff a million times for no reason at all.

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...But more and more I'm just coming across people who have NO idea about design at all and just change stuff a million times for no reason at all.

 

Well I think that very point is what he's really addressing. And again, this is restricted to design, but it's that the expectation should be set forth in the beginning that what they're paying for is your expertise. If your expertise is in design, aka making design decisions, then they're negating the value they've paid for by taking those decisions away and trying to make them themselves. It's an apt analogy to think about paying your doctor a bunch of money and then having him go "well, it seems to me you've got endometrial ulceritis. What do you think? Any suggestions?" No, you're the fucking doctor! You get paid to make as highly informed a decision as is possible! :D

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I do like this idea, and I've always thought it seemed weak turning up with five different logo ideas, and getting the client to play 'eenie meenie' on which one they like best. Especially as the answer always seems to be some kind of bastard child of all five.

 

I've got around this in the past by showing choices with rational reasons for picking each - saying version a is friendlier and version b is more conservative, or whatever. That way the client sees reasons for taking either direction.

 

But the post above does reek with arrogance, and pre-supposes a couple of dodgy statements:

1) That the designer has a better handle on what a business' customers are like than the business owner.

2) That design is a 100% objective process

 

3) That the logo is, in the end, the property of the designer, not the client

 

1 is dubious, 2 is questionable, 3 is the big trap.

 

People can fall in love with calling themselves design professionals, and treat their process as sacred and unquestionable. The result is usually those tediously negative logo usage guide books, where they list out all the things you're not allowed to do when using their masterpiece.

 

There's a really great presentation that cuts through all this posturing, Michael Bierut on clients, 50 minutes but really worth a watch:

 

Edited by ChrisC

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The result is usually those tediously negative logo usage guide books, where they list out all the things you're not allowed to do when using their masterpiece.

 

 

Ah, the branding guidelines. Best ignored totally in my experience, although you might have to convince the odd project manager that this is the case.

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Ah, the branding guidelines. Best ignored totally in my experience, although you might have to convince the odd project manager that this is the case.

 

Yup, they're usually irrelevant to anything but print work anyway. "I checked your design on my iPhone and the logo was too small, it says it needs to be at least 8mm wide". And all those cruddy rules about spacing, 'leave at least the space of the upper case 'B' all around my gorgeous creation, because it needs that much for you all to appreciate its beauty'; arbitrary BS and useful to no-one.

 

Been getting some much better ones recently though - framed in a positive light, with suggested uses, examples they like, options for customisation, and barely mentioning prohibited uses. Actually made my job a whole lot nicer, because I could bring it up as ammo - 'look, they did something similar on p35 of your book so it must be OK if I break your logo into water and have the drops make a swirly pattern on screen.'

 

But the norm is a product of exactly the sort of 'One Concept' thinking that the guy's post describes, where only his highly refined aesthetic sense has any sway, and everyone else had better agree or else.

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Not really much in there that has any real world value. Just fancy talking that doesn't do the complexities of designing logos or other core branding elements in any way justice. Out of a 100 companies you will only find one that may appreciate this, the others will just let their intern design a "logo" from a modified freeware font and sell it. And even if it were true the whole fun really only begins when turning your artwork into a brand and trademark and all the legal song and dance... The rest is just idealistic, if misguided, esoteric BS.

 

Mylenium

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"I checked your design on my iPhone and the logo was too small, it says it needs to be at least 8mm wide".

Yeah. Or as many of our clients always complained "This is not our RAL 9xxx something color." totally ignorant of things like color management or different color models/ color spaces....

 

Mylenium

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But the post above does reek with arrogance, and pre-supposes a couple of dodgy statements:

 

1) That the designer has a better handle on what a business' customers are like than the business owner.

2) That design is a 100% objective process

3) That the logo is, in the end, the property of the designer, not the client

 

1 is dubious, 2 is questionable, 3 is the big trap.

 

Massively agree with this, it takes a special kind of arrogance to believe that you know the client's business better than the client themselves, or that there is such a thing as the 'single, most effective concept'.

 

How many concepts I'll prepare will vary from brief to brief. Usually if I've prepared multiple concepts its because there is some openness to the client's brief that needs to be narrowed down, and sometimes preparing multiple examples is a good way of getting a client to articulate what it is they actually want. If a client straight up asks for multiple routes it's usually because they're unsure what they want, it's your job as a designer to walk them through that process.

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Pure pipe dreams.

 

From looking through his site, this guy seems he is in the business of selling to artists - not clients. I feel there is a huge disconnect from reality there. He makes pretty type stuff and all (yes, I said type stuff), but its clear as day that working with him would be a nightmare.

 

What if it doesn't test well? Do you think someone with his tone would accept the fact that their work isn't achieving the business objectives that the work was contracted to address? I don't. Any business hiring someone speaking this guy's language would be placing a bet on the artist, out of subjective interest based on past work. Its dangerous.

