What to do when you don’t really know what you want.

Published June 8th, 2011 in Business, Design/Creative | 1 Comment ┬╗

You know you need that website or print piece so you’ve hired a designer and you’re ready to have them turn your dreams into reality. Or are you? In the 15 or so years that I have been working as a designer I have found that a percentage of clients really struggle when it comes to the actual design and making decisions on the project.

The tell-tale signs …

If you’ve ever uttered or even thought of any of the three following phrases then please read on for some helpful tips on how to break through indecision, listen to your designer, and help the visual marketing for your business become a reality.

#1 “I’ll know it when I see it.” Why it’s bad: Quite possibly the most dangerous statement to announce to a professional designer. If you mention this up front, some won’t even continue to work with you until you figure out what you DO want. The problem with this is that you are internally personalizing the design. While you certainly know your business better than your designer, you’re not allowing your designer to do what they do best. A good designer will work closely with you and obtain a lot of information before even starting an actual concept. They will also need to know all about your target market – who are you trying to reach with the project? A client can be way off in determining what their target audience will respond to simply based on their own personal preferences and, “knowing it” when they see it. And the final flaw to this is that it can delay a project and cost a client a lot of money if revisions to a concept go past what was originally agreed upon simply because a client hasn’t, “seen it” yet.

What you can do instead: Before even hiring a designer, do your own research. Find out what others in your field are doing or have done. What is your competition up to? Where are you with your business right at this moment? Where do you want to be? Who are your current customers? Do you want to reach different customers? Look at a lot of other designs (web, graphic, etc.) and be able to answer any questions put to you in regards to style, color, your business branding, etc. Also, make sure your designer goes through a initial process of “discovery” on the project to fully understand the details and learn about you, your business and your market.

#2 Using words and phrases like, “edgy”, “make it pop”, “hip” … Why it’s bad: The problem with descriptors such as these is simply that they need further explanation. What “edgy” or making something “pop” means to you can mean something totally different to your designer or even your customer.

What you can do instead: Before you use some modern buzzwords to describe what you want, elaborate a little. Instead of using the phrase “hip”, say that your target market is 20-30 somethings that are into a retro style … they like hanging out in coffee houses and art galleries … they like vintage Atari games … we need a site to appeal to these people! Whatever it is, it will give the designer more information and they can ask additional questions if necessary. Be prepared to answer them and not cop out with something like, “well that’s why I’m hiring you to make it hip!” This will not help your project because I have a hunch that if you wanted something, “edgy” you’ll also, “know it when you see it”.

#3 “My mother’s second cousin didn’t like that concept.” Why it’s bad: The final point is the client who gets every relative, associate and neighbor’s dog to review the concepts because they can not decide on their own what is best for their business.┬áThe inability to make decisions while a project is in full swing can kill momentum as well as tend to drive a project in directions that it shouldn’t be going. When I was young and just starting out I noticed that the clients who could not decide on their own and asked everyone they knew for input would run me in circles making concept after concept and change after change to please each person they asked and often times end up telling me, “You know, I like that very first one the best”. A special side note on this one: Even if you don’t show the concept to everyone but YOU don’t like it, be prepared to tell your designer exactly why and have a list of change requests ready to make that concept meet your goals better. Simply stating you don’t like something and you’d like to, “see something else” puts you right into the #1 category of, “I’ll know it when I see it” and nobody wants that.

What you can do instead: Honestly if you can not decide what is best for your project you need to take a few steps back and really think about your business, your needs, your target market and customers and the goals of the project you’re hiring a designer for – before you even hire them. Refer back to point #1 with the research. Asking your business partner or associate for their input can of course be very valuable to a project (and often necessary), but when you step outside of your business and start asking everyone you know it can be a real detriment. Resist the urge to do that!
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Sherry Holub

Sherry Holub

Creative Director at JVM Design
Choosing design as a profession was easy with a heavy background in creative pursuits and an art degree, but Sherry's also been a writer for many years and has had works published in print as well as online. Besides art and design, Sherry also likes comic books, owls, kitsch, muscle cars, sci-fi, archaeology, rabbits, photography, natural health, octopuses, qi gong, the ocean, cats, and many other fun things.
Sherry Holub

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One Response to “What to do when you don’t really know what you want.”

  1. WOG says:

    I think the first step to do before doing a research and hiring a designer is to set a clear goal about their business, because everything starts with a goal to give direction on what you really want to achieve.


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