 

Perhaps it is one way to market your business, and its not wrong - its just different. If you constantly hit home run after home run, then its great. But if the client isn't happy with the final result and this mentality is maintained, the client is lost forever. In our industry, there are far more variables in play which make the approach even more difficult.

 

 

 

Usually if I've prepared multiple concepts its because there is some openness to the client's brief that needs to be narrowed down, and sometimes preparing multiple examples is a good way of getting a client to articulate what it is they actually want. If a client straight up asks for multiple routes it's usually because they're unsure what they want, it's your job as a designer to walk them through that process.

 

Exactly. Usually, most of the creative thinking around the core business objective falls on a CD / CMO / whatever. As more and more projects have no such entity attached, more of these tasks have to be seen out by the designer. Slapping three designs in their faces and saying "pick one" doesn't work. Doing what this guy is saying and slapping one design in front of the client and saying "this is it. I know, because I'm the shit - which is why you hired me" definitely won't work. Options are necessary, and revisions are unavoidable. Clients are usually made of multiple people who have a lot of their professional lives invested in the entity that is your client, so there will be feedback that doesn't necessarily line up from multiple sources and they really are with the best of intentions at heart.

 

The trick is to truly care about your client and achieving the business objective they felt contracting work for _project_X_ would achieve. Present concepts of various creative approaches from the get-go and fully sell each concept. The more a designer thinks on behalf of the client and explain rationale, the less of a revision drone the designer will be. Clients tend to trust the designer's judgement after its illustrated the designer is actually thinking like one of them. Its a win-win. I also think that willingness to undergo A/B testing is a something that distinguishes a truly problem-solving, humble yet confident designer. The worst that could happen is that the signed off approach that was voted on at the round table doesn't test well and more work is contracted, going off the new findings that testing brought to light.

Edited by AromaKat

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The guys language is over the top but in theory I think this is OK and is a good way to move forward as long as you are willing to change your approach if it's not working.

 

We try and do a version of this where we consult with the client, get a good briefing etc. and toss around a few different approaches at the mood board or really rough stage.

 

But when we present we only present one version, now if the client doesn't like it, it tests poorly etc. then we discuss and present another version, either an iteration on the first or could be a completely different approach depending on how the client feels about the first version. Also we're not doing logos where you could have a real A/B test unless we did two fully finished spots:)

 

This is done with some common sense of course I often have a version B in my back pocket especially if the brief is open to a lot of interpretation, or if the deadlines for the project are really tight I'll have something else ready to go.

 

To me this seems reasonable, if you always default to three or more options you are inviting the client to request part of option A, mixed with part of option B and C until you have really muddy design.

 

But yeah this dude's arrogance is over the top for me presenting my one best option is the beginning of the conversation not the end of it. To me it sends the right message of working with the client to achieve the best result possible and iterating based on both of your expertise and experience.

 

And of course there is not one way to do it. A big part of our job is selling our designs and sometimes the best way to sell a good vision for a project is to present just that vision and sometimes it's to present a couple options all depends on the client, the project, and the brief.

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This kid is obviously just trying to establish himself a web presence and figures he needs a manifesto to create a stir or something. Struck me as more naive than arrogant but there's clearly a dose of that too, and maybe he's only had stupid clients in the past.

 

The more useful subject of discussion: multiple options, is more interesting; but like others say, it depends on a number of factors. I think its right to bend over for clients and their business in some ways, but yes sometimes you wonder about the merit of asking for three directions when the brief seems to suggest two (or four, for that matter). It's nice to think that the design process is a communication and learning process. We hope that the purpose of the process is for the designer and the client to both improve their understanding of the audience so that we can eliminate as much of the subjectivity as possible and achieve the 'best' solution given all parameters.

 

But with motion design in particular, clients often expect us to be those 'technicians' instead of 'professionals', and so the opportunities for communication and increasing understanding can be more limited. We suffer from historical association with 'post-production' or whatever, but it's also because motion design so often allows itself to be defined by the techincal, motion part. It's tempting to get pissed off and say that we're just as capable or valuable as the top-level branding guys. But actually, the few of us that are that good, are already viewed as top-level because they aren't defined by motion.

 

Client is such a loosely defined word though, so many different types of client…

Edited by kitkats

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Guest Sao_Bento

Sites like Designer News are filled with similar provocative declarations by know-nothings. No one actually does the work these days, they just pontificate on it to get attention or sell "training" to other people.

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Yeah, the arrogance is definitely a barrier here. I sort of want to punch him in the throat. :D

Part of ChrisC's awesome Michael Beirut talk (at 10:45) highlights the same idea without all of the self-importance, which is that it's the client's job to know their business, and your job to know design and communicating to an audience. In getting together, you both need to make sure the client is fully articulating their business goals, which should then allow the designer to go achieve those business goals by making something for the client's audience. This really puts more focus on the process of articulating the business goals, otherwise known as the development of the brief. I think we've all kind of experienced what goes wrong when the brief isn't well-conceived or the goals aren't stated well, because it's an oft-maligned cause of changed minds, late-arriving info, unsureness, revisions, etc. Of course, the designer could also just be doing a shitty job, but we'll assume we're all doing our best here with what info we're given. And that also puts the second onus on the designer to do that work and come to an arguably great response to that brief. If both sides understand their role in the process, and both have played their roles well, there should be some level of success in speaking to the audience and thereby achieving the business goals. And it shouldn't require lots of changes and additional input near the end.

 

Excluding all of the huff n puff, for me the call to action is "A professional designs for the client's audience." Because what that highlights is the designer's responsibility. If the client and the designer both understand the client's goals, it's not the client who should be making design decisions in the end, it's the designer. The client should be able to sit back and be well cared for, and the designer should be working for the client's audience at that point. So the problems are usually either in:

 

1) The stating and mutual understanding of the goals, or...

2) Understanding each other's roles, or...

3) Someone didn't play their role well.

 

So a lot of the iterating should actually happen at the beginning, and should involve stating and re-stating the goals until everyone is on the same page, which is something our industry is laughably bad at. Then it should be the designer's responsibility to go communicate to the audience, because that's his/her job. (That doesn't imply that design is objective, but we shouldn't then assume that the designer's subjectivity is invalid.)

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I first heard about the idea of presenting just one concept through Paul Rand. I feel like he was more eloquent about explaining his reasoning and methods for doing this, but of course, I'm having trouble finding those interviews now. Here's a few other links to interviews with him that may (or may not include) this topic.

 

 

One thing about working this way is that you have to live and die by it.

Sure you may only present one idea to the client, but the client isn't obligated to use that idea. They are free to go hire another designer if they're not happy with your one result.

 

http://imjustcreative.com/paul-rand-has-the-right-idea-design-one-logo-only/2010/11/12

 

http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2012/09/04/4-principles-by-paul-rand-that-may-surprise-you/

 

http://www.logodesignlove.com/paul-rand-interview

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Great thread. As always Binky.

 

Not sure why Wes is getting discounted here. He's good and simply has more leverage over his expert services. Some people tend to sound like technicians when the say they are just blueprint cake makers. Which is exactly what he was getting at.

 

I personally am not even really agreeing with the One Concept Approach as a bible. I do, however, think there is a time and a place for it. Depending on constraints and scope. And of course designer preference. We don't have to be mindless cake shops just because other designers operate that way. That's commie stuff.

 

I disagree with the statement that his work isn't real world. There's plenty of custom lettering out there in advertising. He fits into a specific niche. Sure, Fox News won't really need it. Instead, he gets hired by fresh companies in advertising, fashion, products, music, etc. They'll bring in an illustration specialist when they need this. Not a tech. And they still command decent rates. It's not as lucrative as becoming a doctor, but it's a legitimate service.

 

He had no shortage of clients wanting to work with him. He raised his rates and still got plenty of work.

I‘ve been following Wes now for a bit. He seems like a humble guy. He seems to have good values.

 

The problem with all of this is that neither side is right or wrong in the end. Designers over sell themselves as gurus to people that have eyes and brains. They may not know design technically, but they do know their company. And sometimes Deisgners get attached to executions rather than the client's company.

 

Bottom line is, if the client and designer don't see eye to eye, both parties should agree they aren't a good fit. I agree with Michael Bierut's philosophy of getting rid of shitty clients. That's worked wonders for my sanity. And my bank account. And my design skills. I got better faster, made more money, sleep better.

 

My experience with bad clients is they are sloppy information gatherers, micromanagers, that belittle designers and offer zero producing intel to help the process go smoothly.

Kyle Cooper may be on the extreme end of this discussion, but he has no shortage of respect from clients. Because he is not a technician. He does a better job at guiding the process. Not many can command that power. But god bless him, he can pick and choose clients a lot faster than say a technician.

 

Critic clients can always head to crowdsourcing websites if they want. And many do and get perfectly usable stuff. But premium clients, they don't because they know they want a certain level of quality they don't get there. That's why they don't hesitate to call Wes. And other top tier letterers. They don't go to crowd spring.

 

Wes does great work because he focuses on quality, not quantity. He'll out design any technician, any day.

 

Amelia Earhart — 'Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn't be done.'

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Ah, the branding guidelines. Best ignored totally in my experience, although you might have to convince the odd project manager that this is the case.

 

Like it or not - but most motion design pieces are usually part of a corporate-identity and therefore should adapt to existing branding guidelines. And if you're working on a re-brand, it is an important part of your job to write a user friendly CI-guide yourself (preferably including more than an example for placing the logo on a ball-pen).

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